Updated on December 15 at 6:14 p.m. ET
It’s all over except the voting.
Republican negotiators representing the House and Senate on Friday morning signed off on a final version of legislation that will, at a cost of up to $1.5 trillion, deliver a steep permanent tax cut to corporations and more modest, temporary reductions for individuals and families. In the last hours of tweaks, the GOP boosted a benefit for working families at the behest of Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, likely securing his vote and the support the party needs to pass the bill next week. And they flipped the one Republican senator who had voted no on the chamber’s original bill earlier this month, Bob Corker of Tennessee.
The House and Senate must each hold final votes on the tax plan next week, and given the GOP’s fractious and shaky majority, there’s always the potential for last-minute drama. But the conference-committee report signed on Friday won’t be subject to amendments, and negotiators evinced little worry that the landmark deal—which represents the largest changes to the tax code in more than 30 years—would fall through. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced the House would vote on Tuesday, with the Senate expected to send the plan to President Trump’s desk soon after.
In a testament to the fast-moving, partisan process, however, Republicans withheld the last details of their bill until 5:30 p.m. on Friday—a time usually reserved in Washington for announcing unceremonious departures and delivering other dreary news. Among other provisions, the legislation would reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, slightly cut rates and double the standard deduction for individuals, double the child tax credit, and effectively repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual insurance mandate beginning in 2019. The final compromise would cap the deduction for state and local taxes at $10,000, but it would preserve popular deductions for medical expenses, student loan interest, and graduate student tuition.
GOP leaders locked down the critical Senate votes one-by-one over the last several weeks through a combination of old-fashioned horse trading and appeals to unity. Earlier in the month, they bowed to Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson’s insistence on more generous treatment of “pass-through” businesses like the one he partially owns. They changed a tax break for capital expensing to assuage Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona and gave him a verbal commitment to work together on immigration. They adopted a number of policies demanded by Senator Susan Collins, although the Maine moderate likely will be left to hope that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will keep his promise to enact a pair of bipartisan health-care bills that she extracted for her vote.
That left Rubio as the final apparent holdout, but the Florida Republican settled on a compromise in his bid to extend an expanded child tax credit to millions more families on the lower end of the income scale. The tax bill had already doubled the base credit to $2,000 per kid, but Republicans initially had made only $1,100 of that money refundable. The result was that many working-class families—earning, say, between $20,000 and $50,000 a year—would not have enough taxable income to take full advantage of the credit. Rubio and Senator Mike Lee of Utah campaigned to make the $2,000 fully refundable, but they accepted the GOP’s offer of $1,400.
“For far too long, Washington has ignored and left behind the American working class. Increasing the refundability of the Child Tax Credit from 55% to 70% is a solid step toward broader reforms which are both Pro-Growth and Pro-Worker,” Rubio tweeted on Friday, indicating his support.
Senator John McCain of Arizona remains hospitalized due to side effects of his brain-cancer treatment, but the remaining uncertainty over the outcome dissipated Friday afternoon when both Rubio, and more surprisingly, Corker, hopped on board. The Tennessee Republican opposed the bill initially because it added too much to the deficit, but with the legislation seemingly headed for passage anyway, he changed his mind. “After great thought and consideration,” he said in a statement, “I believe that this once-in-a-generation opportunity to make U.S. businesses domestically more productive and internationally more competitive is one we should not miss.” The GOP has more leeway in the House, where just 13 Republicans voted no on the initial bill in November. There’s been little uprising over potential changes since then.
Still undecided is Collins, who supported the Senate proposal only after winning a series of concessions and promises from GOP leaders that might not bear out. As part of an agreement with McConnell, she had wanted the Senate to vote first on two bills that she believes would mitigate the impact of repealing the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate in the tax legislation. One would restore for two years payments to insurers that President Trump canceled earlier this fall, while the other would fund state reinsurance programs aimed at reducing premiums by offsetting the cost of covering the most expensive patients.
Yet it’s likely the Senate will vote first on the tax bill, forcing Collins to hope that McConnell and other Republican leaders will follow through with the health-care bills afterward. The hope is that once the House sends over a year-end spending bill next week, the Senate will attach the health-care bills and send it back to the House for final passage. But with conservatives opposed to the proposals, that is not guaranteed to occur.
After winning the gratitude of Democrats and liberal activists for helping to vote down the GOP’s efforts to repeal Obamacare, Collins has come under harsh criticism for her support of the tax bill and particularly its repeal of the individual mandate. “Leadership. Consistency. Principles. Objective nonpartisan analysis. What happened to Susan Collins?” asked Topher Spiro, of the left-leaning Center for American Progress.
Collins spokeswoman Annie Clark told me on Friday she remains “very confident” that the health-care bills will ultimately become law. But given the likely process in the Senate next week, it is largely a matter of trust.
Collins’s vote now comes down to the provisions in the final tax bill, and Clark said she would not announce her position until she pored over the 500-page legislation this weekend. She has voiced concerns about lowering the top individual income rate to 37 percent, but she won apparent victories in other areas. The conference report is likely to include a more generous allowance for the deduction of state and local taxes and won’t eliminate a popular deduction for medical expenses—two of Collins’s priorities. Nor will it fully repeal the estate tax, which she had said she was opposed to.
But the reason Collins seems likely to back the tax bill is much simpler: Unlike during the health-care debate, she supports the underlying goal of what Republicans are trying to do.
Ultimately, that also helps to explain how Republicans came to be on the precipice of this first major legislative victory. What the debate over taxes has revealed is not just that the party is desperate to show they can have something to show for their majority, it’s that tax cuts remain a singular unifying force for the modern GOP. That was enough to overcome the many differences over the particulars of tax policy, as well as the polls warning Republican lawmakers that this legislation is not something the public seems to want. And it’s why, despite those many obstacles, Trump is likely to have a bill to sign into law next week.
President Trump told reporters that he would rebuild the FBI, after he criticized the agency’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. The president also left the door open to pardoning former National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Republicans finalized their tax plan, and secured support from Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Corker, keeping them on track for a floor vote next week. Lawmakers are expected to release details of the plan this evening. And the House Ethics Committee said it’s investigating Democratic Representative Ruben Kihuen of Nevada amid allegations of sexual harassment.
The Big Difference: In America’s current moment of cultural and political upheaval, it isn’t gender that divides Democrats and Republicans, argues Peter Beinart. It’s feminism.
18 Days: Take a look at this timeline of events leading up to former National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s exit from the White House. (Matt Ford)
Where’s the Beef?: A tax on meat has been suggested in a handful of countries—and a new report predicts it could be coming soon to the United States. (James Hamblin)
Radio Atlantic: What do Russians see that Americans don't? How does the U.S. look right now from their vantage point? And what does Vladimir Putin ultimately want? In this week’s episode, Julia Ioffe joins our hosts, along with Atlantic global editor Kathy Gilsinan, to discuss.
Follow stories throughout the day with our Politics & Policy portal.
Good Riddance: On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality regulations. Matthew Walther thinks that’s a good thing. (The Week)
Lesson Learned: Democrats have taken away one key lesson from Doug Jones’s victory in Tuesday’s special election in Alabama. (John Eligon, The New York Times)
Sin Luz: The Washington Post documents what life is like in Puerto Rico, which is experiencing the longest and largest power outage in modern U.S. history. (Arelis R. Hernandez, Whitney Leaming, and Zoeann Murphy, The Washington Post)
‘Rough Justice’: Kansas Democrat Andrew Ramsey reportedly plans to drop out of the U.S. House race after she was accused of sexually harassing a male subordinate. (Lindsay Wise and Bryan Lowry, McClatchy)
The Pease Cactus: A few members of the Ways and Means Committee have a secret, 25-year-old tradition: passing down the guardianship of a little green cactus. (Alex Gangitano, Roll Call)
Rocket Men: Meet the team of men working for Kim Jong Un to build North Korea’s nuclear missile. (The New York Times)
This week, we asked: If this political moment was a Golden Globe-nominated film, what would be its genre—and what would it be called? Here’s what you said:
Valerie Finney writes that she’d call the movie From Russia With Love: “It would be a criminal-mystery thriller because the election was influenced by Russian tactics and there is a mystery surrounding who was involved that reads like a Cold War spy novel with plenty of intrigue.”
But for David Leeds, a dark comedy is the way to go “because tragic absurdism is the best way to understand how partisanship and ideological echo chambers have encouraged Americans not to think seriously about the effects of policy changes.” His film? Policy Matters.
And finally, Andrea’s documentation of this political moment would be summarized in two words: Tweet Tweet, “because we live in the post sound-bite era when substance matters even less.”
Thanks to everyone who submitted responses, and stay tuned for next week’s Question of the Week.
-Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey)
“Trumpism,” writes Adam Serwer, “is a profoundly American phenomenon.” In his Atlantic feature story “The Nationalist’s Delusion,” Serwer plumbs the depths of that phenomenon. He explains, “Supporters and opponents alike understand that the president’s policies and rhetoric target religious and ethnic minorities, and behave accordingly. But both supporters and opponents usually stop short of calling these policies racist. It is as if there were a pothole in the middle of the street that every driver studiously avoided, but that most insisted did not exist even as they swerved around it.” Here, Serwer walks us through his thought process. —Matt Peterson, editor, The Masthead
During the final few weeks of the campaign, I asked dozens of Trump supporters about their candidate’s remarks regarding Muslims and people of color. I wanted to understand how these average Republicans—those who would never read the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer or go to a Klan rally at a Confederate statue—had nevertheless embraced someone who demonized religious and ethnic minorities. What I found was that Trump embodied his supporters’ most profound beliefs—combining an insistence that discriminatory policies were necessary with vehement denials that his policies would discriminate and absolute outrage that the question would even be asked.
It was not just Trump’s supporters who were in denial about what they were voting for, but Americans across the political spectrum, who, as had been the case with those who had backed [Louisiana politician and former Klan leader David] Duke, searched desperately for any alternative explanation—outsourcing, anti-Washington anger, economic anxiety—to the one staring them in the face. The frequent postelection media expeditions to Trump country to see whether the fever has broken, or whether Trump’s most ardent supporters have changed their minds, are a direct outgrowth of this mistake. These supporters will not change their minds, because this is what they always wanted: a president who embodies the rage they feel toward those they hate and fear, while reassuring them that that rage is nothing to be ashamed of.
I jotted down the first lines of what would eventually become “The Nationalist’s Delusion” in 2016, shortly after seeing the reaction to Hillary Clinton’s remarks about half of Trump supporters being racist. This set of paragraphs, which more or less sums up my argument, wasn’t written until months later. But after attending rallies and speaking to dozens of Trump supporters, I texted my editor Yoni Appelbaum with what would become the core argument of the essay, that Trump supporters didn’t think of themselves as racist but were enthusiastic supporters of the discriminatory policies that Trump was running on. The text, from October 1, 2016, is still on my phone. “Getting a lot of good stuff, it’s fascinating. What I really hadn’t understood is that Trump supporters are engaged in the exact ritual of denial about Trump that the press is.” It took me the better part of a year to excavate another crucial revelation, that the denial isn’t something recent, but rather a phenomenon that runs through all of American history.
Duke’s strong showing [in his 1990 Senate campaign against Democratic U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston] ... wasn’t powered merely by poor or working-class whites—and the poorest demographic in the state, black voters, backed Johnston. Duke “clobbered Johnston in white working-class districts, ran even with him in predominantly white middle-class suburbs, and lost only because black Louisianans, representing one-quarter of the electorate, voted against him in overwhelming numbers,” The Washington Post reported in 1990. Duke picked up nearly 60 percent of the white vote. Faced with Duke’s popularity among whites of all income levels, the press framed his strong showing largely as the result of the economic suffering of the white working classes. Louisiana had “one of the least-educated electorates in the nation; and a large working class that has suffered through a long recession,” The Post stated.
Months into working on the story, I happened to read a passage from the historian David Roediger that changed my frame of reference. In The Wages of Whiteness, a book about racism and the construction of the white working class in America, Roediger mentions that pundits in 1989 had blamed Duke’s ability to win a seat in the Louisiana legislature on, essentially, economic anxiety. “In a quite meaningless way, the ‘race problem’ is consistently reduced to one of class,” Roediger wrote. “One expert commenter after another came on the morning news shows to announce that unemployment was high in Duke’s nearly all white district and therefore the election turned on economic grievances rather than racism.” That piqued my interest, and when I started looking more closely at the Duke Senate race, which happened a year later, the parallels became clear—even to the point where I found Trump commenting on the race itself in an insightful way that foreshadowed his own campaign. It ended up becoming the intro section to my article, in part because my editors and I felt the parallels were strong enough to hook the reader into what was going to be a long ride.
Using data from the American National Election Survey, [political scientists Marisa] Abrajano and [Zoltan] Hajnal conclude that “changes in individual attitudes toward immigrants precede shifts in partisanship,” and that “immigration really is driving individual defections from the Democratic to Republican Party.”
I think many political observers underestimated the salience of the immigration issue in the 2016 campaign, which is ironic because the media bears a significant amount of responsibility for its importance. Abrajano and Hajnal, whose 2015 book White Backlash I drew on for this piece, write that “At the aggregate level, we show that when media coverage of immigration uses the Latino threat narrative, the likelihood of whites identifying with the Democratic Party decreases and the probability of favoring Republicans increases. Whites who are fearful of immigration tend to respond to that anxiety with a measurable shift to the political right.” Using data drawn from immigration coverage in the New York Times, they write that “news coverage is largely negative, largely focused on Latinos, and largely attentive to the negative policy issues associated with immigration.” That’s just the New York Times, to say nothing of the steady diet of immigration horror stories one sees on Fox News and other conservative outlets. This incredible political realignment was happening because of the media, but the media largely (but not completely) missed it.
Clinton’s arrogance in referring to Trump supporters as “irredeemable” is the truly indefensible part of her statement—in the 2008 Democratic primary, Clinton herself ran as the candidate of “hard-working Americans, white Americans” against Obama, earning her the “exceedingly strange new respect” of conservatives who noted that she was running the “classic Republican race against her opponent.” Eight years later, she lost to an opponent whose mastery of those forces was simply greater than hers.
I wanted to invoke the largely forgotten racial tensions of Hillary Clinton’s primary campaign rivalry with Barack Obama, with Clinton taking the role of the tribune of the white working class and caricaturing Obama as a wine-sipping elitist. A Clinton adviser at the time dismissed the Obama coalition as “eggheads and African-Americans.” There was the infamous picture of Obama in Somali garb (a Clinton adviser said Obama shouldn’t be ashamed of being seen in “his native clothing, in the clothing of his country,” even though Obama’s native country is the United States). In hindsight it probably shouldn’t have been a surprise that Clinton had trouble trying to win with Obama’s coalition years later. Even though her point about Trump voters’ tendencies toward racism and sexism was defensible, she had never really publicly accounted for the way her earlier primary against Obama played out. “The Nationalist’s Delusion” helps explain the Trump phenomenon, but it was never just a Trump phenomenon.
It’s not that Republicans would have been less opposed to Clinton had she become president, or that conservatives are inherently racist. The nature of the partisan opposition to Obama altered white Republicans’ perceptions of themselves and their country, of their social position, and of the religious and ethnic minorities whose growing political power led to Obama’s election.
In addition to White Backlash, I used Post-Racial or Most-Racial by Michael Tesler to explaining how the Republican base had been radicalized over the Obama years. The first book was about how immigration was driving defections of white voters from the Democratic Party, and the second was about how public policy issues became “racialized” in the Obama years, despite Obama’s best efforts. It was important to me that both books had been published prior to Trump’s victory—that is, they weren’t attempting to retroactively explain what happened. Instead, they predicted the salience both of the immigration issue and Trump’s overtly racial appeals, and used social science to explain both phenomena. In other words they pointed to the rise of a Trump-like figure, though not Trump himself. Both books provided ample evidence of the social trends that explained Trumpism, prior to the need to do so, and so I found them more persuasive than any post-hoc explanation.
“I don’t feel like he’s racist. I don’t personally feel like anybody would have been able to do what he’s been able to do with his personal business if he were a horrible person,” Michelle, a stay-at-home mom in Virginia, told me.
Most Trump voters I spoke to were quite friendly (the ones who weren’t didn’t want to talk at all). They were also eager to defend Trump’s controversial remarks, and blamed the mainstream media for taking him out of context. The irony I kept running into was that even though some people felt that Trump wasn’t being given a fair shake, or that he had made a mistake due to lack of polish as a politician, those people would still generally repeat or endorse the underlying sentiment. That is, they recognized that Trump’s remarks could be interpreted as racist, and they thought that was unfair, but they also agreed with what he was saying. That contradiction, and ways it has manifested historically, was really the heart of the piece.
For a presidency beset by problems of policy and politics at home and abroad, judicial appointments have been a rare bright spot for the Donald Trump administration. Any list of the White House’s biggest achievements begins (and arguably ends) with his successful appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, a placement that will likely reshape jurisprudence for decades, and below that come a huge number of appointments to lifetime seats on lower courts.
This week, even that began to look a little shaky. Two picks for district courts withdrew their nominations after Senator Chuck Grassley, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, publicly told the White House to reconsider their nominations, while a third was humiliated by a Republican senator during committee hearings.
On Tuesday, Grassley said he felt the administration should rethink the appointments of Brett Talley and Jeff Mateer. Talley had received the greater share of the attention: He had never tried a case (the fundamental task of district-court judges), received a rare “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association, and has a passion for ghost-hunting. In 2011, he’d defended the KKK in a comment online. He also failed to disclose as required that his wife works for the White House counsel, who is deeply involved in choosing judicial nominees. Grassley’s call for reconsideration was all the more curious because when he made it, the Judiciary Committee had already sent Talley’s nomination to the full Senate, on a party-line vote. On Wednesday, Talley decided to withdraw.
Mateer had a history of anti-LGBT comments, including speeches in which he said same-sex marriage would lead to bestiality and called transgender children evidence of “Satan’s plan.” His decision not to disclose the speeches drew criticism from Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Mateer’s home state of Texas. Mateer had not yet received a committee vote, and the White House yanked his nomination too.
Then, on Thursday, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, shared a clip from a Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday. In the video, which went viral, Senator John Kennedy, a Louisiana Republican, dismantled Matthew Petersen, another district-court nominee. In his first year in Washington, Kennedy has established himself as one of the best and quirkiest questioners in the Senate, displaying an unassuming “country lawyer” approach that bears more in common with Sam Ervin than Kennedy’s contemporary namesake.
