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Republicans have picked their battle line for 2018: “We cut your taxes, the economy is booming, stick with us.” Will Democrats take that fight? Or is there a better path to victory?

Maybe the Republican tax bill will be the political and economic disaster that Washington Democrats say it is. But, hey, Democrats don’t have a great history of winning on taxes.

I remember the adviser to Walter Mondale in 1984 who said, “We’re going to make Reagan eat the deficit.”

Reagan ate Mondale’s lunch instead. So put me down as unconvinced this time.

If I was running a Congressional race next year, I’d test this simple message in a poll:

“Trump is rash, reckless, irresponsible, unpredictable and dangerous. Somebody needs to keep an eye on him and keep him in check. My opponent won’t. I will.”

Keep it simple. Focus on the one fact people know for certain. They don’t know whether the tax bill is good or bad; taxes are confusing. They do know that Trump is rash, reckless, irresponsible, unpredictable and dangerous.

Note: A family illness has clogged my blogging lately. Things will return to normal in due time. Merry Christmas.

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Fundraising emails from Democrats in Washington insist that Doug Jones could beat Trump’s wingman Roy Moore Tuesday night. Okay, I hear you. But we’re talking about Alabama.

If Jones does win, Democrats will face some interesting questions. Like, can we win in the South only when the Republican is a creepy sexual predator?

If the creepy sexual predator wins, Democrats have to ask: Could/should Jones have done something different? Do we have any path in the Deep South? Can we ever win here?

If Republicans lose Alabama, they have to answer even tougher questions: How the hell could we lose Alabama? How much damage is Trump doing to us – or are we doing to ourselves? And how bad will the Democratic wave be in 2018?

If Moore wins, the questions aren’t any easier for Republicans: What do we do now? Do we let a creepy sexual predator serve in our caucus in the United States Senate?

More to the point: How low do we go? How low do we let Trump take us? And do we have a shred of honor, decency and principle left in us?

Stay tuned.

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Brian Ross had a ‘confidential’ source, an insider close to Michael Flynn – so at 11 o’clock last Friday morning Ross (of ABC News ) dropped a bombshell: Michael Flynn was going to testify Trump had ordered him to contact the Russians before the election.

 The world turned upside down. Twitter and Facebook exploded. The stock market dropped 350 points. Robert Mueller was about to prove Trump had colluded with the Russians.

Then, seven and a half hours later, at 6:30pm, the world turned upside down again – Ross reported his ‘confidential’ source had ‘clarified’ his story: Trump hadn’t told Flynn to contact the Russians “before the election” – Trump had told him to contact them after the election, about defeating ISIS.

A hurricane had roared ashore with one white hot story at 11am, but then, proving both the  power and illusion of fake news, vanished at 6:30pm.

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The politicians are hollering, again, about redistricting – about the new State House and Senate district maps drawn by the federal judges ‘Special Mapmaker.’ But look beneath the surface: What’s surprising is how few districts changed. And how little those districts changed. The News and Observer analyzed the new maps:

One district changed from .4% Republican to 1.2% Democratic.

Another changed from a tie to 1.8% Democratic.

A third changed from 1.7% Republican to 1.8% Democratic.

A fourth got a tad more Republican.

A fifth got a tad more Democratic.

A sixth changed from 53% Republican to 49% Republican and 49% Democratic.

Only the last new district – the seventh – had a significant shift from ‘Lean Republican’ to +7% Democratic.

What has six years of politicians hollering at each other accomplished? One major change in one district.

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When Kate McClure ran out of gas on an exit ramp in Philadelphia, Johnny Bobbitt, a homeless man, walked toward her car in the darkness, said, Lock your doors, then walked to a gas station and returned with $20 in gas.

Bobbitt, a paramedic, had moved to Philadelphia for a job but the job fell through. He didn’t have much money and after his savings ran out he spent a year and a half living on the streets. A friend, later, told a reporter he’d also had a drug problem.

