Before you start feeling too sanguine about the Democrats’ chances in the 2018 midterm elections, I am here to ruin your day: Bloomberg reported on Wednesday that groups affiliated with and funded by the Koch brothers are slated to spend $20 million to sell last year’s class war tax plan to voters.
Most of that money will go to television ads—the group has already run more than 4,460 TV spots this year in Indiana, attacking the Democratic incumbent Senator Joe Donnelly for voting against the tax package—but some will reportedly pay for direct, door-to-door canvassing, complete with Koch-funded iPads for the smoothest canvassing experience:
After each visit, AFP workers log answers from voters to three questions: Were they aware of the tax legislation? Do they support it? And do they think Donnelly’s vote against it hurt Hoosiers? At unanswered doors, workers leave literature highlighting Donnelly’s vote against the legislation and urging voters to “tell him to make the tax relief permanent.”
This has been going on for a while, in fact. Americans for Prosperity started canvassing about the tax package last October, before the final bill was even passed, employing a small army of unfortunate high school students. The New York Times reported at the time that the group had “hit more than 41,000 homes and made 1.1 million phone calls.” With the midterms approaching, however, the Koch groups are targeting vulnerable Democratic senators.
It remains to be seen if this will work. The tax cut bill was politically savvy in that it pushes all the financial pain into the future—the tax benefits that middle and lower income people will receive are much greater in 2018 than they will be in 2027, when lower-income people will actually see higher taxes as millionaires and billionaires continue to get huge cuts. By 2027, if we aren’t all dead from the First Gamer Wars of 2024, the simple passage of time will save the GOP from political responsibility for their mess; it won’t be so easy for Democrats in 2027 to run on opposing a GOP tax bill that was passed 10 years back.
And still, Bloomberg reports (and polls indicate), the public isn’t totally convinced:
For Republicans hoping to stave off Democratic victories in November’s elections, the party will have to do a better job of selling the overhaul to the public. It won’t be easy. Tax policy is notoriously complicated. And if the responses to Porter’s efforts on a recent Saturday are any indication, people are skeptical. “I don’t think my check has changed,” says Linda Meredith, a 52-year-old bartender who was among those visited. Meredith says she supported the tax changes. Then she adds: “They’re going to benefit the rich.”
That is correct, Linda. And, as New York magazine’s Eric Levitz pointed out in March, there are likely a lot of Lindas out there:
Since late January, approval of the tax law in Monmouth University’s survey fell by three points to 41 percent – while the Democrats’ lead in the 2018 race swelled by seven, from a mere 2 percent to 9. Meanwhile, Quinnipiac’s latest poll has support for the tax law declining three points to 36 percent, and opposition rising three points to 50 percent.
Another bad sign for the Republicans: Most people say they haven’t seen a change in their paychecks since the bill was passed. Whether or not they actually have, the fact that they haven’t noticed a positive change will make it harder for Republicans to claim that they’ve handed out a big fat wad of freedom dollars to voters.
Still, this shows is the Republican party and their billionaire backers have a very smart, very advanced, and very expensive infrastructure in place to advocate on issues exactly like this, and they’ll continue to do so however hard Trump owns himself on Russia, paying off a porn star, or whatever comes next. Americans for Prosperity has been doing this, iPads and all, for years. It has practically unlimited money at its disposal; as long as there are billionaires who will benefit from massive tax cuts, there will be millions to spend on trying to sell Americans on whatever raw deal they’re hawking next.