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Republicans are on tilt with their super-unpopular tax bill

GOP lawmakers know the midterm landscape looks bad, but are moving forward anyway.

A dire gamble.
Paul Taylor/Getty Images

At this point, nobody seems to deny that Republicans are facing a big political problem in 2018.

If you know these journalists' track records, you'll know these aren't armchair analysts saying that, objectively speaking, the midterm landscape looks bad for the GOP.

It's true that, objectively speaking, the midterm landscape looks bad for the GOP. But what Coppins and Martin and Alberta and Burns and Bade are telling us is that Republicans on the Hill are aware that the midterm landscape looks bad for the GOP.

Yet amazingly, the very same Republicans who are worried that they have become unpopular and are set to lose the election due to their unpopularity are currently putting all their energy behind passing an unpopular tax bill.

And this unpopularity, it should be noted, is no kind of surprise. Back in September, Pew found that by a 52-24 margin, voters favored higher corporate taxes, not lower. And by a 43-24 margin, voters favored higher taxes on the rich, not lower.

Now I get that Republicans believe in lowering the corporate tax rate and cutting the estate tax on the merits. And to an extent, I congratulate them on their willingness to follow their convictions rather than the polls.

But it would have been totally possible to write a bill that featured revenue-neutral corporate tax reform, an estate tax cut, and a meaningful tax cut for the middle class. Such a bill would have moved the ball forward on some key conservative objectives, while also hewing to the broad contours of public opinion. Some red-state Democrats might even have voted for it.

Instead, they served up a giant corporate tax cut, plus an estate tax cut, plus some other tax cuts for rich people, and a middle-class tax cut that is both small and merely temporary.

In the long-term, they are raising taxes on the middle class and then waving that away by saying it's such a toxically unpopular idea that obviously future Congresses won't let it come into effect.

But maybe ... don't deliberately write toxically unpopular provisions into your unpopular corporate tax cut when you're also generally worried about your party's overall unpopularity?

Yet somehow it goes on! The FCC's reversal on net neutrality is somewhere between mildly unpopular and hideously unpopular. Fifty-five percent of voters told CNN we shouldn't reduce legal immigration, but Trump is gearing up for a big push to reduce legal immigration.

Extending legal status to DACA recipients is hugely popular, but Republicans are lining up against it. Seventy-two percent of the public thinks Trump has done something illegal or unethical with Russia, but congressional Republicans are tying themselves tighter than ever to him on this issue with increasingly unhinged attacks on Robert Mueller.

How is this supposed to work?

In poker, there's a concept of going "on tilt" in which you respond to a bad beat or other frustration by becoming irrational and overly aggressive in your play rather than letting bygones be bygones and simply trying to regroup.

My sense is something similar happened to Republicans after the health care loss. And Doug Jones winning is only making it worse.

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