David Brooks: "Disappointed Trump Voters" Will Contribute To Dem "Tidal Wave" In Midterm Election


PBS NEWSHOUR: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks join Judy Woodruff to discuss the week’s news, including the GOP tax bill signed into law, the things lawmakers didn’t accomplish before the end of the year and what it will mean for the 2018 midterm elections, plus David and Mark share whom they would give holiday gifts to this year.

JUDY WOODRUFF, PBS NEWSHOUR: And to the analysis of Shields and Brooks. That is syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Gentlemen, welcome.

Three days before Christmas, Congress has just gone home. David, the president says this tax bill that they passed is a great gift for the American people. He said today corporations are going wild over this. They’re showering their employees with bonuses.

But the polls show people are still skeptical. What are people to make of this?


Well, I have not been a big fan of this tax bill for a whole number of reasons, one of which I think was revealed today. When you look at all the intricacies of it, not all the big things, little changes that could have vast effects on American societies.

For example, we have got the health insurance system, the employer-based health system because of some minor change during World War II. This has all sorts of minor things. Because we had no hearings, because we had no expert review and no time to actually look at what’s in the bill, it has dozens of that kind of minor changes that could have massive effects.

For example, we could all — it doesn’t make sense to work for a company anymore, when you can declare yourself a corporation and pay the corporate rate. And so that could just have massive effects of the economy.

So it’s actually kind of hard to know what the effects of this tax bill will be, because I think most of them are unintended...

I would say one thing. I don’t think it is going to be a political loser for the Republicans.

Because 80 percent of the country does — or tax units, does get a break out of it of varying sizes.

Some people will get pretty significant breaks. If you have a kid or a couple of kids, the child deductible tax credit, it doubles and it becomes refundable, so you actually get a check in the mail. And a lot of people are going to be seeing that. And a lot of people are going to be surprised to see that.

So I don’t think it will be the total loser that it looks now. I think now the polling, people don’t know what’s in the tax bill. They just don’t like Trump. He’s associated with it. They get the Republicans favor the rich.

But this bill is — you spend a trillion-and-a-half dollars, you can give a lot of money away...

DAVID BROOKS: I think the Republicans are going to do very bad in the midterm, but not because of the tax bill...

And there are lot — in ’86, it was revenue-neutral. In ’81, there was a recession. Now times are economically good.

So you can vote on a lot of things. In general, when you run up big deficits and give away — back money to people, they like it. And people like me say, hey, you should worry about the deficits or you should worry about the distribution effects.

That’s just never been, I think, my experience of how people respond to it. They say, hey, I got some money back.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, you brought up the midterm elections. And that’s what I want to ask you about.

But, David, your point is that this tax bill is not going to affect Republicans in the midterm that much, whatever…

DAVID BROOKS: Who knows? The midterms are still a year away.

I think the reason people don’t like the Republican Party is not because of the tax cut. It’s because they don’t like Donald Trump, they don’t think they’re functional, for a zillion other reasons.

And I think it’s — opinions about Donald Trump are dictating polling about everything else...

Yes, there’s multiple targets here. That’s not what I think they’re in terrible shape.

I think they’re in terrible shape — you know, you look — we have talked about this before. There’s the thing called the generic ballot. Which party do you want to control, which party do you think — usually, if one party is plus nine, they’re like due for a tidal wave of support. And the Democrats are plus 13 or 14. That’s just massive.

Now, we’re a year away, and the Democrats have a problem, their voters are all clustered more than the Republican voters. But, still, it looks like a tidal wave election. If it was today, it would be a tidal wave election, and it looks the kind of elections where Democrats wouldn’t only carry swing states, like maybe even Arizona, something like that, but states where you don’t even imagine.

You remember like Scott Brown won in Massachusetts, in a way you don’t imagine...

People don’t judge legislation the way that policy economists do. But people are really good at judging character, and maybe not last November, but in general.

And so they haven take a look — and especially suburban voters and women have taken a look at this guy for supporting Roy Moore, who, by the way, has behaved gracelessly in the last week, and they have made up their mind. And Trump has kept his core rural base, his white rural base. There are just not a lot of those people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, you’re saying it’s not fixable for Republicans?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I always hesitate, because I have been surprised in the past.

But I don’t see how — the people who I think are disappointed Trump voters and who are non-Trump voters seem very set in their opinions. They have made a character judgment about this guy and a character judgment about the way he’s running the country.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, we are a just couple of days from Christmas.

I have to ask both of you, want to ask both of you, in this season of giving, is there somebody you can think of out there in the political or the larger world who you would like to give a gift to? To whom and what, David?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I have had a series of conversations, interviews with people who work in government, some career people and some Trump employees.

And what strikes me is, among all of them, is they’re really sad. They’re very sad. And they need happiness. So I was thinking, what makes everybody happy? I think it’s dancing penguins and Louis Armstrong.


JUDY WOODRUFF: But, just to be clear, you’re talking about people who work for the federal government as civil servants?

DAVID BROOKS: And Trump employees. Everybody is very unhappy right now on both sides and unhappy with each other. There’s just a wave of depression.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But there’s a serious point under there, that they’re having a tough time?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, the career people have very — find it very hard to serve in an administration they don’t believe in.

The Trump people find it very hard to serve in an administration without camaraderie. And that’s not the way all past administrations have been. Just it’s a tough — it’s tough for them.

And they came here. A lot of them are good people who wanted to serve the government. They sort of believed in the agenda. And they find that career staff is quite hostile to them. And they find the people they got — are appointed with are not always friendly, because the culture of the administration…

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