American Greatness Publisher Chris Buskirk joined PBS Newshour’s John Yang and Karine Jean-Pierre of MoveOn.org to discuss the state of partisan politics as 2017 winds down and what might be in store for 2018. Watch the video and read the transcript.
Hari Sreenivasan: Taxes were just one of the top political stories of 2017. John Yang now takes a deeper look at President Trump’s first year and what’s in store for 2018 from two different perspectives.
John Yang: Hari, we are joined Karine Jean-Pierre, who is a senior adviser to MoveOn.org a and contributing editor to the online women’s magazine “Bustle.” She also served in the Obama White House. And from Phoenix, Chris Buskirk is a radio host out there and editor of the conservative blog AmericanGreatness.org.[sic] Chris, Karine, thanks for being with us.
Chris, I want to start with you. You talk to folks out there on your radio show every day. As we end the year, what is the — sort of the state of the Trump base, of Trump supporters out there now?
Chris Buskirk: Well, a lot happier than I think folks were maybe even two, three weeks ago. I think the fact that the tax bill passed was a welcome balm at the end of the year. And there are two elements of that. One is that people generally supported the tax bill. They think it was good policy. And that’s a big part of it.
The other part is just seeing a Republican Congress, for whom so many Trump voters had very, very high hopes at the beginning of this year, and seeing that Congress actually do something.
You know, I called it a do-nothing Congress for months and months and months, primarily because it was a do-nothing Congress. But they did something. And I think it was good policy from our perspective. And as we are wrapping up the year here, the Trump voters are looking and saying, you know what, the president did a lot of things he promised to, and now we are actually seeing Congress get on board too.
John Yang: Chris, I want to continue with you.
As you pointed out, there was a lot of unhappiness about Congress. People were still supporting the president and they were blaming Congress for inaction. Has this solved all that? And, also, has the gap between the president’s supporters and, for a lack of a better term, the elected officials in Washington, the Speaker Ryans, the Leader McConnells, has that been healed over by this?
Chris Buskirk: You know, I don’t know if it healed over, but it’s a good start. I guess I would put it that way. There has been a sort of changing of the guard going on, on the American right among conservatives over the past year or two or even three, I guess, if we go back to 2015. And is everything brushed under the carpet? No.
But you know what? That is OK. What is important here, from my perspective, I think from a lot of people’s perspective on the right, is that different factions within the Republican Party are figuring out, number one, that they need to work together, and, number two, how to do it.
And so, as we go into 2018, that is a reason for people on the right to have some optimism.
John Yang: Karine, conversely, what is sort of the state of the loyal opposition at the end of the year?
Karine Jean-Pierre: Yes, conversely, indeed.
Look, I think that Republicans passed an unpopular bill, now that they have to go into 2018 trying to sell it. Not only that. They have a president that is historically unpopular. The Republican Congress is unpopular. So they are facing potentially a blue wave next year from the Democrats.
And I just don’t understand how they even think this is a good thing, when you see the polling after polling that says people hate the GOP tax plan, and also the intensity. There is an intensity on the Democratic side that we have not seen in a long time. They are unified, they are energized.
Democrats won a Senate seat in a ruby-red state of Alabama. That is unheard of. People would say we had no business even going into that state and trying to fight and win that race. And so I think that Republicans have a tough fight against them — ahead of them in 2018. And I just don’t see how they even stop that.
Unifying right now doesn’t even make sense either, because they have an unpopular president. Congress is unpopular. And let’s not forget there is DACA that needs to be taken care of. There is CHIP that needs to be reauthorized, both bipartisan policies, programs that are popular.
John Yang: Chris, what about that? The Democrats — there is a lot of talk about whether the Democrats have — there is an enthusiasm gap with the Democrats, that they are more enthusiastic, more fired up going into 2018, going into the midterms. What about that?
Chris Buskirk: Well, there is something to it. There really is. And I think this is going to be a hard-fought election year. There is no doubt about it. Look, there is something about being opposition that tends to galvanize the people who are in the opposition.
Republicans just had eight years of it and I think, by a lot of measures were more successful — as the old mantra goes, the Republicans were the party of no. Republicans were pretty — got pretty good at being the party of no during the Obama years, and because there is something that brings people together when you think that you are — or actually are in the reality in the minority in Congress.
So, as we look at the elections coming up next year, yes, Republicans do need to figure how to, number one, stick together, and, number two, how to make the case.
I am happy to make the case that says, look, we have a booming stock market, we have got low unemployment, we have got a tax bill that allows people to keep more of what they earn. We have got more or less peace abroad, and make that case to the American people in 2018.
But you know what? You have to make the case. And that is going to be the challenge for Republican candidates all over the country next year, because there is a lot of enthusiasm on the left. And so I say, let’s have at it.
John Yang: Karine, that is the — making a case for the Republicans in 2018. For the Democrats, do they have to say — I mean, what is the better politics for them, to stand and say no to the president, to be the opposition, literally the opposition, or do they look to work with him on the issues you talked about, DACA, the dreamers, the children’s health insurance, infrastructure?
Karine Jean-Pierre: Right. So what I say to DACA and CHIP is that, look, it is a bipartisan support — has bipartisan support, is very popular with the public. So it should be able to be fixed easily. It’s not very difficult.
And not only that. Republicans control all three branches, so they should be able to do that. And if they don’t, it’s not the Democrats’ fault. It is the Republicans’ fault. So, that is that point there.
But I do agree that Democrats need to not just be anti-Trump. They need to also offer something as well, which is, OK, let’s lift minimum wage. Let’s fight on that. Let’s make sure we expand Medicare, expand Medicaid, expand Social Security. Let’s be about something, not just anti-Trump.
John Yang: Chris, are there places where the Republicans can work with the Democrats in the next year before the elections?
Chris Buskirk: Yes, I will tell you what. This is a place that I’m really interested in.
I think there are two big areas where Republicans and Democrats hopefully will be able to find some common ground and come together. Number one is infrastructure. This is something that has been talked about by people like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi for a long time. It’s also something that has been talked about by Donald Trump, where he actively on the campaign trail was talking about a big infrastructure bill.
I think that would be more than appropriate, more than welcome in 2018. I would hope there would be some consensus on that. And the other part is — and this really is big picture, but I think it’s important, and that is returning the power to legislate, to make laws back to Congress.
I think Congress needs to take some of that power back from the executive branch. I think altogether too much lawmaking power resides in the agencies and the departments of the executive branch. And this, I think, particularly now with Trump in the White House, this might be a time when Democrats and Republicans in Congress can say, you know what, we need to go back to doing the job the Constitution gives us, which is being the legislature, being the one that makes the laws.
John Yang: Chris Buskirk, Karine Jean-Pierre, thanks for being with us.
Chris Buskirk: Thanks.