The next day McClure found Bobbitt sitting beside the same exit ramp and repaid him. Then set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to help him get off the streets.

It turns out there are two Americas.

One full of politicians, Democrats, Republicans, Washington Politicians and their followers, on both sides, hollering on websites as CNN and Fox News, round the clock, pour gas on the fire.

And another where miracles still happen – where people gave $377,000 to help a homeless Marine veteran who’d spent his last $20 to help a twenty-seven-year-old woman when she ran out of gas.

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Set aside what the Republican tax bill does to people and the economy. Look at how they passed it, why they did it and what it says about who they are.

House and Senate Republicans rushed through massive bills that affect the entire economy – with no hearings, no transparency and none of John McCain’s vaunted “regular order.” They barely know what they passed. They didn’t take time to read it.

Of course, the K Street lobbyists know exactly what the bills do – even if Senators don’t. The lobbyists wrote the bills.

Congressional Republicans cast aside any pretense of bipartisanship. They ignored warnings they may explode the national debt.

They howled in 2008 when President Bush pushed through an economic bailout and in 2010 when President Obama passed Obamacare. We don’t have time to read the bill, they said. We don’t know what it’s in it, they said. The Democrats are doing it without involving us, they said. It will explode the debt, they said.

Now? Never mind.

The Republicans make no bones about why they’re doing it: Their donors demand it. Right or wrong, good or bad. After all, the donors know what’s good for them.

Republicans say “our base” demanded tax cuts. But unemployed coal miners in Appalachia and laid-off factory workers in the Midwest aren’t clamoring for tax cuts. They’d like jobs that paid some money so they could pay taxes.

Congressional Republicans did their donors’ – their owners’ – bidding.

This is, in a word, corruption. Political corruption. And moral bankruptcy.

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Ambling out the door, crossing the lawn to the waiting helicopter, the President stopped as the reporters shouted questions: Did he support Roy Moore? Did he believe Roy Moore’s accusers? Is an accused child molester better than a Democrat?

In a Trumpian flurry he answered, Well, he denies it. Look, he denies it…He totally denies it. He says it didn’t happen and, you know, you have to listen to him also…and I have to say 40 years is a long time. He’s run eight times and this has never come up so 40 years is a long time…I can tell you one thing for sure: We don’t need a liberal person, a Democrat, Jones…

What would you do if you were an Undecided voter in Alabama? You’ve heard the women and you’ve heard Roy Moore. The women seem sincere but you don’t know for a fact Roy Moore is guilty. You can’t be certain. You have doubt. So would you vote for a man you think may have molested young women – or would you decide, I’m not sure if he’s is guilty. But that’s a risk I can’t take. I’m not voting for him.

The next day in Raleigh, after ordering lunch, Sean, who I’ve known for thirty years, said, Did you see Trump? – then talked for twenty minutes straight arguing Trump had proven Roy Moore is innocent. When he paused I asked, What if you knew Roy Moore was guilty – would you still vote for him?

In a minute. To Make America Great Again, Sean shot back.

Isn’t that a sign? I asked.

Of what?

I laid a penny on the table, pointed to the four words circling Lincoln’s head. A sign that you need a little more faith?

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The Republican tax bill should pretty much cinch a big Democratic year in 2018.

The bill does exactly what Americans suspect Republicans want to do: reward their big donors at the expense of everybody else. When you take away a tax break for teachers who pay out of their pockets for school supplies – and let corporations keep the same tax break – well, there aren’t many fatter political targets than that.

How would you like to try to sell this proposition to the American people: “Yes, we gave huge tax cuts to the super-rich and big corporations, but you can count on all that flowing right straight down to you, Mr. and Mrs. America.”


(Tip to Democrats: Stop talking about “the middle class” or “ordinary Americans” or “working families” or whatever other awkward construction you come up with. Talk about – and to – all Americans.)

The tax bill is just one part of the sinking ship the Republicans are building.