In the clip, Kennedy questions Petersen on his experience. He has not tried a case in any court. He has never taken a deposition on his own, though he said he’d participated in about five as an entry-level lawyer. He has never argued a motion in state or federal court. He did not claim much literacy in the federal rules of criminal and civil procedure, which would govern the cases he’d hear as a judge. He expressed unfamiliarity with fairly common legal standards for admission of evidence and procedures for handling testimony. The cumulative effect is devastating—no wonder Whitehouse was eager to share questioning by his Republican colleague.
How could the Trump team’s brightest spot suddenly dim? One reason the president has been so successful with judicial nominees so far is that he scarcely has had to rely on his own partially staffed, often-inexperienced, and bumbling staff to get the task done. In effect, the administration has farmed the selection of nominees out to the Federalist Society, the conservative legal group, which has carefully groomed and selected candidates for the bench. So far, that has worked well for Trump. The president has not expressed a coherent legal ideology, but he has long recognized judgeships as a key issue for conservatives and sought to use it to forge an alliance.
Now that seems to be hitting turbulence. In part, the president may be a victim of his own success. In short, the bench for the bench is getting thin. This week, the Trump administration set a record for number of circuit-court confirmations in a president’s first year, and Trump has likely set a record for district-court confirmations as well. Given the pace, the White House may simply be struggling to vet nominees quickly enough to keep up.
What happens when a White House gets rushed or lazy? It starts picking political hacks, or people with more political connections than experience. Hence Talley, who doesn’t have any court experience, but whose wife is a lawyer in White House Counsel Don McGahn’s office. (He was deputy solicitor general of the state of Alabama and is a deputy assistant attorney general in the Trump administration.) Or Mateer, an apparent political zealot. Or Petersen, who as chairman of the Federal Election Commission and a former Republican staffer in Congress is a faithful GOP foot soldier but seems to have little in the way of preparation for the job for which he was nominated. It’s reminiscent of Harriet Miers, the George W. Bush lawyer who was improbably nominated for the Supreme Court and promptly forced to withdraw.
Trump’s record-setting pace of judicial appointments remains his biggest accomplishment, and an essential tool for keeping Republicans who might otherwise abandon him on the team. But the bumbling that the Talley, Mateer, and Petersen cases evince threatens to stall the pace of confirmations—and to raise objections among Republican senators like Grassley and Kennedy, who’d rather send nominees to the showers than the bench.
Amidst the exhilaration of Roy Moore’s defeat, and the broader cultural revolution sparked by women’s willingness to expose the sexual misdeeds of powerful men, it’s worth remembering this: Ninety percent of Republican women in Alabama, according to exit polls, cast their ballots for a man credibly accused of pedophilia. That’s a mere two points less than Republican men. By contrast, Democratic men voted for Moore’s opponent, Doug Jones, at the same rate as Democratic women: 98 percent. In early December, The Washington Post and the Schar School at George Mason University asked Alabamians whether they believed the allegations against Moore.
At my request, researchers from the Schar School broke down the answers by party and gender. The results: Party mattered far more. Republican women in Alabama were only four points more likely than Republican men to believe Moore’s accusers. In fact, Republican women were 40 points less likely to believe Moore’s accusers than were Democratic men. All of which points to a truth insufficiently appreciated in this moment of sexual and political upheaval: It’s not gender that increasingly divides the two parties. It is feminism.
This September, Leonie Huddy and Johanna Willmann of Stony Brook University presented a paper at the American Political Science Association. (The paper is not yet published, but Huddy sent me a copy.) In it, they charted the effects of feminism on partisanship over time. Holding other factors constant, they found that between 2004 and 2016, support for feminism—belief in the existence of “societal discrimination against women, and the need for greater female political power”—grew increasingly correlated with support for the Democratic Party. The correlation rose earlier among feminist women, but by 2016, it had also risen among feminist men. A key factor, the authors speculated, was Hillary Clinton. A liberal woman’s emergence as a serious presidential contender in 2008, and then as her party’s nominee eight years later, drove feminists of both genders toward the Democratic Party and anti-feminists of both genders toward the GOP.
In other words, Clinton, along with Donald Trump, has done for gender what Barack Obama did for race. Obama’s election, UCLA political scientist Michael Tesler has argued, pushed whites who exhibited more racial resentment into the Republican Party and whites who exhibited less into the Democratic Party. Something similar is now happening around gender. But what’s driving the polarization is less gender identity—do you identify as a man or a woman—than gender attitudes: Do you believe that women and men should be more equal. Democrats aren’t becoming the party of women. They’re becoming the party of feminists.
Amidst the current crescendo of sexual-harassment allegations, this is easy to miss. That’s because, in actual cases of sexual harassment, gender identity is obviously crucial. Overwhelmingly, the harassers are men and the victims are women. Gender attitudes—political beliefs about women’s place in society at large—often matter less. Men who support a feminist political agenda, like Clinton supporter Harvey Weinstein, still assault women. Women who oppose a feminist agenda still get assaulted.
But when it comes to the political reaction to sexual harassment, gender identity matters less and gender attitudes matter more. “A sizable minority of American women,” note Huddy and Willmann, “do not believe in the existence of gender discrimination, think that women who charge men with gender discrimination are trouble makers, and are inclined to side with a man accused of discriminatory behavior.” And Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy seems to have made these women more staunchly Republican.
Which helps explain why female Republicans express far less support for feminism than even male Democrats. Earlier this month, the research firm PerryUndem found that Democratic men were 25 points more likely than Republican women to say sexism remains a “big” or “somewhat” big problem. According to October polling data sorted for me by the Pew Research Center, Democratic men were 31 points more likely than Republican women to say the “country has not gone far enough on women’s rights.” In both surveys, the gender gap within parties was small: Republican women and Republican men answered roughly the same way as did Democratic women and Democratic men. But the gap between parties—between both Democratic men and women and Republican men and women—was large.
Since Trump’s election and the recent wave of sexual-harassment allegations, this partisan divide appears to have grown. In January, when PerryUndem asked whether “most women interpret innocent remarks as being sexist,” Republican women were 11 points more likely than Democratic men to say yes. When PerryUndem asked the question again this month, the gap had more than doubled to 23 points. A year ago, Democratic men were 30 points more likely than Republican women to strongly agree that “the country would be better off if we had more women in political office.” The gap is now 45 points.
Over the decades, a similar divergence has occurred in Congress. Syracuse University’s Danielle Thompson notes that, in the 1980s, “little difference existed between Republican and Democratic women [members of Congress] in their advocacy of women’s rights.” In the 1990s, Republican women members were still noticeably more moderate than their male GOP colleagues. That created a significant degree of ideological affinity between women politicians across the aisle. Now it’s gone. There are many more Democratic than Republican women in Congress. But, Thompson’s research shows, the Republican women are today just as conservative as their male GOP colleagues.
Why does this matter? First, it clarifies why Democrats forced Al Franken to vacate his Senate seat but Republicans didn’t force Roy Moore from his Senate race. Republicans of both genders are simply far more likely than Democrats of both genders to believe that women cry sexism in response to “innocent remarks or acts” and that America has “gone far enough on women’s rights.” It’s not surprising, therefore, that Democratic women senators took the lead in demanding that Franken go while Republican women senators reacted to Moore pretty much like their male colleagues.
Secondly, this partisan divergence hints at the nature of the backlash that the current sexual-harassment reckoning will spark: Anti-feminist women will help to lead it. In part, that’s because anti-feminist women can’t be labelled sexist as easily as anti-feminist men. But it’s also because, given their conservative attitudes, many Republican women likely find the current disruption of gender relations unnerving.
Feminist theorists have long sought to explain this. In a recent essay, Marcie Bianco of the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University cited Simone de Beauvoir’s argument that women are more likely than other oppressed groups to defend the hierarchies that subjugate them. Women, de Beauvoir wrote, have “no religion of their own; and they have no such solidarity of work and interest as that of the proletariat. … They live dispersed among the males, attached through residence, housework, economic condition, and social standing to certain men—fathers or husbands—more firmly than they are to other women.” In her 1983 book, Right-Wing Women, Andrea Dworkin argued that female anti-feminism was an understandable, if tragic, strategy of self-protection. “A woman,” she wrote, “acquiesces to male authority in order to gain some protection from male violence. She conforms in order to be as safe as she can be.”
Anti-feminists, needless to say, explain their views differently. “It’s difficult for me to call myself a feminist in the classic sense because it seems to be very anti-male and it certainly is very pro-abortion,” declared Kellyanne Conway in February. “I look at myself as a product of my choices, not a victim of my circumstances.” Conway’s point about abortion may be particularly significant in explaining female anti-feminism. According to a July Pew study, 38 percent of American women believe abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, only four points lower than American men.
All of which underscores a key difference between the current upheaval over gender and the ongoing upheaval over race. Many more women than African Americans are invested in maintaining an unequal status quo. In the growing partisan polarization over women’s rights, women will likely play prominent roles on both sides. The last great era of feminist activism helped to produce not only Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan, but also Phyllis Schlafly. And the #metoo movement will probably produce Schlafly’s of its own.
Washington Republicans have put the fiasco of Alabama’s special election behind them, but their electoral nightmare may just be beginning.
Roy Moore’s stunning defeat Tuesday night was met with quiet sighs of relief throughout the GOP establishment, where the culture-warring ex-judge and accused child abuser was widely regarded as radioactive. Yet even as Moore’s political obituaries were being written, party strategists were bracing for the army of Moore-like insurgents they expect to flood next year’s Republican primaries.
Indeed, Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon has already pledged to field challengers for every incumbent Republican senator up for reelection next year (with the exception of Ted Cruz). And even if Bannon fails to deliver on his threat, many in the GOP worry that experienced, fully-vetted candidates are going to struggle to beat back a wave of rough-edged Trump imitators who lean into the white identity politics that the president ran on in 2016.
While Republicans in the political class will no doubt cite Moore’s loss as proof that their party needs to nominate stronger, more mainstream candidates next year, it’s far from certain that primary voters on the ground will heed such pleas from the swamp.
"What’s the lesson here?” one GOP consultant asked me on the eve of the Alabama election, on condition of anonymity so as to speak with candor. “Don't entrust our nominations to loose cannons? We’ve been fighting this battle since 2010 and no one learns anything from it. Did we not learn that from Christine O’Donnell? Did we not learn that from Sharron Angle?"
Indeed, this is not the first time in recent memory that Republicans have coughed up an easy win by handing their nomination to a loose cannon. While the Tea Party wave of 2010 swept dozens of GOP lawmakers into office—including some future party stars like Senators Marco Rubio and Rand Paul—it also produced several decidedly terrible candidates who lost races that were well within reach for the Republican Party.
Angle, for example, waged a strange and reckless campaign in Nevada and ultimately blew a chance to unseat Democratic Senator Harry Reid. Her candidacy would be remembered primarily for her claim—instantly debunked, and nationally ridiculed—that the threat of encroaching Sharia Law constituted a “militant terrorist situation” in the cities of Dearborn, Michigan, and Frankford, Texas. Meanwhile, O’Donnell (who is most famous for her “I am not a witch” campaign ad) defeated a former governor and nine-term congressman in the Republican primary, and then got blown out in the general.
The fear that Republicans could see a replay of the worst Tea Party primary upsets is compounded by the fact that next year’s electoral landscape looks much tougher than it was in 2010.
“In 2018, we’re going to be playing a lot of defense,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist and former longtime Rubio adviser. “To the extent that we’re defending open seats with flawed candidates, we’re going to see more results like we had last night. Going on offense in 2018 is going to require extraordinary, battle-tested candidates.”
But of course, the dynamics that made it possible for Moore to win the Republican primary in Alabama are unlikely to change by 2018—and the consequences of the GOP nominating a slate of toxic standard-bearers could reverberate well beyond the midterms.
“You are going to have more fringe candidates continue to run,” said Nick Everhart, a Repubican consultant based in Ohio. “And nationally, you’ll inherit their problems as a party unless you distance yourself and say no. That’s the question I have: At what point does the national party have to say, ‘Just because you win the nomination doesn’t make you ours’?”
Everhart, who made his name in political circles by advising Tea Party-aligned outsider candidates, acknowledged that such a move would only deepen grassroots anger. “Part of the problem is we’ve trained our base to only respond to very specific messaging. We’ve fine-tuned what these people need to hear.”
In any case, he said, the institutional GOP can only do so much to control the quality of its candidates: “You can’t stop those people from filing.” And when any primary field gets too big, the electorate can easily fracture to the point where the noisiest firebrand on the ballot wins.
“There’s no remedy for this,” Everhart concluded. “There’s no magic wand or way to fix it.”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is authorized to broadly investigate Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, but recent reports suggest he’s focusing on a narrow period in the years-long saga.
NBC News reported on Monday that Mueller and his team are paying close attention to events between January 26, 2017, and February 13, 2017. That timespan stretches from the day Sally Yates, the acting attorney general at the time, notified the White House that then-National-Security Adviser Michael Flynn had made misleading statements to the FBI to Flynn’s resignation 18 days later.
Earlier this month, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the agency. Now, the question turns to who knew what—and when—about his false statements. If, hypothetically speaking, the president knew Flynn had committed a crime when he purportedly urged former FBI Director James Comey to drop the agency’s inquiry into Flynn on February 14, that could be used as evidence of intent when pursuing obstruction-of-justice charges. Below is an updated timeline to help contextualize this potentially crucial sequence of events in Trump’s early presidency.
Tuesday, November 8: Donald Trump is elected president of the United States.
Thursday, November 10: President Obama hosts President-elect Trump for a 90-minute meeting at the White House. During the meeting, Obama personally raises his concerns about Michael Flynn’s job performance during his tenure leading the Defense Intelligence Agency. By then, it was assumed Trump would appoint Flynn, one of his top campaign aides and a former Army lieutenant general, to an administration post.
Thursday, November 17: Trump announces that Flynn will serve as his national-security adviser. The post does not require Senate confirmation.
Thursday, December 29: In retaliation for Russia’s election meddling, the Obama administration expels 35 Russian diplomats, seizes two of Moscow’s U.S. compounds, and sanctions top Russian government officials. According to filings from the special counsel’s office, which were publicly released in December 2017, Flynn calls an unnamed senior official on the Trump transition team at Mar-a-Lago to discuss what he should tell Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak about the administration’s stance on the sanctions. (Kislyak had contacted him the day before.) They and other members of the team at the president’s Florida estate agree that they do not want Russia to escalate the diplomatic crisis.
After the initial call, Flynn speaks with Kislyak multiple times by phone and urges him not to exacerbate the situation. U.S. intelligence officials intercept the calls as part of their routine surveillance of foreign dignitaries.
Friday, December 30: Russian President Vladimir Putin announces that his government will not impose its own sanctions as payback against the United States. Trump praises Putin’s move on Twitter shortly thereafter.
Great move on delay (by V. Putin) - I always knew he was very smart!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 30, 2016
Friday, January 6: The U.S. intelligence community releases a 26-page report concluding that Russian intelligence agencies used cyberattacks and stolen documents to undermine Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid and the American electoral process. Trump releases a bland statement asserting “there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election.”
Thursday, January 12: Citing an unnamed senior government official, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius is the first to report about Flynn’s December 29 calls with Kislyak.
Friday, January 13: Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary, tells reporters that Flynn’s conversations with Kislyak centered on logistics for a post-inauguration call between Putin and Trump. “That was it,” he said, “plain and simple.”
Sunday, January 15: Trump transition officials defend Flynn on the Sunday- morning political talk shows. Vice President-elect Mike Pence tells CBS’s Face the Nation that the retired general “did not discuss anything having to do with the United States’ decision to expel diplomats or impose censure against Russia” in his talks with Kislyak. Reince Priebus, the incoming White House chief of staff, tells NBC’s Meet the Press that “the subject matter of sanctions or the actions taken by the Obama [administration] did not come up in the conversation.”
Thursday, January 19: Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates, FBI Director James Comey, outgoing CIA Director John Brennan, and outgoing Director of National Intelligence James Clapper debate whether to brief the incoming president about the Flynn-Kislyak calls. Brennan, Clapper, and Yates are in favor of briefing Trump or White House officials; Comey opposes it since it could interfere in the ongoing investigation.
Friday, January 20: Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other Obama administration Cabinet officials step down as part of the transition. At the Trump team’s request, Yates stays to serve as the acting head of the Justice Department until the Senate can confirm Jeff Sessions, the then-Alabama senator who Trump nominated November 18 to be his attorney general.
Sunday, January 22: The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. counterintelligence officials are scrutinizing Flynn’s December 29 calls with Kislyak as part of the broader federal investigation into Russian electoral interference.
Monday, January 23: At his first full press briefing, Spicer tells reporters that Flynn assured him sanctions weren’t discussed during the December 29 calls with Kislyak, relaying a detailed denial and alternative version of events. Upon learning this, Yates contacts Comey, who drops his opposition to briefing the White House about the calls.
Tuesday, January 24: FBI investigators interview Flynn at the White House about his talks with the ambassador. It’s during this interview that Flynn lied to the FBI. Specifically, he told the bureau that he had not asked Kislyak to refrain from escalating the situation after the Obama administration imposed new sanctions, a point flatly contradicted by what U.S. officials heard during the call.
Wednesday, January 25: Yates receives “a detailed readout specifically from the agents that had conducted the interview” with Flynn, according to her later testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Yates told lawmakers that she and her Justice Department colleagues “felt like it was critical that we get this information to the White House, in part because the vice president was unknowingly making false statements to the public and because we believed that General Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians.”
Thursday, January 26: Yates, accompanied by a senior career official from the Justice Department’s National Security Division, meets with White House Counsel Don McGahn to discuss Flynn’s interview. This is the first time that White House officials are made aware of the Justice Department’s concerns.
According to Spicer, McGahn immediately briefs Trump after the meeting with Yates. Trump orders McGahn to review whether anything illegal had been done. “When the president heard the information as presented by White House counsel, he instinctively thought General Flynn did not do anything wrong, and the White House counsel’s review corroborated that,” Spicer later tells reporters.
Friday, January 27: McGahn invites Yates back to the White House for a second meeting, where they once again discussed the Justice Department’s concerns. Yates later tells Congress that McGahn asked why the Justice Department cares when one White House official lies to another.
Later that night, Trump issues the first version of his travel ban, which freezes refugee admission into the United States and suspends visas held by nationals of seven Muslim-majority countries. The executive order takes immediate effect, causing chaos at major U.S. airports as international travelers are stranded mid-flight.
Monday, January 30: After multiple federal judges block the travel ban’s implementation over the weekend, Yates issues a memo to Justice Department staff notifying them the department will no longer defend it in court. “At present, I am not convinced that the defense of the executive order is consistent with these responsibilities nor am I convinced that the executive order is lawful,” she writes.
