August 8, 2022
This week: The Briefing, Vol. X, Issue 32
- Biden’s tax hike is a new own goal
- DeSantis fires a new shot in the cultural war
- Close Republican contest for Wisconsin governor tests Trump’s endorsement again
Biden reconciliation bill: Democrats have successfully enacted a seriously stripped down version of Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan. It is very likely to become an own-goal for Biden.
If inflation persists, then the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” offers a ready explanation for Republicans during campaign season. Both they and economists have predicted that it will be inflationary.
But the most devastating part is that the bill raises taxes in the midst of what still genuinely appears to be a recession. It raises corporate taxes (which consumers pay) and gas taxes. This at a time when inflation is already consuming far too much of the average worker’s paycheck. Biden’s tax hike will be consuming still more of it. That will be the message for the fall, unless something enormous changes, and quickly.
The July jobs numbers, announced last week, appeared to be pretty decent against a backdrop of otherwise recessionary data. But that’s not necessarily a signal of an economy on the mend. Unless things really turn around — which is to say, a sharp reduction in inflation and economic growth in the third quarter — the bright idea of raising taxes just when a recession begins is probably going to backfire on Democrats. Meanwhile, most people are not even going to notice whatever concentrated benefits result from the increases in spending.
In short, it’s hard to see how this supposed policy victory is actually going to help Biden or his party politically.
Kansas abortion referendum: a pro-life amendment to the Kansas Constitution failed last week, and buy a surprisingly wide margin.
The only available polling had suggested it would narrowly pass. But evidently, the efforts of the pro-life side were not enough.
One suggestion is that this referendum was a purely negative exercise. To some degree, this was unavoidable. The amendment in question would have canceled a decision by the state’s far-left supreme court that asserted a right to abortion within the Kansas Constitution, which does not exist. So that presents a problem — how do you get people to come out and vote against the Easter Bunny? One big problem was that pro-life groups were not on the same page as to what sorts of restrictions they intended to pass once this was enacted.
Some conservatives have suggested that a more practical approach would be to encourage referenda and legislation with much more specific restrictions on abortion — something the public in any given state clearly supports. An overwhelming majority, for example, support a ban on abortion after 15 weeks nationally. That’s not a bad place to start in most states, although there are some place where a more aggressive approach would be fully justified.
This referendum, in short, may have been too abstract for pro-lifers to make the desired impression, but just concrete enough for abortion fans to motivate their base. For there exists evidence that pro-abortion turnout was much higher than in the usual primary.
This referendum could yet be the first clear evidence that the abortion issue will help Democrats this fall. It cannot be ignored, but in isolation, it should not be overinterpreted.
Another note — just because the pro-life position has been an asset for Republicans in most states under the Roe regime, that doesn’t mean it’s always going to be a political winner now that Roe is gone. This is something for which the pro-life cause must be prepared. Just because something is right, that doesn’t make it a winner in politics.
Tampa Soros prosecutor: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made a big presidential move last week by attacking one of the most volatile cultural issues on today’s political scene.
In many major cities, prosecutors were elected with funds from George Soros, the left-wing billionaire. Soros has worked hard to get prosecutors into office who release violent career criminals onto the streets without any concern for crime victims.
DeSantis, who as governor has the power to fire county level officials, announced last week that he was sacking a Soros prosecutor in Hillsborough County (the Tampa Bay area), who had announced he would not enforce Florida law on grooming children for sexual abuse, abortion, and other laws.
In his statement, DeSantis stated that this official, state’s attorney Andrew Warren, was attempting an effective veto of Florida laws in his jurisdiction, which justified his firing.
This is a smart move from a governance perspective. Given the disastrous explosion of criminality in most jurisdictions where Soros prosecutors preside. If that had been the only reason, this would have been an excellent way of using the first excuse to get rid of this guy.
But much more importantly, DeSantis has thrown down a gauntlet in the culture war. He has shown the Right ahead of 2024 that he means business when it comes to fighting on one of the main cultural issues of the day.
DeSantis, in short, is attempting to show that he can carry forward the best elements of Trump’s style of governance — the “he fights” part — and the most popular substantive aspect of Trump’s agenda — the law and order part.
But the main advantage DeSantis has over Trump right now is that he is an elected official. He holds a powerful office from which he can demonstrate his appeal to conservative voters, whereas Trump will have to rely on the past.
Although Trump leads him in most polls, the best Trump will be able to do is talk about a presidency that ended years ago. Public power is the lever on which DeSantis can and must continue to press if he is to displace or discourage Trump from running in 2024.
Minnesota: Former state Sen. Scott Jensen (R) should easily win the nomination to take on Democratic Gov. Tim Walz this fall.
Wisconsin: Initially, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch was the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to face Gov. Tony Evers. But late in the game, President Trump intervened to endorse unsuccessful 2004 Senate nominee Tim Michels, as did moderate former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson — who seems really to have it in for Kleefisch, as at one point he floated running against her.
The lines here are not clearly drawn. Each candidate has significant conservative and establishment party support. Kleefisch is favored by former Vice President Mike Pence, the Susan B. Anthony List and Wisconsin Right-to-Life. The race will be quite close, with Kleefisch holding only the slightest edge.