Gage Skidmore / Flickr make america great again hat...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Even Donald Trump’s own administration knows that the dumpster fire that is Donald Trump is threatening to burn the whole Republican Party down, come the midterm elections of 2018. The plan they’re coming up with to prevent that from happening appears to be a variation of The Shiny Object Strategy.

The administration has been in talks to put conservative initiatives on the ballot in 2018 midterm battleground states in hopes of energizing base voters dispirited by the performance of Republican-controlled Washington. […]

White House aides are less interested in a ballot initiative campaign focused on social issues, fearful it would serve to only further stoke an already-motivated liberal base. Instead, according to three people familiar with the deliberations, they’re considering initiatives involving tax reform and other economic issues seen as more likely to invigorate conservatives. Tax reform also goes to the heart of Trump’s agenda, and he’s expected to spend much of the fall pursuing it.

First of all, there’s little evidence that Trump’s “agenda” includes pursuing tax reform or anything else not involving thumbing through his Twitter feed; he appears to be leaving the actual “reform” parts for the House and Senate to work out while angrily drumming his fingers waiting for them to produce something he can then champion and take credit for. His “agenda” of repealing Obamacare at no point rose to the level of him being able to explain what the bill he was championing even did.

But Politico is framing this as a continuation of the Karl Rove-era efforts to distract Republican voters from an unpopular, bumbling, seemingly less-than-competent president by giving those voters something else to come to the polls for. In Rove’s time, the party chose the supposedly imminent dangers of same-sex marriages, warning Republicans in state after state that if they didn’t come out and vote for [insert asinine state law or amendment barring gay Americans from attempting to claim a basic civil right here], society would collapse around them and liberals would soon be forcing good conservative children to marry cats and dogs and toasters.

This won’t work this time around, the theory goes, because it would only further encourage anti-Trump voters to turn out to give the Dumpster fire in chief a good drubbing. But what about convincing the conservative rubes that what ‘Merica needs right now is for Ivanka to pay less taxes? Would they fall for that? Would it speak to them?

It might, because as we have seen over the last year—we have empirical evidence now, so there’s no reason to beat around it—the median Republican voter is apparently as dumb as a box of rocks. But it’s difficult to imagine the same people that turned out for Trump’s frothing racism would suddenly find new motivation in the sort of arcane tax dabblings that Paul Ryan has dedicated himself to. Trump was elected on more primitive issues—on the notion that mere governmental competence was malevolent, and what the nation needed right now was a heaping helping of rage, pouting, xenophobia and federal arson—and “tax reform” does not inspire rage.

If Republicans continue to manage the government incompetently, unable to muster the will for basic operations like budgets and services while spinning their wheels on grand promises that, as it turns out, were fictions peddled for the base all along, it’s difficult to fathom why the Republican base would turn out to defend it. But you and I are not modern voting Republicans, and as I mentioned: There may be some rock-boxes in play here. The party has strategists whose entire careers revolve around packaging terrible ideas and selling them as not just smart, but the only patriotic choice; they have had great success at it. They will be trying their very best this time around, as well.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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