Hours later, the White House announces that Trump has fired Yates. Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, becomes the top-ranking official at the Justice Department and says he will continue to defend the ban. In an unusually charged statement, the White House says that Yates “betrayed the Department of Justice by refusing to enforce a legal order designed to protect the citizens of the United States” and denounces her as “an Obama administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.”
Tuesday, February 7: Flynn tells The Washington Post that he did not discuss sanctions with Kislyak.
Wednesday, February 8: The Senate confirms Sessions to be the attorney general in a 52-47 vote. One day after Flynn’s firm denial to the Post, a spokesman walks it back and tells the newspaper that Flynn “indicated that while he had no recollection of discussing sanctions, he couldn’t be certain that the topic never came up.”
Thursday, February 9: Pence learns about the Justice Department’s concerns about Flynn for the first time, according to his press secretary, Mike Lotter.
Friday, February 10: En route to Mar-a-Lago, Trump tells journalists aboard Air Force One that he will “look into” news reports that Flynn discussed sanctions with Kislyak. “I don’t know about that, I haven’t seen it,” he tells reporters. Flynn accompanies Trump on the trip and takes part in meetings with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Monday, February 13: The Washington Post first reports that Yates had warned McGahn in January about Flynn.
Later that night, Trump announces Flynn’s departure. In his resignation letter, Flynn says that he “inadvertently briefed the vice president-elect and others with incomplete information regarding my phone calls with the Russian ambassador.”
Tuesday, February 14: At the president’s invitation, FBI Director James Comey dines with Trump at the White House. During the dinner, Comey later told Congress, Trump urges him to drop the case against Flynn. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go,” Comey quotes Trump as saying. Three months later, on May 9, Trump fires Comey.
On the surface, Representative Blake Farenthold’s arc this week is familiar: Politician is accused of bad behavior; politician is accused of even more bad behavior; politician announces he’ll leave office.
In the case of the Texas Republican, that came after the series of scathing exposes in The New York Times and then CNN. The Times described an alcohol-sodden, sexually charged office in which “women would discuss which male lobbyists had texted them pictures of their genitals, and both men and women would talk about strip clubs and whether certain Fox News anchors had breast implants.” CNN heard that Farenthold screamed at staffers, called them “fucktards,” made rude comments about a staffer’s fiancee, and left the staffer in severe pain with daily vomiting. By Thursday morning, Farenthold was announcing he wouldn’t run for reelection, though he intended to serve out his term. (His ability to follow through will depend on whether further revelations emerge, and what sort of political pressure he receives—especially from other Republicans.)
But Farenthold’s case is also significant for its deviation from the normal pattern. Thus far, a strange dichotomy has developed within claims of sexual harassment. The last two months have seen many women newly inspired to share stories of bad behavior, be it recent or two decades ago. The men they are accusing have in many cases been toppled, for sins ranging from groping and lewd comments to rape. Meanwhile, men who stood accused of harassment or abuse before the sudden downfall of Harvey Weinstein have, for the most part, managed to remain in positions of power. It is as though accusations B.H. (Before Harvey) are grandfathered in. Farenthold, however, breaks the pattern: Even though stories of sexual harassment surfaced as early as 2014, that didn’t inoculate him.
Examples of this grandfathering effect abound. Within politics, the most glaring example is President Trump. It has become truism to note the dissonance between his continued tenure as president, despite having been recorded boasting about sexual assaults, even as other abusers are forced from office—sometimes over behavior that is at once unacceptable but also less serious than the allegations against Trump.
Trump is hardly alone, though. Clarence Thomas continues to enjoy his lifetime appointment at the Supreme Court, despite the allegations Anita Hill lodged against him during his confirmation hearings. Representative Alcee Hastings, a Florida Democrats, was known to have been sued for sexual harassment several years ago, though Roll Call only revealed the $220,000 settlement paid to his accuser last Friday. Bill Clinton was impeached for lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky but survived office and has enjoyed a post-presidential career as a globetrotting elder statesman and grand old man of the Democratic Party. (Clinton’s past behavior did play a role in his wife’s loss in the 2016 presidential race, and while there is a move to reassess his legacy, it comes so late in his career as to be barely consequential.)
Outside of politics, there are plenty of other examples. Dylan Farrow, who has long accused Woody Allen of sexual abuse (and whose brother Ronan Farrow helped break the Weinstein story), wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “Why is it that Harvey Weinstein and other accused celebrities have been cast out by Hollywood, while Allen recently secured a multimillion-dollar distribution deal with Amazon, greenlit by former Amazon Studios executive Roy Price before he was suspended over sexual misconduct allegations?” Across entertainment, from R. Kelly to Casey Affleck, man accused of harassment or worse have kept their careers alive.
This division is peculiar. Why should it be that bad behavior only results in consequences if it is revealed since Weinstein? This is especially true because the allegations often refer to incidents that occurred B.H.—yet long after such behavior was clearly unacceptable. (One excuse offered for harassment is that social standards have changed; whether this argument is worthy of consideration or not, it does not apply here.) The practice of grandfathering in old revelations simply because they were publicly known before October has little logical basis.
That makes the Farenthold case interesting. It’s not a pure test case. Farenthold had been under fire for the old sexual-harassment case (his former communications director Lauren Greene has recently described how she was ostracized and forced to leave politics after complaining about and suing him), and an embarrassing photo of Farenthold wearing duck pajamas and cavorting with scantily clad models emerged during his run for office, but it was the new reports that tipped him over into announcing his departure from Congress.
Nonetheless, it is the first indication that actions revealed B.H. might produce repercussions A.H. If the dam breaks, it could have a powerful effect in Washington and elsewhere. Most prominently, that’s a danger for the president, who stands accused of sexual misconduct by at least 19 women, and who is currently being sued by one of them for defamation. A poll from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, released on Thursday, found that slightly more than half of voters believe Trump should resign because of sexual-harassment allegations. But it is not just Trump who might be affected—many men in Washington might have reason to worry if the Farenthold precedent continues. If so, the Texan’s legacy would far outweigh his short, undistinguished tenure in Congress.
The Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal Obama-era net-neutrality regulations. Republican Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas announced that he will not seek reelection in 2018 amid allegations of sexual harassment. During a press conference, House Speaker Paul Ryan called it the “right decision.” Florida Senator Marco Rubio said he will vote against the Republican tax bill unless the child tax credit is expanded. In a ceremony at the White House, President Trump touted his administration’s deregulation efforts.
But Wait, There’s Moore: Some Republicans breathed a sigh of relief when Roy Moore lost to Doug Jones in Alabama’s special election on Tuesday. But party strategists are “bracing for the army of Moore-like insurgents they expect to flood next year’s Republican primaries.” (McKay Coppins)
‘Time Is Running Out’: On Wednesday, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham estimated that there’s a 30 percent chance that President Trump will order a military strike on North Korea. (Uri Friedman)
What We Don’t Know: Nonfatal gun violence has mostly been ignored, writes David S. Bernstein, so the public policies meant to reduce gun violence are based on incomplete evidence.
Follow stories throughout the day with our Politics & Policy portal.
Goodbye, Net Neutrality: The Federal Communications Commission just voted to repeal net-neutrality protections. Here’s what that means—and who it’s most likely to affect. (Seth Fiegerman, CNN)
A Threat Unchecked: President Trump has consistently pushed back against the intelligence community’s efforts to convince him of Russia’s role in the 2016 election. According to administration officials, “Trump has never convened a Cabinet-level meeting on Russian interference or what to do about it.” (Greg Miller, Greg Jaffe, and Philip Rucker, The Washington Post)
Regrets: In an interview with Teen Vogue, former Vice President Joe Biden said he wishes he would have better defended Anita Hill’s testimony against Clarence Thomas: “I owe her an apology.” (Brittney McNamara)
Eye on the Exit: Paul Ryan has reportedly told colleagues that he expects this to be his last term as speaker of the House. (Tim Alberta and Rachael Bade, Politico)
Deafening Silence: The war against ISIS’s “caliphate” has been won, writes David French. Yet no one seems to care. (National Review)
Facing a Lawsuit: Omar Ashmawy, staff director and chief counsel of the Office of Congressional Ethics, is reportedly being sued for verbally and physically abusing women. (Jana Winter, Foreign Policy)
The Finished Product: Here’s how the final version of the GOP’s tax bill would affect individuals, families, and businesses. (Wilson Andrews and Alicia Parlapiano, The New York Times)
The 2018 Golden Globe nominations are in, including films like The Shape of Water, The Post, and Lady Bird, as well as an eclectic mix of television shows like Big Little Lies, This is Us, and Stranger Things.
This week, we want to know: If this political moment was a Golden Globe-nominated film, what would be its genre? What would it be called? And why?
Share your response here, and we’ll feature a few in Friday’s Politics & Policy Daily.
-Written by Elaine Godfrey (@elainejgodfrey)
How are we doing? Send questions or feedback to email@example.com.
For weeks, Marco Rubio has been prodding Republican leaders to tilt the party’s tax overhaul ever-so-slightly away from corporations and the wealthy and more toward working families.
The Florida senator has made speeches on the Senate floor, offered an amendment that his colleagues helped defeat, and tweeted complaints about the GOP’s priorities for slashing taxes—all the while pushing his proposal to allow more people on the lower end of the income scale to take advantage of an expanded child tax credit. Republican leaders resisted his idea, and Rubio voted with them anyway.
But on Thursday afternoon, Rubio took his campaign an important step forward: He told top Republicans he’d vote against the final tax bill next week if they did not agree to his demands.
“Senator Rubio has consistently communicated to the Senate tax negotiators that his vote on final passage would depend on whether the refundability of the child tax credit was increased in a meaningful way,” Rubio spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas told me on Thursday, confirming The Washington Post’s report on the senator’s threat.
All along, Rubio’s partner on the child-tax-credit proposal has been Senator Mike Lee of Utah. But Lee isn’t yet joining him in publicly threatening to vote no. “Senator Lee is undecided on the bill in its current form,” spokesman Conn Carroll said. “Senator Lee continues to work to make the [child tax credit] as beneficial as possible to American working families.”
Republican leaders certainly can’t afford to lose both Rubio and Lee, and they may not be able to sacrifice either one. The GOP needs 50 out of its 52 members to back the tax bill once a House-Senate conference committee unveils its final compromise. One senator, Bob Corker of Tennessee, voted against the initial Senate bill and appears unlikely to change his mind. Senator Susan Collins of Maine is undecided, having conditioned her vote on promises that party leaders may not be planning to keep. Senator John McCain of Arizona is back in the hospital due to side effects from his treatment for brain cancer. And the election of Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama has added even more urgency to the GOP’s rush to pass its tax bill: Once Jones is sworn in at the end of the year, Republicans likely will have one fewer vote to spare.
All of which means Rubio has leverage, and he’s finally decided to use it. Working with Ivanka Trump, Lee, and other colleagues, Rubio earlier won support for doubling the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000 per kid. But because Republicans have only made $1,100 of the credit refundable, its benefits skew toward higher earners. As Rubio has argued, a family earning between $20,000 and $50,000 a year does not have a large enough federal tax liability to take the full $2,000. An analysis from the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which backs Rubio’s proposal, found that 26 million children would not qualify for the full credit because of the refundability cap. “We have a provision in which the family making more gets more for their children than the family making less. That makes no sense,” Rubio argued during floor debate over the Senate bill.
Rubio and Lee offered an amendment that would have made the expanded credit fully refundable while offsetting the additional cost by cutting the corporate rate only to 20.94 percent instead of 20 percent. (It is currently 35 percent.) But the Senate roundly rejected that change. Republicans voted against it because they prioritized the lower corporate rate, and Democrats who would normally support the policy did not want to put their stamp on a GOP bill they plan on campaigning against.
Yet Republican leaders turned around and tweaked the corporate rate anyway—not to expand the child tax credit but to lower the tax rate for wealthy individuals from 39.6 percent to 37 percent. That appeared to be the final insult for Rubio, who, to that point, had voted with the party. “20.94% Corp. rate to pay for tax cut for working family making $40k was anti-growth but 21% to cut tax for couples making $1million is fine?” he tweeted incredulously on Wednesday.
It’s not clear whether Rubio is demanding that the expanded credit be made fully refundable to win his vote, or whether he could support a more modest change. In a tweet on Thursday afternoon, he suggested he could accept less than full refundability. “Tax negotiators didn’t have much trouble finding a way to lower the the top tax bracket and to start the corporate tax cut a year early,” he wrote. “Adding at least a few hundred $’s in refundable cuts for working families who seem to always be forgotten isn’t hard to do either.”
And whether he’ll actually make good on his threat is an equally open question. Despite criticizing Donald Trump harshly on the campaign trail last year, Rubio has voted nearly in lockstep with him as president. Early in the year, he made a show of threatening to oppose Rex Tillerson’s nomination as secretary of state only to come around in the end. Perhaps with that in mind, Trump did not seem particularly worried about Rubio’s warning about the tax bill. “I think that Senator Rubio will be there,” the president said at the White House, “very shortly.”
The massacre in Las Vegas this October earned a macabre superlative: the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, with 58 innocents killed and more than 500 injured. The outpouring of attention and support was swift and far-reaching. CNN published portraits of all 58 victims. A man from Chicago made 58 crosses to honor the fallen. Zappos offered to help pay for the 58 funerals. An anonymous man even paid for 58 strangers’ dinners in memory of those who died.
But what about the hundreds who were shot but didn’t die? A 28-year-old woman who was shot in the head at the concert is undergoing aggressive rehab after spending nearly two months in the hospital. A 41-year-old man is learning how to drive with his hands after he was paralyzed from the waist down. And many victims have relied on money raised through GoFundMe to support their medical care.
The hardships facing those gravely injured in Las Vegas represent a horrific microcosm of gun violence in America generally—horrible deaths provoke widespread reaction, while the wounds of many multiples more take their toll largely unnoticed, unnumbered, and unstudied.
Fatal gun violence is often categorized in ways that make it easy to track and study. That’s how researchers know that the murder rate in the United States has declined steadily over the past three decades. But what about gun violence that does not result in death? That is far trickier to measure. That’s because nonfatal gun violence has mostly been ignored.
As a result, policymakers, law-enforcement officials, public-health experts, urban planners, and economists are all basing their work on information that is unproven or incomplete. Without more data—without identifying who commits shootings, where, how, and against whom; without plotting their rise and fall, to correlate with potential contributing factors; without analyzing those questions on a national, regional, local, neighborhood, and individual basis—it’s impossible to tell which public policies and interventions could be most effective at reducing gun violence.
At least one recent study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, suggests nonfatal shootings have actually risen since the early 2000s. Based on what data does exist, they appear to constitute, by far, the largest portion of the country’s gun violence: Six out of every seven people who suffer a gunshot wound survive (excluding suicide attempts). Most of these injuries aren’t the result of mass-casualty events like the wrenching violence in Las Vegas or last month’s church massacre in Sutherland Springs, Texas; instead, they are the product of equally tragic incidents largely hidden from view.
“This country has a real challenge—an epidemic of firearm injury,” said Sandro Galea, the dean of the Boston University School of Public Health. He co-authored the Journal study with a team led by Bindu Kalesan, the director of the Center for Clinical Translational Epidemiology and Comparative Effectiveness Research at Boston University. “There’s a gulf of understanding on this issue,” Galea said.
Richard Aborn, the president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, agreed. “Nobody’s ever focused on this,” he said. “That impedes us from understanding the gun-violence problem—and other, related activity.”
Largely ignoring nonfatal shootings means that Americans are both vastly underestimating and misunderstanding gun violence. Underestimating, because researchers are only barely beginning to measure the personal, familial, local, and societal costs of what Kalesan and others estimate are more than a million shooting survivors living in the United States; and misunderstanding, because nonfatal shootings can be quite different from those that result in death.
The dearth of research makes it near impossible to fully illustrate the realities of gun violence to the broader public. As of now, for example, nobody really knows how often people are shot by their intimate partners, how many victims are intended targets or bystanders, how many shootings are in self-defense, how such incidents affect community investment and property values, or how much it costs taxpayers to care for victims. In order to come up with their estimate of a million shooting survivors, Kalesan and her colleagues had to rely on imperfect data from hospital emergency-room reports.
As a result, survivors of gun violence are largely invisible, even to the people who work closely on the issue—including policymakers, academics, and medical professionals. According to Thomas Weiser, an associate professor of surgery at Stanford University Medical Center, Americans unwittingly turn a blind eye to gunshot victims’ medical needs, economic hardships, capacity for work, and ability to socially integrate. “We know very little about [gunshot]-trauma patients after they leave the hospital,” Weiser said.
Weiser warned Sarabeth Spitzer, a third-year medical student at Stanford University, that nonfatal gunshot injuries might be a bad research topic. Weiser told her that a combination of poor foresight, neglect, and a deliberate choking-off of funds had left the field with virtually no data and no analysis to work from. Plus, as with all gun-related matters, it’s a minefield of controversy, which can severely limit access to grants and other funding.
But Spitzer, a child of post-Columbine America, said the topic seemed a natural fit to her: For one thing, she intends to become a trauma surgeon. So she lobbied the university to help. Lucky for her, Stanford was willing to pay for a detailed national database of hospital care and payment data, which is why researchers now know, from a paper Weiser and Spitzer published in April, a great deal more about the costs of hospitalization for gunshot victims. “We took a straightforward question—of cost data and insurance—that remarkably didn’t have an answer,” Weiser said. Their study found over $700 million dollars a year just in post-emergency-room hospitalization costs—borne primarily by Medicaid and other government sources, or by victims themselves. Just 21 percent of the gunshot patients had private insurance.
These costs can be filed under what Aborn calls the “closet consequences of nonfatal shootings.” They are not insubstantial. Another paper prepared by Kalesan and her team, which is still under peer review, finds that the hospital readmission rate for gun injuries is higher than for automobile accidents. Other research reveals that victims of nonfatal shootings are quietly carrying enormous physical and psychological burdens. Kalesan has been interviewing gunshot survivors for a study on the long-term effects on both the wounded and their families. One of her subjects, a woman who was shot in the arm during a workplace incident 15 years ago, recently told Kalesan, “I’m still waiting for my old self to come back.” Another man was shot in the head while standing in the street; he has a traumatic brain injury and can speak only three words. His mother cares for him full-time; they live on $650 a month in government benefits.
