News & Politics

Paul Krugman: Republicans' Poisonous Policies Are Finally Catching Up with Them

The Times columnist assesses Conor Lamb's triumph in the heart of Trump country.

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The news isn't all promising for Democrats. Republicans control all three branches of government, and thanks to congressional gerrymandering, they stand to maintain their majorities in the House and Senate this November, barring a blue tsunami. Still, Conor Lamb's triumph in a district Donald Trump won by nearly 20 points in 2016 cannot easily be dismissed. For Paul Krugman, it's an indication Americans are finally wising up not only to the corruption of this administration, but to the destructive policies of the GOP.

In his Thursday column, the award-winning economist pleads his case that the true Republican agenda, from Reagan to Trump, has always been widely disfavored by the public. Only a tiny handful of people actually support redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top, so the party has had to sell its policies through a series of increasingly elaborate bait-and-switches.

"The thing is, voters seem to have realized this," Krugman writes. "Republican groups pretty much stopped running ads about [their] tax cuts weeks before the [Pennsylvania] election, apparently concluding that they weren’t gaining much traction. And election night polling suggests that health care—specifically, opposition to G.O.P. efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act—was a key issue in PA-18."

When these tricks fail, the GOP falls back on its most tried-and-trusted tactic: naked racial antagonism. In both the Virginia gubernatorial and Pennsylvania House elections, the Republican candidates made thinly veiled appeals to their white base. (Ed Gillespie ran a deranged ad about the dangers of the MS-13 gang, while Rick Saccone suggested Democrats hate both God and country.) Both lost elections they might have won just a year ago, perhaps comfortably in the case of Saccone.

"The upset in Pennsylvania wasn’t just a harbinger of likely Democratic gains to come," Krugman continues. "It also showed the bankruptcy of all the political strategies Republicans have used to distract voters from an unpopular agenda."

While he acknowledges he's buoyed by the latest election results, Krugman ends his column on a note of caution.

"History says that Republicans won’t change course, because they never do," he closes. "They’ll just look for bigger distractions. And with everyone who showed even an occasional sense of responsibility leaving the Trump administration, you have to wonder what comes next. In particular, regimes in trouble—like, say, the Argentine junta in the 1980s—often try to rally the public with dangerous foreign policy adventurism. Are you sure that Trump won’t go that route? Really sure?"

Read Paul Krugman's column at the New York Times.

Jacob Sugarman is a managing editor at AlterNet.