The Ripon Forum

Volume 54, No. 1

February 2020

In this edition

By on February 19, 2020

Change the subject.

That is what every Republican and probably a good number of Democrats want to do following the President’s impeachment trial last month.

And if you are a Republican – and particularly if you are a Republican running for election or re-election this year – there is no better subject to turn to than America’s economic rebound.

As American Action Forum President Douglas Holtz-Eakin writes in the lead essay for this latest edition of The Ripon Forum, this rebound was not a preordained outcome.  Rather, it is the result of a specific economic strategy that Republicans have followed over the past three years.

This strategy included passing legislation such the American Health Care Act, which reformed two major entitlement programs, and the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which reformed the tax code for the first time in over 30 years.  This strategy also included scaling back the number of new federal regulations approved and put in place.  “The difference between the implicit taxes levied in the Obama era (2016) and the Trump era (2017-2019) is like night and day,” Holtz-Eakin writes, referring to the economic impact of this regulatory rollback.  “It was an immediate and upfront push for the economy.”

It was also a push that was felt in cities and towns throughout the United States.  Many of these cities and towns are located in counties that voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, and then flipped their support to Donald Trump four years later.  These “Obama-Trump” counties were pivotal to the 2016 general election.  Twice over the past three years, The Ripon Forum has shined a spotlight on five of these counties, having local political experts share their thoughts on the political climate in each county and how area residents view the changes that were taking place in Washington, DC. In this latest edition, we return to these experts one more time and ask for their thoughts not only on the local political and economic environment, but how this environment will shape the general election later this year.

To the extent that the Republican Party’s ability to reach beyond its traditional base will impact its electoral prospects this fall, this edition of the Forum also features an op-ed from Congresswoman Susan Brooks, who is heading up the House GOP’s efforts to recruit candidates this year.  The Indiana lawmaker has focused much of her attention on persuading more Republican women to enter the race.  Her efforts are paying off.  “A record 200 women have filed to run for the House this cycle, which demolishes the previous record,” Brooks writes.  “Now, more than ever before, Republican women are stepping up and saying, ‘I’m in.’”

As the election draws near, voters will probably see at least a few stories about the growing influence of outside interest groups and the waning influence of America’s two political parties.  Veteran political observer Michael Barone is out with a book dispelling these reports.  He argues that while issues may change and the electoral map may evolve, the Republican and Democratic Parties are not going anywhere and are in fact more relevant than ever.   In this edition of the Forum, we ask Barone about his book and his thoughts on the role of both parties this election cycle.

With Britain voting to formally leave the European Union, writer Fred Bauer shares his thoughts on the lessons of Brexit and possible parallels that may exist in the United States.  And in our latest Ripon Profile, New York Congressman John Katko shares his thoughts on some of the challenges facing his district that he is working to address and some of his accomplishments over the past five years.

As always, we hope you enjoy this latest edition of The Ripon Forum, appreciate your readership, and welcome any thoughts or comments you may have.

Lou Zickar
Editor of The Ripon Forum

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