First, and always, there’s Trump. The more he tweets, the more deluded, demented and downright dangerous he looks.

Now he thinks a government shutdown would help him.

Then there’s Roy Moore. You almost want him to win so you can see Republicans defend how Trump and Moore treat women. Or girls, in Moore’s case.

Republicans in Congress aren’t done. Having piled on a trillion dollars of new debt, they’ll now try to cut Social Security and Medicare.

It all adds up to a wave election. And one thing is sure in a wave election: The politicians who get swept away never see it coming. They convince themselves they’re in power because of their own moral goodness. They convince themselves they’re immune to defeat. They convince themselves that what has happened again and again throughout history won’t happen again.

Now, Democrats could blow it. But it’ll be hard, even for us. The easiest message in politics is: “Had enough? It’s time for a change.”

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There’re a lot of reasons for blindness: Fear, Innocence and hard whiskey are three. For former UNC Law School Dean Gene Nichol, when he sat down to read exit polls in the Washington Post, I suspect the problem may have been Ideology. He’s Politically Correct – for example, when he was President of William and Mary he removed the cross from the altar in the college chapel.

Last week, after reading the polls, he described how he sees the political landscape in the News and Observer.

The Democrats? The Democratic Party, he noted, is “extraordinarily tepid.” Democrats take their base – “minorities, the young, the poor, immigrants, the LGBT community” – for granted and “act as if they have no idea who elected them.” The heroes are Progressives. Not Democrats.

And Republicans? They’re members of “a calcified white people’s party” whose candidate in Virginia ran for Governor clinging to the vestiges of Nathan Bedford Forest. They’re a coalition of the “old, white, male, evangelical, Confederate and non-college educated” and those demographics spell hard times ahead for Republicans. Their future “is not promising.”

But stop a moment and remember history: Those demographics the former Dean is describing aren’t carved in stone. Crises – like the Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam and 9-11 – change people. Growing older changes people. Marriage changes people. A sixty-five-year-old man with grandchildren is not the same man he was when he was 25.

Sitting in a straight-jacket of Political Correctness, staring at polls, former Dean Nichol missed a simple fact: People change.

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The day after Thanksgiving President Trump tweeted “Time Magazine called to say that I was PROBABLY going to be named ‘Man (Person) of the Year’ like last year…I said probably is no good and took a pass.”

An official at Time tweeted back there wasn’t a ‘speck of truth’ in Trump’s tweet.

And the internet exploded.

And another odd fact surfaced: The Washington Post had published a story, last June, about a photograph hanging on the wall at Mar-a-largo and four other Trump Country Clubs. That photograph showed Trump on the cover of Time magazine on March 1, 2009 – but there was a problem: There was no edition of Time Magazine on March 1. The photograph was a fraud. And Trump didn’t deny it or tweet it was ‘fake news.’

Turning off the computer, I sat back. In an old movie by Frank Capra, two elderly sisters from a hamlet in Vermont, testifying at a trial, told the judge that Gary Cooper was ‘pixelated.’ The judge was about to drop the gavel and send Cooper to the looney-bin when Cooper asked the sisters, Who else is pixelated? And they said, Why everyone, but us.

There’s also a simple way to solve this mystery too: All President Trump needs to do is tweet who, at Time magazine, called him. Or he could produce the phone record. Then we’d know who’s pixelated – Donald Trump or Time magazine.

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Carter & Gary
Carter Wrenn
Gary Pearce
The Charlotte Observer says: “Carter Wrenn and Gary Pearce don’t see eye-to-eye on many issues. But they both love North Carolina and know its politics inside and out.”
Carter is a Republican. 
Gary is a Democrat.
They met in 1984, during the epic U.S. Senate battle between Jesse Helms and Jim Hunt. Carter worked for Helms and Gary, for Hunt.
Years later, they became friends. They even worked together on some nonpolitical clients.
They enjoy talking about politics. So they started this blog in 2005. 
They’re still talking. And they invite you to join the conversation.
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