Commentary: A trap of their own making

By John Krull 

INDIANAPOLIS – It almost seems as if Republicans across the country are determined to seize defeat from the jaws of victory.

What other way is there to explain some of the positions they’ve staked out?

John Krull, publisher,

The ongoing train wreck that is Judge Roy Moore’s U.S. Senate candidacy in Alabama puts his fellow Republicans in the ultimate no-win situation.

If, in the wake of the multiplying accusations – new ones seem to surface almost daily – that Moore pursued teenage and, occasionally, underage girls when he was a man in his 30s, Republicans lose what should have been a reliably safe seat, then their already shaky majority in the Senate will be further weakened.

But, if Moore wins and takes a seat in the nation’s great deliberative lawmaking body, then GOP candidates in next year’s congressional and state races can expect to be hit with campaign ads proclaiming them as representatives of the party that embraces groin-grabbers and child molesters.

That’s hardly a victory for Republicans.

If, though, Senate Republicans vote to expel a victorious Moore – as some have said they would – they risk alienating a significant part of the GOP base. The folks they chase away aren’t likely to vote for Democrats, but they could decide just to stay home.

Bad as this dilemma is for Republicans, it could get worse.

So far, no news organization has reported in depth on Moore’s case load when he was a district attorney.

If some newspaper or news station finds that Moore prosecuted, say, a 17-year-old boy on statutory rape charges for having sex with his 15-year-old girlfriend, this story could explode even bigger.

And make the stakes even higher in this no-win dilemma for the GOP.

While the Moore debacle continues to unfold, Republicans also are attempting to ram through their version of tax reform.

Once again, they have put themselves in a no-win situation.

If they somehow round up the votes to pass one version or the other of the measures proposed in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, Republicans will increase the tax burden on all Americans making less than $75,000 per year – that’s 70 percent of U.S. households – while decreasing it on the wealthiest Americans.

Many of those who will be hammered by this “reform,” of course, voted GOP because Republicans promised them a tax cut.

Not a tax increase.

To make matters worse, Republicans also want to take up, once again, their failed campaign to repeal at least part of the Affordable Care Act as part of this tax package.

If they succeed, they will strip between 13 million and 14 million Americans of their healthcare coverage.

Once again, a lot of those folks voted Republican because GOP candidates promised them they would get better healthcare coverage at a lower cost.

Not no healthcare coverage with a higher tax bill.

So, if they succeed with this tax bill, they will enrage many of the people who voted for them – hardly a recipe for electoral success.

If they fail to pass a tax reform package, Republicans will be the gang who couldn’t shoot straight.

Yet again.

And they’ll anger their donor base – those wealthy, wealthy, uber-wealthy Americans who crave that tax cut so they can afford a desperately needed 12th Mercedes or third yacht and who fund Republican campaigns with both hard and soft money.

The worst thing is that smart Republicans know they really can’t blame Democrats or anyone else for these messes.

Democrats don’t have the votes to do anything in either the House or the Senate. They also don’t have the votes to stop anything, so long as all Republicans agree on a plan.

The problem is that Republicans can’t agree on anything, it seems.

So, they have pushed themselves into one corner after another, crafting plans or embracing candidates who can do nothing but hurt them and the GOP brand.

This should be a time of triumph for conservatives.

They control the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court and most state governments.

But because they built their coalition on overlapping resentments rather than shared principles, they have no way to translate power into policy.

As they reach for victory, they grasp defeat instead.

John Krull is director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism, host of “No Limits” WFYI 90.1 Indianapolis and publisher of, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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