At the University of Toronto, Jooyoung Lee is working on a similar project, writing a book based on his research tracking shooting victims in Philadelphia. Lee has observed, particularly among those shot by hollow-point bullets, that recurring pain can drive shooting victims to opioid addiction. That, in turn, can push them into dangerous situations and risky behavior as they try to feed their habit, which can lead to more trauma, incarceration, or medical intervention—all of which only compound a single gunshot’s effect on an overburdened health-care and criminal-justice system.
Kareem Nelson, the founder of Wheelchairs Against Guns in New York City, a nonprofit aimed at protecting kids from bullying, gangs, and gun violence, speaks of the tremendous strain on caregivers, most often mothers and grandmothers with limited time and resources. “Families are already struggling” in neighborhoods with gun violence, he said. “So, when a child gets shot, a mother has to go through hoops. It’s really, really hard.” Again, a single gunshot’s effect is compounded, especially when both victim and caretaker are removed from the job force and stripped of their economic productivity. Some initial research is also starting to assess the effects that all shootings—not just homicides—have on neighborhoods, from economic development to property values to the quality of life for those who live there.
“There” means places such as Mosby Court in Richmond, Virginia, and Copeland Street in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood. From outward appearances, the two seem more different than they really are. Mosby Court is a low, sprawling public-housing development, with wide streets and lines of laundry drying in the afternoon sun. Copeland Street’s aging four-floor-walkup apartment buildings and three-level converted condos squeeze next to one another, casting shadows on foreboding entryways. But they are kindred communities. In early April, each neighborhood suffered the nonfatal shooting of a young black child innocently walking in their neighborhood: a 7-year-old girl in Richmond, a 6-year-old boy in Boston.
“In the summer, we all sit out here enjoying the weather,” said Kieth Miller, who was sitting on the gray steps of his Copeland Street building, the same building where that 6-year-old boy lives. But the stoops and a park on the street were empty on that sunny April weekday afternoon. The shooting had occurred a few days earlier, as the boy walked to the corner store with his father, the intended target. “Nobody wants to be out now,” Miller said.
This is the gun violence Donald Trump bemoaned during his presidential campaign—he framed it, as many Americans do, as a problem exclusive to black communities. African American parents, he said, “have a right to walk down the street of your city without having your child or yourself shot.” But it is a sentiment that runs counter to available data: Kalesan’s study, covering 2001 to 2013, shows nonfatal-assault victimization rates declined among African Americans and increased significantly for whites. The likelihood of a white person getting shot by an assailant and surviving rose 40 percent over those 12 years, while the likelihood for black Americans remained fairly steady; fatal shootings declined slightly for both races over that time.
If they so choose, Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have an opportunity to push forward a major project to close the data gap and potentially inform evidence-based approaches to gun violence: the Panel on Modernizing the Nation’s Crime Statistics. Assembled by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, at the request of the Bureau of Justice Statistics and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the panel issued a book-length report last year on the need to change current crime definitions and classifications. It highlighted nonfatal shootings as a priority. “The nation as a whole lacks reliable measures of shootings,” the authors wrote.
The second part of the report, with specific recommendations, is expected to be published next year. But the research community fears the likelihood of its implementation has declined drastically with the departure of the more supportive Obama administration. Those fears grew when FBI Director James Comey, a key cheerleader for the crime-statistics effort, was fired in May.
Current FBI Director Christopher Wray did not respond to inquiries about the project. Nor did the White House press office. But the researchers I spoke to see the president and his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, as disinterested in numbers-driven approaches to crime and violence. Their fears are grounded in the administration’s hostility to data and evidence-based policymaking on everything from climate change, to the effects of voter-ID laws, to animal welfare. Perhaps the most analogous example is the National Commission on Forensic Science, which was established by the Obama administration to advise the Justice Department on the best use and practices of DNA, ballistics, and other forensic sciences in solving and prosecuting cases. The commission was developing uniform standards for forensic testimony, but Sessions discontinued the body, and its plan for forensic standards, in early April.
“If you had asked me three years ago, I would have been more optimistic,” Janet Lauritsen, a professor at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, and the panel’s chair, said. Now? Well: “You have to have an appreciation for facts and a budget to implement it.”
The roots of the gun-research problem go back nearly 100 years. In 1929, when federal law-enforcement officials unveiled the country’s first standardized method of tracking crimes, they divided assaults into just two categories in the inaugural Uniform Crime Reporting Handbook: simple (usually a misdemeanor) and aggravated (often a felony). Serious urban crime plagued cities, but it was a wholly different time. On the one hand, it was the year of the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in Chicago, when gangsters associated with Al Capone killed seven men, five of whom were members of a rival gang; on the other hand, the UCR handbook explained that shooting at or into trains should not count as a violent crime because “they are usually offenses of malicious mischief by children.” Because of the widespread adoption of the UCR’s criteria, police departments to this day fail to report shootings as separate, countable crime statistics; instead, an unknown number of shootings are lumped in with all the other aggravated assaults, like stabbings, pool-cue beatings, or attacks with a bat.
“The shooting data has been problematic from the start, and that’s because of this aggravated-assault category,” Lauritsen said. “That legacy has been around for 90 years.”
Newer reporting systems—gathered through law-enforcement associations, victim surveys, health-care providers, and independent organizations such as the Gun Violence Archive—have all published useful data, but each is operating piecemeal. Taken together, these data collections don’t come close to a complete and direct accounting of gun violence—unlike, say, incidents of cancer, which are rigorously tracked with robust federal funding.
The study Kalesan and her colleagues published earlier this year in the American Journal of Epidemiology concluded that nonfatal gun violence was rising as of 2012. They used data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, a network created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Consumer Product Safety Commission that relies on a sampling of hospital emergency-room reports.
However, the study’s findings aren’t infallible. The National Electronic Injury Surveillance System has been criticized as incomplete for how its data is compiled—changing the specific hospitals sampled and not accounting for shooting causes that are reported as “unknown.” A few months after the study’s publication, a rebuttal appeared in the Journal from researchers at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy and the University of California, Davis. After adjusting for purported flaws in the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, they found that the rate of nonfatal shooting assaults rose for a few years starting in 2003, but then declined to almost exactly where it started.
This much is certain: Nonfatal shooting assaults are a major, persistent public-health problem. And without more thorough data collection on gunshot victims, the information that’s available to the public will be imperfect at best—and deeply flawed at worst.
Without modernized crime statistics, researchers simply cannot answer questions like: Who pulled the gun? Did he or she deliberately fire it? Who, if anyone, was struck? What happened to the victim? The case information collected by hospitals is not typically coded for any connections to the case information collected by law enforcement, so it’s almost impossible to match victims to any arrested perpetrators or seized firearms, which would yield a trove of useful data—criminal histories, relationships between victims and shooters, socioeconomic status, weapon types. Some police departments do carefully track shootings, but most keep that data internal. In New York City, for example, police track nonfatal shootings rigorously, Aborn said, starting from when victims walk into an emergency room with a gunshot wound. “We really like to unpack shootings,” he said. “It’s almost an epidemiology approach: understanding what’s causing the disease. Without that data, it’s very hard to do that kind of analysis.”
But other cities can’t tell you how many people are shot in their own jurisdictions, said David Kennedy, the director of the National Network for Safe Communities at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. That includes many of the biggest cities in the country. When the Major Cities Chiefs Association routinely surveys its members for violent-crime data, only 40 of its 69 member agencies are usually able to provide the number of nonfatal shootings. And when The Baltimore Sun tried last year to compare lethality rates for shootings, it found that only half of the country’s 30 biggest cities even keep that data.
Researchers and analysts tend to go where the data—and the funding—is. Over the years, that has meant looking at homicides, not at nonfatal shootings—because murders are sufficiently rare and well documented to provide reasonably comprehensive information. That gap widened after Congress passed the Dickey Amendment in 1996, which, along with accompanying budget cuts to the CDC, effectively took the federal government out of the business of funding gun research. Though it was ostensibly designed to prevent federal backing of biased anti-gun propaganda, the National Rifle Association-backed law has had a huge chilling effect: Since, academics found themselves with little hope of attracting funding, many of them steered clear of gun-violence research.
Former President Barack Obama tried, with limited success, to reverse this course. He directed the CDC to resume financing the small amount of gun-related research that is allowable under the Dickey language, but little has happened. The money has mostly gone to maintaining the CDC’s database on fatalities.
Nongovernmental research funding has made up some of the difference—but it tends to go to policy-oriented work in line with the funder’s mission or to splashier topics like mass shootings.
Perhaps it’s not surprising then, given the barriers, that those few who do specialize in researching nonfatal shootings tend to be disproportionately passionate about the topic—which often translates into personal support for stricter gun-control measures. That makes them easy targets for gun-rights groups looking to attack them for bias. This past December, Doctors for Responsible Gun Control called for Kalesan to be fired, citing her social-media posts as evidence of anti-gun animus. Her co-author, Galea, was placed on a “watch list” of professors with a “radical agenda” for his gun-violence op-eds in The Boston Globe. Kalesan and Galea say they don’t have any financial conflicts of interests to disclose when they publish on gun control.
Indeed, gun-control groups aren’t in the habit of funding research on a significant scale. Though they’ve tried to close some of the data gap—the nonprofit Gun Control Archive, for example, now catalogues shooting victims through media and law-enforcement reports—they don’t have industry-sized piles of money to toss around. With limited resources, most organizations concentrate on lobbying for and against legislation rather than on funding research to undergird their arguments.
Significant drives for federal gun-control legislation tend to come after widely publicized tragedies like the Pulse nightclub, Sandy Hook, and Gabby Giffords shootings. Indeed, Democrats resurrected their gun-control push immediately after Las Vegas and again after Sutherland Springs. To be sure, it may be politically savvy to push for reform when the nation appears to be united against gun violence. But the legislative measures most often put forward are things like assault-weapons bans and the use of terror watch lists for background checks. Those bills may resonate with many Americans, but they have no connection to the vast majority of shootings. Most gun violence is not a mass-media event. It takes place one shot at a time, on city streets and rural properties, with non-assault weapons, usually between people who know each other. A woman shot during the Las Vegas massacre may share similarities with one shot by her partner, but there are too many variables to treat both events as if they were the same—or as if regulation to prevent one kind of violence would likely stop the other.
Most shootings also never result in an arrest, according to FBI assessments, but news-making mass shootings rarely go unsolved. Those perpetrators typically die or get arrested at the scene, or soon after. The hundreds who put bullets in other people every day, however, are far less likely to be apprehended. Unlike homicide cases, there are rarely elite detectives and prosecutors investigating nonfatal shootings, just overtaxed precinct detectives with little authority to commandeer the resources of patrol officers, crime-scene specialists, or testing labs.
Worse, according to many advocates I spoke to, nonfatal shootings are too often viewed as occurring among criminals, drug dealers, and drug users—none of whom summon much sympathy from policymakers or law enforcement. What’s more, state resources to help those victims, including therapy, relocation assistance, and compensation funds, often go only to those who were not involved in the commission of a crime at the time of the shooting, like innocent bystanders. This effectively sends the message that those injured while engaging in a drug deal, carrying an unlicensed weapon, or starting a fistfight don’t deserve help.
That’s a shame, Lee said, because that’s often exactly when both criminals and victims are most in need of the help those services provide. “A lot of times it’s a turning point in their life path,” he said. “By denying them funds, the state is essentially denying people those opportunities.” There is, Lee said, “a perception by police, by politicians, by health-care providers, that they are guilty in their own demise. That has a lot of implications on the care and treatment they can receive afterward.”
Thea James was working in the Boston Medical Center trauma unit on Patriots’ Day in 2013 when Boston Marathon bombing victims arrived. James, the associate chief medical officer and the director of the Violence Intervention Advocacy Program, also had several young men freshly admitted from that weekend’s spate of gun violence. Her staff didn’t blanch when a bombing victim lashed out verbally at a nurse’s innocent cheery greeting. “We understand that is a manifestation of trauma,” James said. “But if one of my [shooting victims] said that, [nurses would] be calling public safety.”
Instead of getting the help and sympathy that other victims of violence receive, black men in urban areas in particular are penalized, James said. When they act out, refuse to cooperate, or clash with people, authority figures yell at them, manhandle them, and further marginalize them. But “that’s not bad behavior—it’s a manifestation of their trauma,” James said.
James’s program is one of more than 30 in a national network that provides help to shooting victims, from mental-health counseling to job-training programs. Most, like hers, are at urban trauma centers that see the bulk of a city’s shooting victims and where population density justifies their existence. Gunshot victims in rural areas rarely get such interventions.
“We grab them while we have them, and we start developing a relationship with them,” she said. “They just have to say yes.” Three-quarters of them do, and accept some post-hospitalization assistance from the program.
Some 175 shooting victims a year end up at Boston Medical Center, the Boston University-affiliated hospital in the city’s downtown, according to James. Almost all shooting victims will suffer some psychological trauma, James said, impairing their ability to navigate a life that, in most cases, was already difficult. It’s worth pausing to consider what this means. Each year in Boston, 200 or so people return home from the hospital after having been shot, adding their trauma to a small number of already troubled neighborhoods. And Boston is a relatively low-violence city.
The national conversation on gun violence often includes mental health—but usually in the context of preventing the next mass-murder, not in ameliorating the daily struggles and stressors that are exacerbated in crowded, impoverished neighborhoods. Joao DePina, for example, believes that his brother, Michael DePina, would be alive if better mental-health interventions were available. Michael was shot to death at age 29 in 2014, in what Joao believes was the end of a back-and-forth set of shootings with a rival. On the surface, it fits into a 20-year narrative of retaliatory gun violence in Boston’s Cape Verdean community. But Joao, a longtime peace activist who is now running for city council, said it had more to do with long-standing mental-health problems stemming from Michael’s difficult childhood in the foster-care system. “He had a lot of anger and animosity,” he said. “He couldn’t control those things.”
Reverend James Wilkins, a pastor in Richmond, understands. “My granddaughter survived but has a brain injury,” Wilkins said. She was 11 when she went outside to ride her scooter five years ago; she took a 40-caliber bullet to the back of the head. Now 17 years old, she doesn’t have the full use of some parts of her body, but she gets good grades and after working her first job earlier this year, she is focusing on her studies.
Wilkins, a former street criminal who did time himself, saw a second tragedy in the man who shot his granddaughter—a 22-year-old just out of prison at the time. “He was in a dark place, crying out, with anger and pain,” he said. “I was one of those. I grew up in a prison household. The only role model you know is a man in jail telling you to hold down until he comes back.”
“That 15-year-old kid who gets a gun and pulls the trigger,” Nelson said, “that’s a person who needs some help.”
The National Network of Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Programs plans to develop a database from member programs like James’s to provide data on interventions and outcomes. If that data proves that James’s program works, perhaps she won’t have to keep scrambling for her $750,000 budget. Over the program’s 10 years, she has seen funding come and go from the city of Boston, a federal Shannon Grant, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the 2009 economic-stimulus fund, the Boston Public Health Commission, the Department of Justice, the Massachusetts state budget, and various private donors.
A little farther south on the gray Boston University School of Medicine campus, Kalesan does her gun research in her spare time, off the clock from her day job running the Center for Clinical Translational Epidemiology and Comparative Effectiveness Research. Her hope of getting funding for her gun-related studies has turned to despair.
“I trained to be a pharmaceutical trialist,” Kalesan said. When she did that work, funders “would hunt us down to give us money.”
Lee is fortunate enough to have a book deal to write up the research he conducted over two years in Philadelphia, when he had a foundation-paid fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania and a small government grant. He has had more luck getting funded for his sociological studies of street rap than for his gun research.
Nevertheless, bit by bit, they and others are contributing to a body of evidence that could help change how the country and its policymakers respond to gun violence. At the current pace, however, that will take many years—and many, many more victims.
Updated on December 14 at 10:28 a.m. ET
If you want to see a political wave forming a year before an election, watch the retirements.
They’re often a leading indicator for which direction a party is headed, and so far, 2018 is shaping up ominously for Republicans. In the last few months, two GOP senators, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Jeff Flake of Arizona, and four Republican committee chairmen in the House have announced they won’t seek reelection next year. Several other veterans in competitive districts are also calling it quits, depriving the GOP of the advantage of incumbency in races that could determine control of the House in 2019. And more retirements are probably on the way between now and the end of the year, when lawmakers head home to discuss future plans with their families.
At the same time, a wave of allegations of sexual harassment and other inappropriate behavior has scrambled the retirement picture in both parties in recent weeks, and it’s forced several lawmakers to leave Congress early. On Thursday, Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas announced he would not run for reelection in 2018 after a number of former staffers accused him of sexual harassment and overseeing a hostile work environment on Capitol Hill.
Scandals have already taken down Democratic Senator Al Franken and long-serving Representative John Conyers among Democrats, as well as GOP Representatives Trent Franks and Tim Murphy. More could be on the way as new allegations come to light.
As for those getting out in 2018, President Trump’s low approval rating and Congress’s meager legislative output may be contributing to the decisions of some Republicans to retire, including moderate Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey, and Dave Reichert of Washington state. But there are other factors at play. Unlike Democrats, Republicans have rules limiting the terms of their committee chairmen to ensure turnover and give younger members a chance to advance in the House. Congress isn’t as fun with less power, and all four of the retiring GOP committee leaders would be forced out of their roles and to the back bench in 2019.
The trend to this point gives a distinct edge to the Democrats. While roughly the same number of lawmakers in both parties are leaving their seats to run for higher office, just three Democrats are retiring outright or have already resigned, compared with 17 Republicans. (House members running for other offices often count as retirements, because it’s usually impractical or illegal to run for multiple positions at the same time.) Democratic victories this November in gubernatorial and state legislative races in Virginia and New Jersey could spur more retirements among Republicans worried about the national political environment under Trump.
And although Democrats must defend far more Senate seats than Republicans in 2018—including several in states that Donald Trump won—all of the party’s incumbents are currently running for reelection. The retirements of Corker and Flake, along with a possible victory in December’s special election in Alabama, give Democrats an outside chance at retaking the Senate majority. In the House, they’ll need to pick up 24 seats, and the more Republicans retire in districts that Hillary Clinton carried last year, the more the GOP majority is at risk.
Bob Corker, Tennessee
The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee opted against running for a third term and promptly intensified his criticism of the president, whom he had praised during the election. Trump alleged that Corker “begged” for his endorsement, while Corker said it was Trump who urged him to run again.
Jeff Flake, Arizona
He decided to leave after a single term rather than wage what would have been a brutal fight for reelection, first in a primary against a hard-right Trump backer, Kelli Ward, and then, if he won, against a centrist Democrat, Representative Kyrsten Sinema, in the general election. Flake had lost his base in Arizona: His criticism of Trump in his recent book, Conscience of a Conservative, alienated the president’s GOP backers, while his conservative voting record put off Democrats.
