As has been noted here before, the Democrats didn’t just take a beating in the House and Senate during recent election cycles. They’ve been losing ground at the state level as well, with more legislatures seeing Republican majorities or increased minorities. But the place where the Donkey party has really taken a beating is in the governors races. At the moment there are 31 GOP governors to only 18 Democrats. But if you look beyond the headlines at some of the state level activity, it seems as if they may have developed a strategy to gain back some ground.
In Maryland, Larry Hogan certainly has his hands full, what with Baltimore burning to the ground, but he’s got other problems with the opposition party which were kicking into gear before the Freddie Gray situation blew up. Democrats passed a new tax bill which would force online travel booking services to pay extra fees. (And, as usual, pass those costs on to consumers.) But as Red Maryland noted as soon as the plan was unveiled, this is a total Admiral Ackbar situation. It’s a trap! The Democrats will preach to Hogan in the media about being the right thing to do, and then turn around and hammer him in the next election for breaking his promise about holding the line on taxes.
Think they wouldn’t do it? The Democrats did exactly the same thing to Bob Ehrlich some years back and it worked like a charm.
But Hogan isn’t the only one in the Democrats’ sights. In Illinois, Bruce Rauner is facing a situation which looks suspiciously similar. Democrats in the legislature are working on a package which will increase taxes specifically on satellite TV customers. This is a particularly ingenious plan because the norther, more urban section of the state is where the Democrats live and they generally have cable TV. But the Republicans are largely found in the southern, more rural sections, many of which are still without cable, and a lot of them have satellite as their only option. If they can get Rauner to not only break his promise and increase taxes, but to do so in a way that largely damages his own base… well, it doesn’t get much better than that.
To a lesser extent we’re seeing a similar situation play out in New Jersey. Chris Christie can’t run for a third consecutive term (though he’s not barred from coming back later and holding another non-consecutive term) but he is gearing up for a likely presidential run. The New Jersey legislature is holding the threat of defaulting on payments to union pension plans over his head and pushing for a tax increase to make up the difference. This move gins up their base in the form of union outrage while attempting to turn Christie into a Tax and Spend Republican. I’m sure they would like nothing better if he does wind up moving ahead in the GOP primary polling.
Is this all some huge coincidence? Anything’s possible, but in the world of politics I’ve learned to look at any coincidence with a bit of a jaundiced eye.