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A nation divided under Trump

Something most Americans are not thankful for this week is the state of the country’s political discourse, with 86 percent feeling negative about it in a new poll.
Image: Trump holds a cabinet meeting at the White House
President Donald Trump holds a cabinet at the White House on Nov. 20, 2017 in Washington. President Trump officially designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.Kevin Dietsch / Pool via Getty Images

First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

WASHINGTON — Something most Americans are NOT thankful for on this Thanksgiving week is the state of the country's political discourse, with 86 percent of the public having a negative view of it, according to a new NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll. And 58 percent of Americans who say they celebrate Thanksgiving are dreading talking about politics at their Thanksgiving dinner, the survey also finds. (Pass the potatoes but not the politics…)

So how divided is this nation? Just listen to the voices from our recent NBC/WSJ “Trump Counties” poll, which interviewed Americans from the counties that fueled President Trump’s victory a year ago. Thirty-two percent of respondents in this poll said the country was better off since Trump became president, and here’s a sampling of what these people told our pollsters:

  • "Our economy is better and our stock market is way up. He speaks his mind." — A white Republican man from Ohio.
  • "I think that Barack Obama led from behind. His policies were far to the left. He stirred up racial division. I think that Donald Trump has tackled many issues. He's done away with over 800 regulations. He's tackled some of the hard issues. Immigration, tax reform. Barack Obama divided the country racially and economically." — Another white Republican man from Ohio.
  • "I believe the stock market is the highest it's been in decades, less illegal aliens coming across the border. The unemployment is low." — A white Republican woman from Florida.
  • "Because we have a leader that is on our side and not against America. That covers a lot. That's it. He is for the good of the people of America. He is putting America first. I haven't seen it yet. I don't know. I don't know. It all works together. I trust him and think he is doing a good job. He is putting America first and I can feel it. He is not like the last president we had." — A white Republican woman from Michigan.
  • "I do not care for immigrants. They should go back to their own country and get approved before they come in." — A white Republican man from Indiana.
  • '"I feel like there is more of an emphasis on a Christian world view by our president. It's being anti-abortion, or I guess you could say pro-life" — Another white Republican man from Indiana.

By contrast, 41 percent of the respondents in these “Trump Counties” said they were worse off since Trump became president. A sampling of their voices:

  • "I think we are at risk of war. That is the main thing. Racial issues. There is a lot of fighting, a lot of disagreements. Not being tolerant of blacks." — A white Republican woman from Ohio.
  • “I’ll say for sure racial tensions have gotten worse.” — An African-American Democratic woman from Pennsylvania.
  • “He has a difficulty with the truth; he only cares about himself.” — A white Democratic man from Florida.
  • “We’re more separated, and there is more hate.” — A white Democratic woman from Wisconsin.
  • “Two reasons. One, that his demeanor encourages hatefulness in our country. He just tweets too much and his tweets causes problems. We could go on with that one. Two, I think we are worse off because we have so many problems and Congress will not work together." — A white independent woman from Florida.
  • "I just feel like since he has come into the presidency our country has become, everyone is so much more negative. Anyone can just say whatever on Twitter. There is no dignity left in the office." — A white independent woman from Indiana.

The divide is stark: Trump supporters cite the stock market, Obama, and Christian values, while his opponents talk about racial animosity, the tweets and the risk of war.

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Alabama election official expects lower turnout

“The state's top election official Monday said he is lowering his prediction for turnout in Alabama's December 12 special election, a potential measure of how sexual misconduct allegations have roiled the Senate race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones,” NBC’s Mike Memoli writes.

“In an interview with NBC News, Secretary of State John Merrill also said his office has just sent local election officials more detailed guidance for processing write-in votes, a result he said of a higher volume of inquiries than his office normally receives from voters across the state.”

While it’s impossible to predict what will happen in the Moore-vs.-Jones race – it’s an election in December, in Alabama and with the Republican nominee facing terrible accusations – it’s fair to say that a lower turnout and more write-in votes probably help Jones.

Buzzfeed: Democratic congressman settled with former employee who said she was fired after rejecting sexual advances

Meanwhile, Buzzfeed broke this story last night: “Michigan Rep. John Conyers, a Democrat and the longest-serving member of the House of Representatives, settled a wrongful dismissal complaint in 2015 with a former employee who alleged she was fired because she would not ‘succumb to [his] sexual advances.’”

More: “Documents from the complaint obtained by BuzzFeed News include four signed affidavits, three of which are notarized, from former staff members who allege that Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the powerful House Judiciary Committee, repeatedly made sexual advances to female staff that included requests for sexual favors, contacting and transporting other women with whom they believed Conyers was having affairs, caressing their hands sexually, and rubbing their legs and backs in public. Four people involved with the case verified the documents are authentic.”

Study: Half of Americans would see their taxes go up by 2027 under Senate GOP tax plan

The problem with the Senate GOP tax proposal making corporate tax cuts permanent but individual ones temporary: Studies like the Tax Policy Center’s will show A LOT of Americans getting a tax INCREASE.

The findings:

  • “In 2027, the overall tax reduction would be just 0.3 percent of after-tax income. On average, relative to current law, low-income taxpayers would experience a modest tax increase; middle-income taxpayers would see little change; and taxpayers in the top 1 percent would receive an average tax cut of 1.4 percent of after-tax income.”
  • “Some taxpayers would pay more in taxes under the proposal in 2019 and 2025—about 9 percent of taxpayers in 2019 and 12 percent in 2025. In 2027, however, taxes would increase for 50 percent of taxpayers.”

Now Republicans argue that future Congresses will extend the temporary tax cuts – that not extending them would be political suicide. But in this era of political dysfunction, are there any guarantees?

GOP senator makes the case for changing corporate taxes

GOP Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., writing for NBC’s “Think”: “I led two Fortune 500 companies. One of them, Dollar General, today pays an effective tax rate of 37 percent. The other, Reebok, pays an effective rate of 19 percent. This is not because of loopholes exploited by these businesses. It is an amalgamation of 100 years of Washington toying with the tax code… Because of Congress’s failure to continually update the code to keep up with the changes in the global economy, American consumers, companies and workers are being significantly disadvantaged.”

Perdue adds, “At the same time, our international tax structure is jeopardizing domestic growth and crushing corporations’ ability to be globally competitive. We have one of the highest corporate tax rates in the developed world and we still have a tax on repatriated earnings. Essentially, that is a double tax that has locked more than $2.6 trillion in U.S. profits overseas. Personally, this tax on repatriated earnings prevented me from investing where I wanted to — here in America.”

Happy Thanksgiving

This is our final First Read of the week. Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving, and we’ll return bright and early Monday morning.