Last December’s tax-cut package represented the summit of Republican ambition — and exhausted it. If that sounds unfair, consider the fact that the outgoing speaker of the House said as much himself earlier this year. Making numbers go down on a piece of paper so that rich people get more money: What else does a typical Republican in Congress really care about? There are individual representatives and senators dedicated to pet causes such as criminal justice reform or, Lord help us, drug legalization, but they are a minority. Doing the occasional bipartisan press conference or Heritage Foundation policy panel seems to satisfy them.
Which helps to explain not only Republican inertia but the party’s likely doom in November. You cannot run on something you did a year ago that has had almost no meaningful effect upon the life of the average voter. Some people will continue to pull the lever for Republicans because they operate under the illusion that doing so is their only means of demonstrating their opposition to abortion. Others will because they associate the Republican Party with the president, whose appeal among his base is as strong now as it was in 2016. If you are not a committed social conservative or a fan of Trump, what possible reason could you have for voting Republican?