Senate Democrats Retiring Outright
Al Franken, Minnesota
Under pressure from fellow Democrats, Franken announced in December he would resign “in the coming weeks” after multiple women came forward to accuse him of inappropriate sexual behavior. Most of the allegations involved Franken groping women while taking a photo. His resignation means there will be a special Senate election in 2018 in a state that Hillary Clinton barely carried in 2016.
Bob Goodlatte, Virginia 6th district
Goodlatte was nearing the end of his third and final term as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, where he aligned with conservative hard-liners on immigration and voting rights. He advanced bipartisan legislation on criminal-justice reform, but it never reached the House floor.
Jeb Hensarling, Texas 5th district
Hensarling left the House leadership team in 2013 to head up the Financial Services Committee, and he passed up opportunities to make a conservative bid for speaker. His chairmanship will end because of term limits, but it was also marked by frustration: Hensarling’s proposals to wind down federal mortgage-lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as his overhaul of the federal flood-insurance program, proved too conservative to pass the full House.
Joe Barton, Texas 6th district
The dean of Texas’s large Republican delegation, Barton was planning to seek a 17th term before lewd texts and photos he had sent to women with whom he had extramarital affairs leaked online. During the course of his long career in Congress, he served as chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Lamar Smith, Texas 21st district
His is another term-limits retirement. An arch-conservative first elected in 1986, Smith likely would have had nowhere higher to go after finishing his tenure as chairman of the Space, Science, and Technology Committee, which he used to fight policies and funding to combat climate change.
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida 27th district
A former chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Ros-Lehtinen never endorsed Trump and became one of his most vocal GOP critics in Congress. She retires after 28 years in the House. As a moderate, she voted frequently against top Republican priorities, including Obamacare repeal and the budget. Her South Florida district now becomes a prime pickup opportunity for Democrats.
Charlie Dent, Pennsylvania 15th district
As co-chairman of the moderate Tuesday Group in the House, Dent was one of his party’s most vocal critics, often voicing his frustration either with the president or the influence of the conservative Freedom Caucus in steering legislation to the right. He said the lack of a governing coalition in Congress contributed to his decision to retire after seven terms.
Dave Reichert, Washington state 8th district
A former leader of the Tuesday Group, Reichert is another moderate retiring after seven terms. Though he won his recent elections easily, his district was once one of the most competitive in the nation and could be again next year.
Pat Tiberi, Ohio 12th district
Whereas others on this list retired after being term-limited out of committee chairmanships, Tiberi’s decision may have more to do with a post he never won. The veteran Ohio Republican lost out to Kevin Brady of Texas in his bid to lead the Ways and Means Committee after Paul Ryan left the job to become speaker. Tiberi was a close ally of former Speaker John Boehner, and he, too, became frustrated with the dysfunction in Congress. He won’t serve out the rest of his term, choosing instead to take a job as president of the Ohio Business Roundtable early next year.
Frank LoBiondo, New Jersey 2nd district
LoBiondo’s retirement after 12 terms gives Democrats a major pickup opportunity in New Jersey. First elected in the Republican wave of 1994, he broke with his party to oppose Obamacare-repeal legislation, the GOP budget, and the tax bill.
Lynn Jenkins, Kansas 2nd district
Jenkins’ announcement in January that she would not seek a sixth term in the House was one of the earliest and most surprising of the Republican retirements. She had served in the House leadership and was mentioned as a possible gubernatorial candidate in Kansas, but she said she would not run for any office in 2018.
Sam Johnson, Texas 3rd district
Johnson is revered in the House for his Air Force service in both Korea and Vietnam, where he was held—and tortured—as a prisoner of war for seven years. The 87-year-old is retiring from a safe Republican seat after more than a quarter-century in Congress.
John Duncan Jr., Tennessee 2nd district
Duncan will have served in the House for 30 years by the time he leaves next year. Though he votes with Republicans on domestic issues, he opposed the Iraq War and supports a non-interventionist foreign policy. His district should be an easy hold for Republicans.
Ted Poe, Texas 2nd district
Now in his seventh term, Poe is a former Houston judge known for ending each of his floor speeches with a variation on Walter Cronkite’s longtime sign-off, “And that’s just the way it is.” He was diagnosed with leukemia in 2016.
Dave Trott, Michigan 11th district
Trott was a first-time candidate when he won his seat in the House in 2014. He decided he preferred the private sector, however, announcing in September that he would return home after just two terms.
Tim Murphy, Pennsylvania 18th district
Murphy resigned the seat he held for 15 years in October after it was revealed that he allegedly asked a woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair to get an abortion. Reports that he presided over a toxic work culture in his House office soon followed. A special election to fill his seat will be held on March 13.
Trent Franks, Arizona 8th district
Franks is leaving for perhaps the most unusual reason: He abruptly announced in December that he would resign after acknowledging that he had asked two members of his staff to carry his and his wife’s child as surrogates, making them “uncomfortable.” His announcement came on the same day as the House Ethics Committee said it was opening an investigation into the situation.
Blake Farenthold, Texas 27th district
Farenthold announced he would not seek a fifth term after several former staffers accused him of harassment and of verbally abusive behavior in his congressional office. He initially resisted pressure to bow out even after the House Ethics Committee opened a new inquiry into his alleged behavior.
Luis Gutierrez, Illinois 4th district
Now in his 13th term, Gutierrez is perhaps the most prominent Democratic ally of immigrants in the House and has been at the center of virtually every attempt to extend a path to citizenship to those in the country illegally. In announcing his retirement in November, he anointed a possible successor in his heavily Democratic district, Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, and said he might run for president in 2020.
John Conyers, Michigan 13th district
First elected in 1964, Conyers was the dean of the House as its longest-serving member. But he was brought down by allegations of sexual harassment made by multiple former female staffers in his office. Conyers denied the accusations but bowed to pressure from Democratic leaders and resigned from the House in early December.
Sander Levin, Michigan 9th district
Levin, 86, will leave the House four years after his brother, Carl, retired from the Senate. He served briefly as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and was a top Democrat on taxes and trade policy.
Carol Shea-Porter, New Hampshire 1st district
Shea-Porter represents what is perhaps the nation’s quintessential swing district. It has changed parties five times in the last six elections, and Shea-Porter faced the same Republican opponent in four consecutive races. (She won twice.) With her retirement, the district is once again considered a toss-up.
Niki Tsongas, Massachusetts 3rd district
Tsongas will retire after more than a decade in the House, and her district should stay in Democratic hands. She is the widow of Paul Tsongas, the former senator and Democratic presidential candidate.
Gene Green, Texas 29th district
The onetime chairman of the House Ethics Committee announced in November that he would retire after more than a quarter-century in the House. He was first elected in 1992.
Diane Black, Tennessee 6th district
First elected in 2010, Black served this year as chairwoman of the House Budget Committee before deciding not to seek reelection and run for governor instead. With the 2018 budget finally adopted, she may leave her seat early to focus on her next campaign.
Luke Messer, Indiana 6th district
Now serving his third term in the House, Messer is facing off against fellow Indiana Representative Todd Rokita in a primary for the right to challenge Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly. He represents the seat once held by Vice President Mike Pence.
Todd Rokita, Indiana 4th district
Rokita entered Congress one term before Messer. He made a brief bid for governor in 2016 after Pence was named as Donald Trump’s running mate, but he was able to retain his House seat after Republicans picked Lieutenant Governor Eric Holcomb. He won’t have that luxury if he loses the Senate race because the primaries for the Senate and House are on the same day.
Steve Pearce, New Mexico 2nd district
After serving two separate stints covering seven terms in the House, the conservative Pearce is running to succeed Susana Martinez as governor of New Mexico. Republicans remain favored to keep his House seat.
Raul Labrador, Idaho 1st district
Labrador defeated a GOP establishment-backed candidate in a 2010 primary before beating a centrist Democratic incumbent during the Tea Party wave that November. His decision to run for governor may be a blessing for GOP leaders, as he was a frequent conservative critic and member of the House Freedom Caucus during his tenure. Republicans should hold his seat easily next year.
Jim Renacci, Ohio 16th district
One of the wealthiest members of Congress, Renacci is leaving the House after four terms to run for governor of Ohio.
Lou Barletta, Pennsylvania 11th district
Barletta was a Trump Republican before Trump and became one of the first to endorse the president’s campaign. A longtime crusader against illegal immigration, his Senate candidacy challenging Democratic incumbent Bob Casey will be a test of Trump’s brand in a formerly blue state that the president flipped red in 2016. Though it was held by a Democrat until Barletta won it in 2010, the 11th district is not currently expected to be competitive in the 2018 general election.
Kristi Noem, South Dakota at-large
Noem defeated Democrat Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in one of the closest races in the 2010 Republican wave. She’s giving up her House seat to run for governor, and Democrats will have a tough time winning it back.
Evan Jenkins, West Virginia 3rd district
Jenkins knocked off one West Virginia Democrat, Nick Rahall, to win his House seat in 2014. He’ll try to beat another, Senator Joe Manchin, in 2018. As with many of the seats Republicans are giving up to run for higher office, the 3rd district is less favorable to Democrats than it used to be.
Kyrsten Sinema, Arizona 9th district
Sinema announced her candidacy for the Senate before Flake decided to retire. A member of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, she has occasionally voted with Republicans on health care, taxes, and border security. She’s also the first openly bisexual member of Congress. Though Sinema’s first election in 2012 was very close, her district has trended more Democratic in the years since.
Jared Polis, Colorado 2nd district
Another of Congress’s most wealthy members, Polis is running for governor after five terms in the House. The district includes Boulder and is considered a safe Democratic seat.
Tim Walz, Minnesota 1st district
Walz’s decision to run for governor of Minnesota after six terms in the House gives Republicans one of their best pickup opportunities. He won his 2016 race by only about 2,500 votes.
Beto O’Rourke, Texas 16th district
O’Rourke won his House seat in 2012 after defeating a longtime Democratic incumbent, Silvestre Reyes, in a primary. He’ll have an even tougher challenge in 2018: knocking off Ted Cruz in a Senate race. His district in El Paso, meanwhile, figures to remain blue.
John Delaney, Maryland 6th district
The former entrepreneur is unique among all of the congressional retirees. Delaney is not leaving to run for Senate or governor—he’s already running for president in 2020. Despite his considerable wealth, he’s a heavy long-shot, but he’s hoping a super-early start will help. Delaney’s ouster of Republican Roscoe Bartlett in 2012 was aided by Democratic gerrymandering, and the district continues to favor Democrats as an open seat in 2018.
Jacky Rosen, Nevada 3rd district
Rosen had barely started her first term in the House this year when she announced she would challenge incumbent Republican Senator Dean Heller in 2018. Though she has the support of Harry Reid’s powerful political operation, the race is a risk for Democrats, since her exit creates an opening for Republicans to take back a seat they held until Rosen’s victory in November.
Colleen Hanabusa, Hawaii 1st district
Hanabusa held this seat for four years before giving it up for a failed bid for Senate. After a year back in the House, she’s leaving again to run for governor. Though the seat was briefly held by a Republican in 2010, it’s a solidly Democratic district.
Michelle Lujan Grisham, New Mexico 1st district
Lujan Grisham won her first race for the House and is now running for governor. She is currently serving as chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
On Monday night, Oakland’s former mayor, Jean Quan, set her alarm for 5 a.m. PST. She and other Democratic activists planned to wake up early to make a round of calls to Alabama voters and encourage them to vote for Senate candidate Doug Jones. Instead, on Tuesday morning, Quan woke to news of the death of a friend—and a big loss for the Asian American community. Ed Lee, the first Asian American mayor of San Francisco, had died overnight.
Quan met Lee when the two were young community activists, studying at the University of California, Berkeley, and advocating for San Francisco’s poor, Asian American population in battles with landlords and employers. Both were Chinese Americans whose families ran restaurants. Both had lost their fathers at a young age. And both cared deeply about the plight of low-income workers and tenants in an increasingly expensive city.
As young activists, the two worked together to fight the gentrification of San Francisco’s Chinatown—and pressed the federal government to conduct a civil-rights investigation into the brutal murder of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American man killed by autoworkers in Michigan. Three decades after first meeting, Quan and Lee found themselves only a short drive apart, leading two neighboring cities: Oakland and San Francisco.
Quan was elected first, becoming the first Asian American woman to lead a major U.S. city in 2011. Lee was appointed mayor in January 2011; he won two subsequent elections in November 2011 and in 2015.
Lee’s record as mayor was controversial. He oversaw an employment boom, slashed the city’s greenhouse-gas emissions, and encouraged several tech companies to relocate to San Francisco by offering them a business-friendly tax exemption. But he also presided over the doubling of housing prices and widening inequality largely driven by the influx of tech companies—things he and Quan had both fought against as young people.
Citing Lee’s death, Quan told me she worries about a lack of Asian American political power and leadership under the Trump administration, whose policies targeting immigration—like the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program—have mobilized Asian Americans.
I spoke with Quan, now a senior fellow at Berkeley’s Government Alliance on Race and Equity, about her friendship with Lee and his legacy as both a pioneering Asian American and an advocate for San Francisco. Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Elaine Godfrey: Tell me about when you met Ed Lee.
Jean Quan: A lot of people are surprised to know Ed grew up in the Seattle housing projects—he actually grew up in a more diverse neighborhood than most Chinese. He was very interested in helping at the housing projects in Chinatown.
He came to Berkeley to go to law school at Boalt Hall. My husband and I were student activists at UC Berkeley, and we were founders of the Asian American Studies program, so we had a lot of friends at Boalt Hall. We were in social circles together, because we were all still community activists. Our whole founding of Asian American Studies was to give back to the community and to work in the community. Many of our students and many of our friends went on to found agencies and were involved in housing struggles.
Ed, after he graduated from law school, became [part of] the low—and underpaid—staff for the Asian Law Caucus; in the Asian community, the ALC is like the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. It’s the group that’s done a lot of work on civil rights and immigration—a lot of their bread-and-butter was helping poor tenants.
I got to work with him very personally when I became an organizer for Service Employees International Union. SEIU at that time had no Asian American organizers. Ed [then worked for] the Human Rights Commission. We would find these cases [where service workers were paid unfairly] and win them, but then we would have to get [changes] implemented. It was [Ed’s] job to make the companies pay these people a decent amount. I worked with Ed for a long time on that. And then he became a city administrator, and occasionally I would run into him.
Godfrey: How do you remember him from those early activist days?
Quan: Ed and my other friends, they were just fresh out of law school, they wanted to work in the community, and they were working for [a] civil-rights group that could barely pay them. He was working hard. [He and his wife] were fighting a lot of battles on behalf of the community. He was always there. He and my friend Alan [Yee, who was Lee’s roommate at Berkeley] are both the sort of very serious, modest Asian American types.
I’ll always remember the early years when we were all activists together, when we were fighting a lot of racism and discrimination against immigrants and exploitation of immigrants. As he emerged more as a politician, he was always very kind and very considerate of everybody—unlike most people who become mayors, who have to sort of claw their way up.
Godfrey: Tell me about Lee’s decision to accept the mayorship of San Francisco.
Quan: When I became mayor [of Oakland], I knew people were trying to convince Ed to be mayor. We had a long talk, because I’d just been elected, and I was telling him how there had been so much publicity about the first Chinese American who was leading a major American city—how great it would be if he would do it.
For him it was a sacrifice, because mayors got paid quite a bit less than city administrators, and he was the city administrator of San Francisco. At the time, [after] I’d been elected, I’d asked for advice, I’d tried to steal his people.
Godfrey: Once he became mayor, how closely did you work with him?
Quan: He and I would talk and text each other as we were trying to do things, whether it was green-city policies or coordinating our legal defense against the plastics industry. It ended up being sort of a friendly competition of who’s greener, who is more progressive as a city. We both had a lot of struggles with slowing down gentrification and trying to get affordable housing.
He got appointed right in the middle of January when Barack Obama was going to have [a] state dinner. The president had invited me and other famous Asian Americans to the state dinner. This was the first one with Hu Jintao, the president of China at the time.
[The dinner was] totally booked. Apparently this was the hottest ticket, and people were trying to get in. My husband said, “You know, you and Ed should just go.” So I ended up taking Ed Lee as a date. It ended up being sort of a thing. It was, I think, pretty important for the Asian community because it was like, “Okay, they’re finally getting into political power.”
For Ed and me, we were always very aware of our responsibilities to the Asian community, that we’re a role model for some—and just visible symbols of Asian Americans being part of the American democratic process.
Godfrey: Tell me more about that. Do you have any stories about how that awareness played out in your lives?
Quan: Asian Americans have always been annoyed at the Utah “golden spike” picture [taken at the 1869 opening of the Transcontinental Railroad] because the Chinese built the hardest part of the railroad, the part that went through the mountains. [They] dynamited canyons and hung off cliffs. At Promontory, Utah, when they took the picture, the Big Five were in the middle, and then some other bureaucrats, and then the white workers. The Chinese are barely in the picture.
So, when the new span of East Bay Bridge was built, Ed and I got to cut the link, and the joke was I brought a golden spike. In that picture, it was going to be the Chinese Americans who were at the center of the picture.
Godfrey: What is Lee’s legacy? How do you think San Franciscans will remember him?
Quan: I think he’s been one of their best mayors. I just hope that people will remember his calmness, his good humor—even in tough times. I hope they remember that he came up through the grassroots, through community organizing and working for human rights. He really worked very hard to become the COO of San Francisco.
He’s the mayor that got the city through the recession and, quite frankly, stole all these companies from Silicon Valley. I was in friendly competition to get a few [of those companies], and we did get a few because we’re cheaper. But he really was able to assemble a lot of the ones who started out on Page Mill Road, and near Stanford—they are all headquartered in downtown San Francisco now.
It was very controversial because he gave them a tax break, but he got them there. It was also controversial because they didn’t build very much affordable housing during that period of time, and now they’re playing catch-up.
When you’re the mayor, you have to build consensus—you don’t get to just advocate your position. What people appreciate was that he was very open. And because San Francisco is more prestigious than a city like Oakland, he got beat up on [its sanctuary-cities policy] by Trump. [Oakland] actually started it earlier and probably has a lot more immigrants to deal with. I think he did a good job defending it on the national level.
He and I were on the same side; most of the time we were facing the rest of the nation.
Godfrey: How do you see things changing now that Lee is gone?
Quan: The city employees are really going to miss him. The fact that he was the city administrator for quite a long time and has been mayor for six years made a lot of stability in the city. And the Asian American community will miss him. Ed was the sort of shining star. Other mayors across the country are going to miss him because he was a good colleague and a good coalition-builder.
[This week] we will honor the anniversary of the repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act. [Ed and I] had talked a little about how we needed to make Americans aware of that. We need to bring back that part of our history and share it.
As Asian Americans in the era of Trump, with the attacks on immigrants, not having a major Asian American voice as a city leader will be a deficit—that’s what I think about.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein defended Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. Omarosa Manigault-Newman, a former star on The Apprentice, resigned from her position as a White House aide amid reported “drama.” Republican lawmakers struck a deal on the tax bill, keeping them on pace for final votes next week. Minority Leader Charles Schumer suggested that the Senate should delay the vote until Doug Jones arrives in Washington. And Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton appointed Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith to fill Al Franken’s seat in the Senate.
Fighting to Be Heard: During the Alabama Senate race, the assumption was that African American voters weren’t mobilizing. Election night flipped that idea on its head. (Vann R. Newkirk II)
Spot the Pattern: There’s a common thread between the recent Democratic victories in Virginia, New Jersey, and Alabama, writes Ronald Brownstein: disenchantment and disgust for Donald Trump.
Religious Bias: Under the Trump administration, a narrative is taking hold that will complicate U.S. interests in the Middle East: “The U.S. doesn’t care about Muslim lives or sorrows, only about Christians.” (Kori Schake)
Follow stories throughout the day with our Politics & Policy portal.
‘Mueller Will Bring Charges’: Longtime Trump ally Roger Stone is reportedly working on a book that would chronicle Trump’s removal from office, but he’s hoping that he’ll never have to publish it. (Gabriel Sherman, Vanity Fair)
The Reckoning: In a collection of essays and artwork, women grapple with the imbalance of power in the workplace and how to move forward. (The New York Times)
Making a Deal With Rocket Man: A tempered negotiation with North Korea wouldn’t bring President Trump the glory he desires, writes George Perkovich, but it’s likely the only sensible way forward. (Politico)
Expect a Rough Year: Not every 2018 race is going to turn out as bad for Republicans as the special election in Alabama, writes Nate Silver, but Roy Moore isn’t exactly an outlier. (FiveThirtyEight)
The Legend of Trump, Disproved: While the laws of political gravity didn’t apply to Trump, “other candidates with similarly shady backgrounds” won’t be as successful going forward. (Ben Shapiro, National Review)
Bias Against Trump?: Two FBI agents assigned to the Russia investigation reportedly exchanged text messages referring to Trump as an “idiot.” (Josh Gerstein, Politico)
Who Are They?: Photographer Kevin Liles went to the polls to ask Alabama voters which candidate they voted for in Tuesday’s special election—and why. (The Atlantic)
Poll Results: In the Alabama Senate special election, 96 percent of black voters—and 30 percent of white voters—cast their ballots for Democrat Doug Jones. See how other groups voted on Tuesday. (The Washington Post)
The 2018 Golden Globe nominations are in, including films like The Shape of Water, The Post, and Lady Bird, as well as an eclectic mix of television shows like Big Little Lies, This is Us, and Stranger Things.
This week, we want to know: If this political moment was a Golden Globe-nominated film, what would be its genre? What would it be called? And why?
Share your response here, and we’ll feature a few in Friday’s Politics & Policy Daily.
How are we doing? Send questions or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For weeks, Republicans have brushed aside the critique—brought by Democrats and backed up by congressional scorekeepers and independent analysts—that their tax plan is a bigger boon to the rich than a gift to the middle class.
On Wednesday, GOP lawmakers demonstrated their confidence as clearly as they could, by giving a deeper tax cut to the nation’s top earners.
A tentative agreement struck by House and Senate negotiators would reduce the highest marginal tax rate to 37 percent from 39.6 percent, in what appears to be the most significant change to the bills passed by each chamber in the last month. The proposal final tax bill would also reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent, rather than the 20 percent called for in the initial House and Senate proposals, according to a Republican aide privy to the private talks.
Republican leaders hope to move rapidly to enact the tax bill into law next week, and President Trump said during a speech on Wednesday that if Congress meets his Christmas deadline, the IRS could ensure that Americans would see the tax cuts in their paychecks by February. The victory by Democrat Doug Jones in Tuesday’s special Senate election in Alabama gave the GOP another reason to rush, as top Republicans rejected pleas by Democrats to wait until Jones is sworn in to hold final votes on the tax bill. Republicans can only lose two votes from their side to pass the legislation through the Senate, and one member, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, has already signaled he remains opposed.
Negotiators agreed to a number of other compromises as they reconciled differences between the House and Senate, the aide said. In a nod to complaints from high-tax states like New York, New Jersey, and California, taxpayers would be able to deduct up to $10,000 from either their state-and-local income or property taxes. Previous versions of the tax bill completely scrapped the SALT deduction for income taxes and capped it at $10,000 only for property taxes. The new cap for the mortgage-interest deduction would be $750,000, which represents a midpoint between the $500,000 cap in the House bill and the current maximum of $1 million, which the Senate had left unchanged.
And according to Bloomberg, Republicans sided with the Senate in maintaining popular deductions for medical expenses and graduate-student tuition. And in a victory for conservatives, the Affordable Care Act’s individual insurance mandate would be scrapped as in the Senate bill. Many other details remained unknown, including whether lawmakers will have to set the tax cuts for individuals to expire earlier than previously planned or raise revenue elsewhere to accommodate Senate budget rules. The Senate bill would force Congress to extend most of the personal tax cuts after six years. Republicans said they hoped to release text of the agreement by the end of the week.
The most surprising change, however, remains the lowering of the top rate. It’s particularly noteworthy because it doesn’t represent a compromise between the two competing proposals; rather, it’s an entirely new proposal. Neither the House nor Senate bill called for lowering the top rate that far. The House version kept it at 39.6 percent, while the Senate reduced it only to 38.5 percent.
The Republican aide said the last-minute switch was requested by House negotiators in exchange for accepting the Senate’s structure for treating “pass-through” businesses whose owners file their taxes as individuals. They’ll now be able to take a 20 percent deduction.
But the broader significance is the apparent resolution of a long-running debate within the party about how to tax the nation’s highest-earning individuals. For years, Republicans sided with supply-side economists who argued that reducing top marginal rates incentivized investment and hiring, and in turn would boost growth. In their original tax framework, party leaders called for returning to the top rate of 35 percent enacted under President George W. Bush. But under pressure from the Trump White House, the document said “an additional top rate may apply to the highest-income taxpayers to ensure that the reformed tax code
is at least as progressive as the existing tax code and does not shift the tax burden from high-income to lower- and middle-income taxpayers.”
Conservative activists recoiled at that language, complaining that Republicans were surrendering the argument over taxation to the progressive vision embodied for years by former President Barack Obama. And while the new agreement does not go as low as the 35 percent top rate of the Bush years, it is nonetheless a win for the right. “The goal is to help every American,” said Tim Phillips, president of the Koch brothers-backed advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity. “It’s not to pick and choose a few Americans to help, or certain groups.”
Conservatives who as recently as Monday were drawing a line in the sand on a corporate rate no higher than 20 percent were quiet on Wednesday when it inched up to 21 percent, having apparently been mollified by the corresponding reduction in the top individual bracket. “Overall we like what we know about,” said Jason Pye, vice president of legislative affairs for FreedomWorks. “We would have loved to get that 20 percent rate, but the agreement is close enough.”
Republicans have not closed the deal quite yet. Senator Susan Collins of Maine has criticized the idea of a lower top rate in the past and won’t commit to the final tax bill until she sees the text. And Senator Marco Rubio of Florida appears even more perturbed at the change after having tried and failed to get Republicans to lift the corporate rate as a way of paying for a greater expansion of the child tax credit. “20.94% Corp. rate to pay for tax cut for working family making $40k was anti-growth but 21% to cut tax for couples making $1million is fine?” Rubio tweeted when he heard details of the deal. But the Florida senator made a similar critique of the original Senate bill before voting for it anyway.
Democrats made their own, largely futile attempt to slow the fast-moving bill on Wednesday at the lone official meeting of the House-Senate conference committee. “This is the ultimate betrayal of the middle class,” thundered Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. At various points, Democrats called the meeting “a sham,” “a mockery,” and “a farce” as they noted ruefully that Republicans were going through the motions of transparency mere minutes after striking a deal among themselves behind closed doors. “This is the United States Congress, not the Duma,” complained Representative Lloyd Doggett of Texas, accusing Republicans of presiding over “a steady erosion of democracy.”
Republicans, however, were unbowed. They championed their bill as a generational overhaul of the tax code, one that would simultaneously unleash a new wave of economic growth and boost the middle class by doubling the standard deduction and reducing rates at every income level. Only Representative Don Young of Alaska, the famously ornery dean of the House, broached the possibility that the party’s promises might not come to fruition. But he, too, was willing to take the chance.
“If it doesn’t work, blame us,” he snapped at the Democrats. “But if it does work, say, ‘God they did a great job.’”
After losing the White House in 2016, the Democratic Party finally has a string of victories to celebrate. In November, Democrats won high-profile races in Virginia, New Jersey, and other states. And on Tuesday, Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore in a stunning upset in Alabama in the U.S. Senate special election.
But the unique circumstances of the Alabama race, where Moore faced allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls, aren’t likely to be replicated. The party also hasn’t yet proved that it can win national races in states that flipped from blue to red during the 2016 presidential election.
Party officials are still cheering the wins as a sign of good things to come. Tom Perez, the Democratic National Committee chairman, predicted on Wednesday that the party can win the House and the Senate in 2018. “Last night was not a fluke, it was a message: The days of Donald Trump are numbered,” Perez said.
Democrats have real advantages heading into 2018. The president’s party typically loses seats in midterm elections, and Trump is a historically unpopular president. Democrats have also consistently outperformed expectations in special elections, a sign that voters are energized. And progressive groups and the DNC have, to some extent, found common cause in a strategy that emphasizes grassroots organizing.
“Republican candidates in 2018 might not be as flawed as Roy Moore, but the battleground districts and states won’t be as Republican as Alabama,” says the Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson. “This race had started to close before the allegations came out because of backlash against President Trump … and one of the keys that put us over the top was a coalition of organizing that included the DNC and others.”
The DNC, for its part, is emphasizing a commitment to the grassroots. “The new DNC is all about talking to people in every zip code, building relationships in every zip code,” Perez told reporters on Wednesday. As the party seeks to repair its battered image, Perez is also trying to prove that it has learned from its mistakes. “In the past, the Democratic Party all too frequently took voters for granted,” Perez said, adding that those days “are in the rearview mirror” and that “the new Democratic Party is organizing everywhere.”
One of the most pressing challenges for the DNC is to win back the trust lost in the last election when hacked emails showed then–Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz disparaging Bernie Sanders, a Democratic primary candidate. As new progressive organizations have cropped up to channel the frustration and anxiety of Democratic voters in the aftermath of the presidential election, the DNC faces pressure to prove that it can also be an effective conduit for pent-up grassroots energy.
The DNC invested close to $1 million in the Senate race in Alabama, all of which helped fund voter-contact and organizing efforts to drive up black and Millennial voter turnout. A surge in black-voter turnout helped propel Jones to victory on Tuesday evening.
A broad array of liberal organizations were also working to get out the vote for Jones in the race, including progressive groups such as MoveOn, Democracy for America, and the Working Families Party. MoveOn volunteers sent thousands of text messages encouraging people to vote, while Working Families Party volunteers helped recruit people to phone bank and knock on doors in Alabama.
“I think the real story is that the DNC and traditional institutions in the Democratic Party are not the only game in town. There are a lot of outside groups doing really important work to tap into grassroots energy and activism,” says Joe Dinkin of the Working Families Party.
National Democrats kept a low profile in the race. The DNC did not publicly announce the extent of its investment in the race until the day of the election in Alabama as part of a strategy to keep the focus on Jones and his campaign. “We operated below the radar screen because that was in the best interest of the race. But make no mistake about it, we were below the radar screen, but we were present,” Perez said on Wednesday.
That could be viewed as further evidence that the Democratic Party’s brand is damaged. A poll released in April found that a majority of the public thinks the Democratic Party is out of touch with the concerns of average Americans, a data point that alarmed some Democrats in Congress and highlights the image problem the party has grappled with in the wake of Trump’s election, even as the president himself remains historically unpopular.
But in the Alabama special election, the strategy appears to have paid off. It’s possible that the under-the-radar approach could provide the party with a template that might prove successful in red and purple states in 2018.
“The darkest times for Democrats are when everyone is jockeying for credit and donor attention rather than just doing the work,” says Ben Wikler of MoveOn. “In Alabama, people were focused on victory.” Wikler says he was “delighted that the DNC hired 30 organizers to support field efforts in Alabama.” “That’s exactly the kind of investment in ground game we need to maximize the 2018 wave,” he says.
The Democratic Party is still far from united. Ideological differences between the ascendent progressive wing of the party and centrist Democrats remain. Jones ran as a liberal Democrat on a pro-choice and pro-immigrant-rights platform. He did not, however, endorse the kind of progressive agenda championed by Sanders. Our Revolution, the progressive group that spun off from the Sanders presidential primary campaign, did not endorse Jones, though it did congratulate him on his win on Tuesday evening. Sanders congratulated Jones as well.
Jones himself also ran a campaign that was clearly intended to reach out to both core Democratic voters and persuadable Republicans at the same time. In the closing days of the race, the campaign cut ads that featured a warning from Republican Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama who had said he would not vote for Moore and that the Republican Party “could do better.”
For all the talk of division within the Democratic Party after Hillary Clinton’s defeat, however, Republican Party divisions were far more prominently on display after Moore lost his race on Tuesday. An adviser to the Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon lamented, “Mitch McConnell and his establishment allies got the Democrat that they wanted in Alabama,” while a McConnell-aligned super PAC released a statement accusing Bannon of having “cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country.”
A lot could change in the run-up to the 2018 midterm elections, and it won’t be easy for Democrats to win back both the House and the Senate. The Alabama election showed, however, that once-unthinkable upsets are not just possible for Republicans; they can happen to Democrats too. And the Democratic party isn’t so divided, or hobbled by its past defeats, that it can’t still win.
Ahead of Alabama’s special U.S. Senate election, there was a clear narrative about the state’s black voters: They weren’t mobilizing.
Six in 10 black voters who were stopped by a New York Times reporter in a shopping center last week didn’t know an election was even going on, a result the reporter took to mean that overall interest was low. The Washington Post determined that black voters weren’t “energized.” HuffPost concluded that black voters weren’t “inspired.”
If Democratic candidate Doug Jones had lost to GOP candidate Roy Moore, weakened as he was by a sea of allegations of sexual assault and harassment, then some of the blame would have seemed likely to be placed on black turnout.
But Jones won, according to the Associated Press, and that script has been flipped on its head. Election Day defied the narrative and challenged traditional thinking about racial turnout in off-year and special elections. Precincts in the state’s Black Belt, the swathe of dark, fertile soil where the African American population is concentrated, long lines were reported throughout the day, and as the night waned and red counties dominated by rural white voters continued to report disappointing results for Moore, votes surged in from urban areas and the Black Belt. By all accounts, black turnout exceeded expectations, perhaps even passing previous off-year results. Energy was not a problem.
Exit polls showed that black voters made a big splash. The Washington Post’s exit polls indicated that black voters would make up 28 percent of the voters, greater than their 26 percent share of the population, which would be a dramatic turnaround from previous statewide special elections in the South, including a special election for the Sixth District in Georgia, which saw black support for Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff dissipate on Election Day.
As the Cook Political Report editor Dave Wasserman noted on Twitter, turnout was particularly high in the counties with the largest black populations. In Greene County, a small area that is 80 percent black and that Martin Luther King Jr. frequented in his Poor People’s Campaign, the turnout reached 78 percent of that of 2016, an incredible mark given that special elections and midterms usually fall far short of general-election marks. Perry County, also an important mostly black site of voting-rights battles of old, turned out at 75 percent of 2016 levels. Dallas County, whose seat is the city of Selma, hit the 74 percent mark. And while the exact numbers aren’t in for all of the majority-black or heavily black counties, black voters appear to have favored Jones at rates close to or more than 90 percent.
Meanwhile, Moore’s support sagged in mostly white counties. The race was probably over for the former state chief justice when Cullman County, which is virtually all white and heavily supported Trump in 2016, turned out only at 56 percent of its 2016 level. It really does seem that although many white voters weren’t convinced to vote for Jones, the allegations against Moore persuaded many of them to stay home.
These results demolish the preestablished media narrative about black voters in the state and defy conventional wisdom. Black voters were informed and mobilized to go vote, and did so even in the face of significant barriers.
I previously noted that Alabama is one of the hardest states in the country to vote—especially so for black voters—and that voter-suppression efforts could have had strong effects on black votes. Tuesday night’s returns are all the more remarkable because of the surge of turnout that appears to have taken place in spite of those very real barriers.
The grassroots organizing in black communities by groups such as local NAACP chapters was more muscular than it had even been in the 2016 general election. In the lead-up to Tuesday’s contest, voting-rights groups registered people with felonies, targeted awareness campaigns at people who might not have had proper identification, and focused specifically on knocking down the structures in place that keep black voters away from the polls. Their efforts immediately become a case study in a region that has, since the Supreme Court’s 2013 Shelby County v. Holder decision curtailing the 1965 Voting Rights Act, become a bastion of new voter-suppression laws, including new voter-identification laws.
The prospects of those laws and the efforts to circumvent them will be further tested in the 2018 elections. But for now, Jones is the man in Alabama, and even as white voters by and large stuck with Moore, Democrats were saved by a community already fighting against the grain to be heard in the din of democracy.
Roy Moore was a uniquely flawed and vulnerable candidate. But what should worry Republicans most about his loss to Democrat Doug Jones in Tuesday’s U.S. Senate race in Alabama was how closely the result tracked with the GOP’s big defeats last month in New Jersey and Virginia—not to mention how it followed the pattern of public reaction to Donald Trump’s perpetually tumultuous presidency.
Jones beat Moore with a strong turnout and a crushing lead among African Americans, a decisive advantage among younger voters, and major gains among college-educated and suburban whites, especially women. That allowed Jones to overcome big margins for Moore among the key elements of Trump’s coalition: older, blue-collar, evangelical, and nonurban white voters.
This was the same equation that powered the Democratic victories in the Virginia and New Jersey governors’ races. The consistency of these results suggests that Democrats are coalescing a powerful coalition of the very voters that polls have shown are the most disenchanted, even disgusted, by Trump’s performance and behavior as president.
That points to a clear near-term threat in 2018 for Republicans. It also crystallizes the risky long-term trade Trump is imposing on his party: He is improving the GOP’s standing among groups that are almost all shrinking in the electorate, at the price of alienating groups that are growing.
It’s true that Jones won only very narrowly over Moore, a candidate so polarizing that he struggled in Alabama even before he was battered by extensive allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls, including some who were underage. But Jones won in a state where Republicans enjoy as dominant an overall advantage as they do virtually anywhere. Last year, Trump carried Alabama by nearly 590,000 votes. Since 2008, the only statewide race Alabama Democrats have won is a single public-service commissioner position that year; no Democrat carried more than 41.4 percent of the vote in any statewide race in 2014 or 2016. And no Democrat has won an Alabama Senate seat since 1992, when Richard Shelby did it before switching his political allegiance to the Republican Party.
Jones contradicted that history by consolidating the groups most dubious of Trump. The granite foundation of his victory was his huge performance among African Americans, who gave him 96 percent of their votes and accounted for 29 percent of all voters, according to exit polls reported by CNN. That was a slightly better showing, on each front, than even Barack Obama managed in 2012, according to the exit poll conducted that year, the most recent one in the state. In counties with large African American populations (such as Jefferson, which includes Birmingham; Dallas, which includes Selma; and Montgomery), Jones exceeded not only Hillary Clinton’s share of the vote in 2016, but also, in some cases, bested her lead in raw votes—an incredible gain in a nonpresidential election. Although rarely discussed, the state’s growing Latino and mixed-race populations also put an important thumb on the scale for the Democrat; they represented about 5 percent of voters.
Jones next posted a solid advantage among younger voters. He carried about three-fifths of those ages 18 to 29, and also about three-fifths of those ages 30 to 44. Jones’s advantage with minority voters partly explains that edge, but he also ran nearly 15 percentage points better with whites under 30 than with their older counterparts.
The final piece explaining Jones’s win was the substantial inroads he made with college-educated whites, especially women. Jones won 40 percent of those voters. While by national standards that’s not a great number, it’s exactly twice as large a share as Obama won in Alabama in 2012. Jones lost college-educated white women by just 7 percentage points; in 2012, Obama lost them by 55 points. Obama won fewer than one in five college-educated white men; Jones pushed that slightly past one in three. In counties with large concentrations of well-educated voters—such as Madison, which includes Huntsville; Shelby, near Birmingham; Lee, the home of Auburn University; and Tuscaloosa, the home of the University of Alabama—Jones consistently ran about 20 percentage points ahead of Clinton.
Moore’s own words and actions provided plenty of provocation for minorities, Millennials, and college-educated whites. But these key groups moved the same way in November’s major elections. In both the New Jersey and the Virginia governors’ races, Democrats won about 70 percent of Millennials and half of college-educated whites, and they enjoyed solid turnout and preponderant margins from nonwhite voters. In all three states, the core Trump groups of older, blue-collar, evangelical, and rural whites remained loyal to Republicans (although Moore’s margins with those voters eroded slightly relative to Mitt Romney’s in 2012). But they couldn’t match the impassioned turnout among the groups hostile to Trump.
“Anti-Trump fever is now so strong among Democrats, young voters, and independents that the GOP is likely to face a surge in turnout on the Democratic side that will make the 2018 midterms lurch toward the demographics of a presidential year,” says longtime GOP strategist Mike Murphy, who advised Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he first won his Alabama Senate seat, in 1996. “That is a looming disaster that could well cost the GOP control of the House. We are in a Trump-driven worst-case situation now.”
One of the clearest messages from 2017’s big contests is that other Republicans are now closely bound to their volatile and vitriolic president. Exit polls showed that among voters who disapproved of Trump, the Democrats won 82 percent in New Jersey, 87 percent in Virginia, and 93 percent in Alabama. Few congressional Republicans have tried to establish much independence from Trump, yet in most places he is even less popular than he was on Tuesday in Alabama, where exit polls showed voters splitting evenly over his job performance. After Alabama, Republicans up and down the ballot face urgent choices about whether they will continue to lash themselves to the mast of Trump’s storm-tossed presidency.
Doug Jones’s victory in the U.S. Senate race in Alabama on Tuesday poses a quandary to Republicans at all levels—but to none more than President Trump. The results of the race demonstrate the limitations of both his political power and of his self-appointed role as pundit-in-chief. He is more interested in being right than in winning—but on Tuesday, he did neither.
The president offered a series of somewhat contradictory responses to the race between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Late Tuesday, he tweeted:
Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard fought victory. The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never ends!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2017
Wednesday morning, he added:
The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2017
If last night’s election proved anything, it proved that we need to put up GREAT Republican candidates to increase the razor thin margins in both the House and Senate.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2017
Like all pundits, Trump wants more than anything to appear correct and oracular. Perhaps that’s why he has already begun shifting his take. Initially, he acknowleded with atypical magnanimity that a win was a win. By Wednesday morning, he was claiming that Republican Roy Moore was somehow dealt an unfair hand, with the deck stacked against him.
The president really did warn that Moore might be unelectable—and he did so even before sexual-misconduct allegations against him surfaced. “Roy has a very good chance of not winning in the general election. It’s all about the general,” Trump said in September, stumping for Senator Luther Strange in the GOP primary for the race. “On Wednesday morning, the new race begins. You've got to beat a Democrat. Luther is going to win easily and Roy's going to have a hard time winning.” Yet even then, Trump seemed to be hedging on his endorsement of Strange, a bland Republican foot soldier who bore far less ideological and stylistic resemblance to the president than did Moore. “I might have made a mistake, and I'll be honest, I might have made a mistake,” he said of his endorsement.
Yet the idea that the deck was stacked against Moore—what a tricky passive-voice formulation!—is preposterous. Until Tuesday, there were few states more reliably Republican than Alabama, which hadn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate in 25 years. (That Democrat, Richard Shelby, soon changed his registration and has become a stalwart Republican; his condemnation of Moore over the weekend was one of the many final nails in Moore’s coffin.) Moore’s weaknesses were peculiar to him and included far more than just the sexual-misconduct allegations, as Trump himself acknowledged in September.
While Barack Obama was sometimes mocked for playing the role of political analyst, Trump exhibits an even more pronounced tendency to do so, and as with Obama, it seems to interfere with his effectiveness as a political leader. Trump’s incoherent analysis—his fantastical theory of a race for Senate in Alabama as somehow being fought on hostile ground for Republicans—would not matter much were he indeed merely a pundit; pundits get things wrong all the time, usually with few repercussions. Trump’s problem is that he has to govern the nation and lead the Republican Party, and his difficulties in grappling with his own role in events could make those tasks even harder for him than they have proven so far.
Trump has the dubious distinction of backing two losing candidates in the race, first Strange and then Moore, which yielded not only a political black eye but also a pair of embarrassing revelations. Since 2010, the Republican Party has been at war with its base, with party insiders favoring candidates they see as more electable (Mike Castle, Richard Lugar, Marco Rubio) and voters thumbing their noses at them (Christine O’Donnell, Richard Mourdock, Trump himself). Trump’s promise was not only that he came from that insurgent element of the party but that he could marshal its power.
Alabama showed twice that this was untrue. In the initial primary and the subsequent runoff election, Trump could not bend the GOP base to his will, proving unable to persuade Republican voters to support Luther Strange. Trump argues that he made the race a lot closer than it would have been, and he’s probably right—but as Hillary Clinton can attest, that doesn’t count. Then, in the general election, Trump’s late-but-aggressive effort to turn out his supporters in support of Moore also failed. The final results demonstrated a vast enthusiasm gap between Republican and Democratic voters, a gap that was no doubt exacerbated by Moore’s particular flaws, but which echoes the similar gap in November’s elections in Virginia, and even in the June special election for U.S. House in Georgia, where Jon Ossoff lost but still exceeded expectations for a Democrat in a special election in that district—and on average, that holds true for the 68 special elections held so far in 2017. If Trump can neither persuade the base to change its mind nor get it to turn out, what magic does he have?
Insofar as the deck was stacked against Moore, Trump did much of the stacking. Moore’s many flaws as a candidate notwithstanding, Trump’s immense unpopularity has contributed to the enthusiasm gap between the two parties, and his survival of multiple allegations of sexual assault, and his own admission of such, during the presidential campaign helped to launch the current moment of backlash against men accused of sexual misconduct. As Rosie Gray writes, Moore and his backers thought they could replicate Trump’s survival in the 2016 election, but the political moment has shifted, in part thanks to Trump.
Good candidates would, as the president tweeted, help the GOP. But Trump threw his weight behind two flawed candidates in this election. Other Republican candidates and officeholders see the bind they’re in: They cannot break from the president, lest they incur the wrath of his supporters, but neither can they throw their lot in with him, as that will pull them down, as it did Ed Gillespie in Virginia. The Republican margins in Congress are indeed razor-thin, but the president is a major factor in that, and his failure to grapple with his own role continues to shave them thinner.
The election of Democrat Doug Jones to a Senate seat in Alabama could significantly curtail the Republican legislative agenda in 2018, dashing the party’s hopes for scaling back spending on safety-net programs and fully repealing the Affordable Care Act.
But Jones likely won’t get to Washington in time to slow or stop the GOP’s most pressing priority: enacting a far-reaching tax bill before Christmas.
Democrats immediately called on Republicans to “hit pause” on the $1.4 trillion measure after Jones defeated scandal-tarred Roy Moore in deeply red Alabama on Tuesday. “Doug Jones will be the duly elected senator from the state of Alabama. The governor didn’t appoint him; he won an election,” Minority Leader Charles Schumer said at a Capitol press conference. He pointed to the example Democrats set in early 2010, when they held off a final vote on Obamacare until after Republican Scott Brown took office following his upset special-election win in Massachusetts.
But senior Republicans on Wednesday were quick to tamp down any thought that Jones’s win would scuttle their aggressive timeline for passing tax cuts that they set months ago. “I don’t think so,” Representative Kevin Brady of Texas, the chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said on Fox News.
GOP leaders had anticipated the possibility of a Jones victory when they pledged to enact their tax bill before Congress left for its holiday recess. Under Alabama law, the secretary of state cannot certify the winner of the Senate special election until December 26 at the earliest and January 3 at the latest. Schumer said he was not calling for Jones to be sworn in immediately, acknowledging that state law left the governor no discretion in the matter.
Republicans currently have a 52-48 majority in the Senate, meaning they can lose up to two of their members on party-line votes. Once Jones takes his seat, that margin will fall to one. The GOP suffered just one defection, Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, in the initial vote on the Senate tax bill last month. So if the remaining 50 Republicans stood behind the final version, it would have the votes to pass whether or not Jones is in the Senate because of Vice President Mike Pence’s role in breaking a tie. But by waiting until January, the GOP would empower any single senator to hold up the bill with his or her demands.
Democrats faced a similar scenario in January 2010 after Brown won the Massachusetts seat that had been held by Senator Ted Kennedy until his death. The Republican’s victory deprived Democrats of their 60-vote super-majority, and Senator Harry Reid, then the majority leader, announced that Democrats would wait until Brown’s arrival to hold further votes on health care. But there was a key difference in the election: The health-care overhaul had been a central issue in the Massachusetts Senate race back then, whereas the Alabama election was far more a referendum on Moore’s personal history than on the GOP tax bill. And in 2010, Reid’s hand was forced by one of his own members, Senator Jim Webb of Virginia, who called for Democrats to wait for Brown to take his seat.
So far, no rank-and-file Republicans have issued a similar demand for patience. “I don’t think an election should drive the timetable,” Senator Susan Collins of Maine, whose vote on the final tax bill is up for grabs, told Politico.
Even if Jones can’t halt the GOP’s drive for tax cuts, he could have a much bigger impact on their agenda in 2018. Republicans had been eyeing another bid at repealing Obamacare early in the new year after their repeated failures over the summer and fall. But the loss of a Senate seat likely leaves them at least two votes short of the 50 they’d need to pass the most recent proposal from Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, which would have converted the law into a block grant and cut Medicaid. (Republicans likely will, however, have succeeded in repealing the law’s individual insurance mandate as part of the tax bill.)
And both Trump and conservatives in the House have said in recent weeks that once the tax cuts become law, they would turn to welfare reform and try to enact work requirements and cuts to the food stamp program. House Speaker Paul Ryan has also said he’s been working to persuade the president to go along with his longstanding desire to partially privatize Medicare, which Trump vowed to oppose on the campaign trail last year. Republicans were already facing a heavy lift to win support for trimming the social safety net during an election year. Jones’s victory could extinguish those plans entirely.
What might Republicans do instead? Well, infrastructure could rise quickly up the agenda. The issue has a base of bipartisan support in Congress, and the White House is reportedly preparing a detailed proposal that has languished for nearly all of 2017.
Republicans are also holding out hope that Jones will want to work with them as he prepares for what will likely be a difficult reelection bid in 2020, when he might not be facing such an unpopular opponent in one of the nation’s most conservative states. As a case in point, the last Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama is the state’s senior senator, Richard Shelby, who became a Republican in 1994 and hasn’t faced a difficult challenge since. “I hope Senator-elect Doug Jones will do the right thing and truly represent Alabama by choosing to vote with the Senate Republican majority,” said Senator Cory Gardner, the Colorado Republican who heads the party’s campaign arm.
Yet Jones hardly seems like a senator ripe for conversion. Though he vowed to seek common ground with Republicans, he won an election in Alabama having never wavered on his support for abortion rights and after criticizing the GOP on taxes, health care, and other policy areas. He campaigned as a Democrat, and once he arrives in Washington, he is widely expected to vote like one.
MONTGOMERY, Ala.—Everything had to break exactly right for Doug Jones to win the U.S. Senate election in deep-red Alabama, and it did. Jones ran a disciplined campaign that hinged on the turnout of black voters, and it delivered for him.
But everything also had to break the wrong way for the Republicans, and it did: A series of machinations among senior GOP officials led to a runoff between the unpopular Luther Strange and Roy Moore, best known for losing his judgeship over a dramatic battle to keep a 10 Commandments monument in the state’s supreme court. Moore had a loyal base of support in Alabama despite—or because of—the litany of controversies attached to him, including his inflammatory remarks about homosexuality and Muslims serving in office. He was unable to reach beyond that base, however, and barely tried. In the end, Moore could not survive allegations by nine women that he had pursued or sexually abused them when they were teenagers—one as young as 14. The story consumed the final weeks of the campaign, with Moore unable to offer a substantive rebuttal, instead attempting to discredit the mainstream media and his accusers. He went underground during the race’s final stretch, hardly appearing in public, while Jones barnstormed the state.
Fighting the last battle is a common political mistake. Moore’s campaign and his biggest backers, such as the Breitbart News chairman Steve Bannon, thought that Moore could survive the allegations by doubling down and toughing it out, the same way President Trump defied conventional wisdom and won despite the Access Hollywood tape. They were wrong. Moore’s loss showed that some laws of gravity still apply in politics.
“Roy Moore’s problems were much bigger than just the allegations of impropriety,” says Lance Hyche, an Alabama Republican consultant. “Many pro-business Republicans have long held a bad taste for Moore’s agenda. Plus, he ran a terrible campaign.”
Though Bannon publicly projected confidence about Moore, by Election Day he was less than certain Moore would win. “I don’t know,” he said when asked what he thought would happen on Tuesday. “I don’t want to get overcocky.”
Moore held his election-night party at the RSA Activity Center, in downtown Montgomery, the same venue where he held his event on the night of the runoff. This time, though, members of the press were penned off in the back by barricades, not allowed to roam freely. Reporters were given press credentials featuring only close-up photos of Moore’s face on the front and back. Journalists from The Washington Post, which broke the story of Moore’s alleged misconduct, were denied credentials.
As results slowly trickled in from around Alabama, The New York Times’s election results were projected on a big screen behind the stage. At first, as more red appeared on the map, the mood was jubilant; a saxophonist covered pop songs such as “Happy” by Pharrell and “Smooth” by Santana ft. Rob Thomas. But as the night wore on and it became clear that Jones was outperforming expectations, the room fell silent. Supporters sang hymns including “How Great Thou Art” and “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”
Even after the Associated Press and Fox News called the race for Jones, Moore refused to concede. His campaign chairman, Bill Armistead, came onstage to announce that the campaign was waiting for more votes to come in and preparing for the possibility of a recount. Moore encouraged everyone to go home and sleep on it, an echo of the Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s late-night announcement on election night last year.
But at least from Donald Trump’s perspective, it was time to put a fork in it. The president tweeted his congratulations to Jones shortly after the race was called and didn’t mention Moore, for whom he had campaigned on Friday at a rally in Pensacola, Florida, near the Alabama border.
Andy Surabian, Bannon’s political adviser, also acknowledged the loss.
“Mitch McConnell and his establishment allies got the Democrat that they wanted in Alabama, and are now threatening and openly defying President Trump's agenda,” Surabian said. “Make no mistake about it, Mitch McConnell is now the highest ranking Democrat in America. Congratulations, Swamp.”
Bannon himself had taken the same line earlier that day. “We have very limited downside” in the event of a Moore loss, he told me on Tuesday, even before results came in. “If Moore loses, the firestorm against McConnell will reach a fever pitch, people will be off the chain. They will come for McConnell like you’ve never seen before and Shelby will be finished down there.”
“If we lose, it’s actually worse for McConnell.”
McConnell’s allies, for their part, were equally quick to pin the loss on Bannon, who had championed Moore as part of his war against the Senate majority leader. Steven Law, the CEO of the McConnnell-linked super PAC Senate Leadership Fund, sent out a statement blasting him: “This is a brutal reminder that candidate quality matters regardless of where you are running. Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the president of the United States into his fiasco.”
Bannon had lobbied for Trump to back Moore, though Trump didn’t seem to need much persuading after mustering little enthusiasm for Moore’s opponent, Strange, during the primary. Still, Trump had predicted while campaigning for Strange that Moore would have a tough time winning the general election—and he was right.
“Moore losing in the end is a blessing. He is one dumb, weird guy,” says one source close to Trump, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly about private conversations. “Mo was the guy who should have ran,” the source says, referring to Mo Brooks, the congressman forced out after the initial round of voting.
* * *
A special Senate election in Alabama would normally be a snoozy affair, as far as the wider political world is concerned. But Tuesday’s voting capped a wild few months that gripped the country, as Alabama became the focus of America’s political and cultural conflicts. The race played out amid the torrent of sexual-misconduct allegations against powerful men that have been rocking American culture, and it highlighted both the deepening divide in the Republican Party and the Democratic Party’s efforts to rebuild after last year’s presidential-election loss.
One factor Moore and his backers didn’t fully take into account was the viability of Jones, a prosecutor who made his name bringing Ku Klux Klan members who bombed a black church in Birmingham in 1963 to justice. After the allegations against Moore came to light, various polls showed Jones within striking distance of Moore, or even in the lead. Jones’s strategy was to beat the odds in Alabama’s heavily Republican electorate by turning out as many black voters as he possibly could and by picking off more-moderate Republican voters who couldn’t stomach voting for Moore, even if the party establishment decided to tolerate him.
To accomplish this, Jones campaigned heavily in black neighborhoods and churches and brought in high-profile black Democrats such as Deval Patrick and Cory Booker to help him. He chose symbolically important places, scheduling a Saturday press availability outside the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, the starting point of the historic civil-rights marches to Montgomery led by Martin Luther King Jr.
To woo Republican voters, Jones’s campaign and outside groups took advantage of prominent Republicans’ resistance to Moore, cutting ads based on Alabama Senator Richard Shelby’s refusal to vote for him. Shelby’s decision to go on television and oppose Moore on the Sunday before the election was a significant statement. “That’s about as out on a limb as you see him get,” David Mowery, an Alabama political consultant who ran Bob Vance’s campaign against Moore, in 2012, told me. “He’s the cagiest pol in our state, so he knows what he’s doing there.”
Jones also enjoyed a large spending advantage and, as is the case with many Democratic politicians, celebrity backing. The Alabama-rooted musical acts St. Paul and the Broken Bones and Jason Isbell held free get-out-the-vote concerts for Jones, and on the night before the election, the former NBA star Charles Barkley, an Alabama native, campaigned as well. “At some point we’ve got to stop looking like idiots to the nation,” he told voters. This message—vote for Jones to save face for Alabama in the country’s eyes—was a key element of the pitch made by Jones’s surrogates. “Don’t let anybody talk down to Alabama,” Booker told Jones supporters at a Birmingham field office on Sunday.
* * *
While Barkley was stumping for Jones in Birmingham on Monday night, a motley crew of right-wing characters was doing the same for Moore in Jordan’s Activity Barn in Midland City, in the southeastern part of the state. The rally was themed “Drain the Swamp,” and a faux swamp—a tarp with toy alligators on it—had been set up outside. The back half of the barn was fenced off for the press, while the front half was crowded with Moore’s supporters. In a VIP area up in an upstairs loft, Bannon, Sheriff David Clarke, and others could be seen mingling by those down below. Also in attendance were Paul Ryan’s nationalist challenger Paul Nehlen, who recently appeared on the alt-right podcast Fash the Nation, and Corey Stewart, the former Trump Virginia state chair who nearly beat Ed Gillespie in that state’s gubernatorial primary this year.
A series of speakers took aim at the mainstream media and Moore’s accusers—both of which Moore and his allies had been busily trying to discredit. The affair facilitated the release of pent-up rage at the forces Moore and his allies saw as trying to destroy him.
Texas Representative Louie Gohmert, a stalwart of the House Freedom Caucus, spent most of his speech attacking Moore’s accusers. He referenced the Biblical character Jezebel and implied that some of the accusers had been paid: “If somebody got money for trying to destroy a righteous man, there’s a place called prison.”
And Bannon, who has spent the autumn giving speeches around the country promoting his 2018 plans, told the crowd that it shouldn’t let outsiders tell Alabamians how to vote. (Bannon grew up in Virginia, and has lived in California, New York, and Washington, D.C.) This was Bannon’s third appearance on Moore’s behalf in Alabama; he spoke at a rally in Fairhope before the runoff, and at another in Fairhope last week. Only this time, he and his former boss were on the same side. (Jones reacted to Bannon’s speech last week by tweeting that he is an “outside agitator” who was “carpetbagging” in Alabama—both loaded terms hearkening back to Alabama’s pained racial history. Bannon castigated MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough for having called him a “Yankee,” saying that he is from the “capital of the Confederacy” and boasting that Scarborough didn’t “make the cut” at the elite schools Bannon got into, Georgetown and Harvard.)
Moore’s wife, Kayla, spoke before Moore did. She said that Moore, who recently suggested that the Jewish billionaire George Soros is going to hell, is not anti-Semitic because the couple has Jewish friends and because “one of our attorneys is Jewish.”
And Moore, who had not held a public campaign event for nearly a week—he confirmed onstage that he had been out of state over the weekend, visiting his son at West Point—was similarly aggrieved.
The allegations against him are “disgusting,” Moore said. He was surrounded by “alligators,” he said. “We’re up to our neck in people that don’t want change in Washington, D.C.; they want to keep their power, keep it the same, keep their positions, and we’ve got to change that.”
Bannon was by then camped out in a room upstairs designed for brides getting ready for their weddings—the room next door had “Groom” on the door. (The barn is a frequent wedding venue.) Bannon was hosting his SiriusXM radio show from the site. Members of his entourage of advisers, Breitbart employees, and security guards shuffled in and out, speaking in hushed tones and watching the Patriots–Dolphins game on TV. Bags of snacks were piled up in a corner. Clarke, having taken off his signature hat, came in to do the radio show.
When Moore finished speaking, he and Kayla came in so that Moore could join the show. Then Gohmert came in, dragging a carry-on suitcase, and a series of photos were taken of Moore, Gohmert, and Clarke in various combinations.
Bannon interviewed Moore for several minutes, focusing on Shelby’s opposition to him and casting the race as an “up or down vote on the Trump agenda.” (“It doesn’t help,” Bannon told me that night about Shelby’s opposition. “It's unacceptable that a sitting United States senator would basically not back the Trump agenda by trying to toss the race to a Democrat, particularly a progressive Democrat like Jones.”
Moore stuck to the theme of his race being a referendum on Trump’s agenda, saying that Shelby “doesn’t want a voice in the Senate that would stand up for Trump.”
“You’ve been a great help, Steve, and we appreciate you and standing for what this country’s about,” Moore told Bannon.
As Moore turned to leave, Gohmert buttonholed him, speaking excitedly into his ear. Then the Moores stepped out into the lofted area and made their way downstairs, where reporters caught sight of them and shouted questions. They hustled into a waiting car. The Breitbart crew stayed behind. Their show was still going on.
Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore in Alabama on Tuesday night, snagging a U.S. Senate seat in a upset and providing an appropriately unpredictable end to a bizarre race.
The election saw an uneasy coalition formed between President Trump and the Republican establishment only to be rebuked in the GOP primary; a sitting senator defeated in a primary runoff; a candidate refusing to withdraw despite a series of sexual-misconduct allegations involving teenagers; and, in the end, a Democrat robbing Republicans of a Senate seat in the deep-red Deep South.
With the last few precincts being counted, Jones was headed for a narrow but decisive victory over Moore, an archconservative culture warrior who was twice removed as chief justice of the state supreme court for defying federal judges. The race is at once an outlier—Moore was a uniquely flawed candidate—and the latest example of Democratic enthusiasm, and in particular African American engagement, spiking in backlash to the Trump era. Early analysis suggests Jones’s victory came on the power of black turnout that far exceeded expectations and white turnout that sagged in the face of a scandal ridden, bigoted GOP candidate.
The late polls in the race had shown a mixed picture, with results ranging from a 10-point Jones advantage to a 9-point Moore lead. Democrats viewed Jones, a mild-mannered attorney most famous for putting Ku Klux Klan members behind bars for the bombing of a church in Birmingham during the civil-rights movement, as an unusually strong candidate in Alabama, but there were intense worries about his ability to get African Americans to the polls. In the end, the results showed black voters making the difference.
The result is a blow to Trump, who saw his chosen candidates lose in both the primary and general election. The president first threw his lot in with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in backing Luther Strange, who was appointed to fill the seat of Jeff Sessions, who Trump had appointed attorney general. By many measures, Moore, a brash, controversial enemy of the establishment, was the more Trump-like candidate. Strange squeaked into a runoff, with Trump’s help, but then lost the race to Moore.
Despite his many flaws—in addition to his dual removals from the bench, Moore has a history of appalling statements about minorities, LGBT people, and others—the Republican seemed to have the general-election edge in Alabama, a solidly GOP state. Then, about a month before Election Day, the race was rocked by a Washington Post story detailing several women’s accounts of teenaged relationships with a 30-something Moore, including one who said that he had brought her to his home when she was 14 years old and guided her hand to touch his penis through his underwear. Soon, other women emerged with similar stories; one said he had sexually assaulted her. Several reports found that Moore may have been banned from a local mall in Gadsden, Alabama, for making teenagers uncomfortable.
The stories coincided with the #MeToo moment of past sexual misdeeds felling powerful men, and they sent Moore’s campaign into a tailspin. Most of the Republican Party abandoned Moore, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying Moore should withdraw, the Republican National Committee withdrawing funding, and National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner saying Moore should be expelled from the Senate if elected.
But after Thanksgiving, Moore seemed to recover his stride. He adamantly denied the allegations, in some cases claiming (against all evidence, including his own past statements) not to even know the women. Trump, himself the target of multiple accusations of sexual assault, backed Moore first timidly and then ferociously, and the RNC followed suit.
The final results show that Moore was no more immune to such allegations than most powerful men (the president excepted) have been in recent weeks. It also showed the power of black voters, and the Democratic Party’s surge in enthusiasm in the face of Trump’s agenda. It is, however, difficult to judge the broader significance of the Alabama result. While Jones’s win follows November elections in Virginia in which Democrat Ralph Northam won an unexpectedly strong victory in the governor’s race and Democrats made gains up and down the ballot, the specific circumstances of the Alabama race are largely unrepeatable.
But the result is clearly a disaster for Republicans. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey could have chosen not to have a special election until 2018, but moved it up. (She replaced Robert Bentley, who appointed Strange and then was forced to resign in disgrace—a strange story of its own.) Trump saw his chosen candidate defeated twice. Steve Bannon, his former strategist and Moore’s fiercest backer, also lost, and the result will intensify an ongoing battle for the identity of the Republican Party. Trumpist candidates like Moore have proven formidable in primary elections and vulnerable in general elections, even in deep-red states like Alabama. Jones’s victory narrows the Republican advantage in the Senate to a thin reed.
There is a silver lining for Republicans, though. A Moore victory would have kept the Senate seat in GOP hands, but it would have sent an unpredictable politician, implacably opposed to McConnell, unbeholden to the party, and tainted by sex scandal to Washington—a likely albatross around the GOP’s neck. With Moore as their candidate, Republicans had no good option in the race. It’s possible they ended up with the least worst option, though.
In a major upset, Democrat Doug Jones won the Alabama Senate special election on Tuesday to fill the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The last time Alabama sent a Democrat to the Senate was in 1992.
The Associated Press called the race for Jones just before 10:30 p.m. eastern.
Alabama is a deeply conservative state. But the race unexpectedly became competitive after multiple women came forward to allege that Republican Roy Moore had made advances toward them as teenage girls, including groping and assault. The result was a stunning victory for the Democratic Party, which has been locked out of power in Washington after the 2016 presidential election.
“Tonight is a night for rejoicing," Jones said Tuesday evening to a cheering crowd. Referencing a famous Martin Luther King quote, Jones said: “The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice. Tonight, you helped bend that moral arc a little closer to justice."
The election deals a blow to President Trump, who had endorsed Moore, and former White House strategist Steve Bannon, who campaigned on Moore’s behalf. Trump congratulated Jones on Tuesday evening, tweeting that “a win is a win.” The parallels between Moore’s political trajectory and President Trump’s are inescapable. Multiple women publicly accused Trump of sexual harassment and assault during his run for president. He denied the allegations, called the women liars, and won the presidency. That playbook didn’t work for Moore.
The outcome of the election has immediate and potentially far-reaching consequences that stand to benefit the Democratic Party. Flipping a Senate seat narrows the already razor-thin Republican majority in the chamber, and will make it harder for Republicans to pass any significant legislation. It might even jeopardize the Republican tax overhaul effort currently underway in Congress. Democrats face an uphill battle to win back the Senate in 2018, but winning a seat in the Alabama race will make their fight that much easier. Jones will hold the seat until 2020.
Jones is a former U.S. attorney known for prosecuting members of the Ku Klux Klan for the bombing of a black Baptist church in Birmingham in the 1960s, an attack that left four girls dead. Despite campaigning in solidly Republican territory, Jones has run as a pro-choice, pro-immigrant-rights Democrat.
Moore is a former Alabama Chief Justice who gained notoriety for defying federal court orders to take down a monument to the Ten Commandments, and to uphold the legality of same-sex marriage. He faces allegations of sexual assault from multiple women, including women who say they were teenagers when he made advances toward them. Moore has denied the accusations.
The race fundamentally changed in November when The Washington Post reported allegations from a woman named Leigh Corfman who said Moore molested her when she was 14-years-old and Moore was 32-years-old. Since then, more women have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct, including groping and assault.
That controversy played out against the backdrop of a national reckoning over alleged sexual harassment by powerful men. The #MeToo movement has taken down men accused of misconduct everywhere from Hollywood to Congress. Even so, it seemed possible that Moore would still win his race.
Moore denied any wrongdoing and called the allegations “ritual defamation.” His standing in the polls did fall dramatically after the news surfaced. But by Tuesday morning, the Republican candidate had re-gained an edge over Jones, though pundits and pollsters warned that it was impossible to predict who would win.
After sexual misconduct allegations against Moore first emerged, the Republican National Committee initially cut ties and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he should “step aside.” The distancing act didn’t last long. By early December, the RNC had restored its financial backing for Moore, after Trump endorsed him. McConnell later said that it’s up to the voters of Alabama to “make the call” on whether Moore should be elected to the Senate.
The Democratic Party, for its part, will be sure to keep reminding voters of the ties between the GOP establishment, the president, and Moore. In a statement celebrating the victory, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair Chris Van Hollen said the election result showed that voters “soundly rejected the new Republican Party of Roy Moore and Donald Trump and their toxic agenda.”
As voters went to the polls on Tuesday in Alabama’s Senate special election, photographer Kevin Liles asked them about their choices. The state delivered a stunning upset for the Democratic Party, sending Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate rather than his Republican opponent Roy Moore. Although Moore was facing allegations of sexual misconduct, many analysts believed that the contest in this very conservative state was his to lose. What follows are brief portraits of Alabamians who cast ballots yesterday—mostly Jones voters, as Liles found Moore voters more reluctant to stand for a portrait.
Rob Newton, 48
Real Estate Developer, Montgomery, Alabama
“I voted for Ron Bishop as a libertarian write-in candidate. This is the only way I can think to lodge a protest vote that would be noted. In other words, he’s not going to win, but he’s also not Roy Moore or Doug Jones. This sucks.”
LaCheryl Cillie, 55
Pharmacist, Montgomery, Alabama
“Well looking at some of the cases he’s [Jones] tried over the years, I was impressed with some of that. It’s time for a change. I was particularly touched when he talked about how far behind we are in education the other things we [Alabama] are at the bottom of compared to some of the other states. So I’m looking for someone who can hopefully change some of that for us.”
Craig Baab, 71
Nonprofit Lawyer, Montgomery, Alabama
“All the recent stuff [with Roy Moore] is obviously important, but I don’t even get there. I go back to the fact that the chief justice of the state twice disobeyed a court order and then was then was removed from office. Twice. I don’t care his views on other stuff, but this is someone who seriously sets an example.”
Cedrick Bryant, 20
Student, Alabama State University
“I feel like Doug would make a really big change on taxes, I think he would help out HBCU schools, and I think he would do a great job with making our environment better. I believe in him and I think he can make a change.”
Andy Gradyon, 28
Architect, Montgomery, Alabama
“I think Doug Jones is the most fit for our Senate seat. I’m not going to go into the reasons why I’m not going to vote for Roy Moore, I’ll just say that Doug Jones is best fit.”
Ronald Earles, 73
Pastor, Bulloch County, Alabama
“I’m voting for Roy … as far as that stuff that came out about him, it’s just too convenient. They waited 40 years, until he was running for Senate. Then it comes.”
Fred Rivers, 54
Maintenance worker, Union Springs, Alabama
“No realistic answer for him [Jones], but I heard all the stuff about Roy Moore. Been in office a couple times, been in and out. Why not give the other guy a chance?”
Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones face off in Alabama’s special Senate election. Polls for the highly contested race close at 8 p.m. ET. On Twitter, President Trump criticized Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who said on Monday that the president should resign amid sexual-misconduct allegations. Trump’s tweet drew pushback from Democratic senators, including Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer. At a town-hall meeting with diplomats, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson unveiled changes to the State Department that he said would help workers perform better overseas.
A Clash of Ideas: McKay Coppins writes that Tuesday’s special election in Alabama is a small battle in a larger war over the soul of the Republican Party.
Welfare Overhaul: Governor Scott Walker has been trying to add drug testing as a requirement for welfare benefits for years—and he might finally have a chance under the Trump administration. (Vann R. Newkirk II)
‘Stealing From the Grandchildren’: Entitlement programs, like Social Security and Medicare, were built for a system in which a robust group of working people could support retirees. But that’s not the reality today. (Eric B. Schnurer)
Follow stories throughout the day with our Politics & Policy portal.
‘What the Hell Is Happening With These Alabama Polls?’: Nate Silver explains why there has been such a massive spread in poll results ahead of Alabama’s special election. (FiveThirtyEight)
The Democrats Get It: Like it or not, the party’s decision to oust the accused sexual harassers within its ranks shows the unity and competency required of a political party, argues Noah Rothman. (NBC News)
#War: In 2016, Steve Bannon and his colleagues at Breitbart News reportedly planned to wage a war on Twitter after the site banned several Breitbart employees. (Joseph Bernstein and Ryan Mac, BuzzFeed)
Keeping Track: The White House has said that many of the sexual-misconduct allegations against President Trump can be disputed with eyewitness accounts. Here’s a running list of those allegations—and the eyewitness rebuttal. (Philip Bump, The Washington Post)
Media Mistrust: Conservatives’ disdain for the mainstream media did not start with Donald Trump’s candidacy, argues Mary Katharine Ham. It began decades ago. (The Federalist)
Sharks and Lava and Birds, Oh My: These are the winners of the National Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year contest. (Alan Taylor, The Atlantic)
The 2018 Golden Globe nominations are in, including films like The Shape of Water, The Post, and Lady Bird, as well as an eclectic mix of television shows like Big Little Lies, This is Us, and Stranger Things.
This week, we want to know: If this political moment was a Golden Globe-nominated film, what would be its genre? What would it be called? And why?
Share your response here, and we’ll feature a few in Friday’s Politics & Policy Daily.
How are we doing? Send questions or feedback to email@example.com.