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Rick Scott's loony GOP policy blueprint
You can see why Mitch McConnell doesn't think it's a great idea to talk about this stuff.
President Biden has repeatedly criticized Republicans for not really standing for anything. And to be honest, he has a point. The Republican Party literally didn’t have a platform in 2020 beyond Trump’s whims. Senate Republicans don’t have a legislative agenda to run on this year, and it’s unclear whether House Republicans will get around to developing one either.
“That’s a very good question,” Mitch McConnell said last month in response to a reporter’s question about what Republicans plan to do if they retake power. "And I'll let you know when we take it back."
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Into this void steps Sen. Rick Scott, former governor of Florida and the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Scott, who’s up for reelection in 2024, just released “An 11 Point Plan to Rescue America” that he hopes will serve as a Contract with America-like blueprint for Republican candidates in 2022.
But once you read the thing, you can begin to understand why Mitch McConnell thinks Republicans are better off just talking about Biden. As Ed Kilgore eloquently put it In New York Magazine, it’s “batshit crazy.”
Let’s unpack it.
The first agenda items are indoctrination and whitewashing
Scott’s 11-point plan begins with a vow to wage the culture war in classrooms by teaching kids that “America is a great country.” He pledges that “public schools [will] focus on the 3 R’s, not indoctrinate children with critical race theory or any other political ideology.”
What this overlooks, of course, is that racism was part of the US constitution, and that centuries of structural racism have resulted in Black and Hispanic families having less wealth, less education, and lower life expectancy than white ones.
But Scott has a plan for that. No, it doesn’t involve actually tackling complex issues of race and inequality. Instead, the second bullet point of his plan is to just pretend that racism doesn’t exist.
“Government will never again ask American citizens to disclose their race, ethnicity, or skin color on any government forms,” it says. “We are going to eliminate racial politics in America.”
Scott goes on to cite the only MLK quote Republicans know.
In short, the document suggests that the solution to racism is for white people to just ignore it, as if we haven’t spent the past 400 years doing just that.
And here’s the thing — Scott’s position isn’t popular. Polling shows Americans broadly think racism remains a big problem and believe public schools should spent more time teaching about Black history.
So far, however, this is just standard Republican fare. The craziness comes later.
Naming the fake border wall after Trump
Since no Republican who hopes to stay in office could write a document like this these days and not pay homage to Trump, Scott does that in spades. In fact, he proposes naming the border wall after the former guy.
“We will secure our border, finish building the wall, and name it after President Donald Trump,” the fourth bullet point of his plan reads.
While Scott and Trump want people to believe that the wall was just weeks away from completion when Trump begrudgingly departed the White House, in fact only 80 miles of new border barrier were constructed during his time in office. There’s hundreds of miles left to go in Texas alone, and erecting physical barriers along all of it is unlikely to happen for a variety of reasons. But, as always, Republican talk about the wall is more about symbolizing the party’s intolerance than anything else.
“President Trump’s plan to build a wall was right,” Scott proclaims. Some of us are old enough to remember that a key part of that plan was to force Mexico to pay for it.
Without a shred of irony
The document’s most egregious attempt to invert reality comes in the section about election security, where Scott proclaims that “we will protect the integrity of American Democracy and stop left-wing efforts to rig elections.”
Republicans are the party that tried to overthrow the last presidential election based on lies about fraud. They’ve since cited those same lies to pass state-level voting restriction laws aimed at tipping the scales in their favor in future elections. And Scott, who was one of eight Republican senators to vote on January 6 to overturn Trump’s loss, has been as active in these efforts as anyone.
The document’s election integrity plank is a case study in projection, with the claims he makes about Democrats actually speaking more to the degraded state of his own party. It reads:
Today’s Democrat Party is trying to rig elections and pack the courts because they have given up on Democracy. They don’t believe they can win based on their ideas, so they want to game the system and legalize voter fraud to stay in power. In true Orwellian fashion, Democrats refer to their election rigging plan as “voting rights.” We won’t allow the radical left to destroy our democracy by institutionalizing dishonesty and fraud.
But the irony of claiming Democrats “don’t believe they can win based on their ideas” in a document that only exists because Republicans refuse to talk about ideas beyond owning the current president is, unsurprisingly, unacknowledged by Scott. The shamelessness is the point.
The attack ads write themselves
Republicans are purportedly the party of low taxes, but ironically, one of the concrete policy proposals in Scott’s platform would involve a tax increase for the roughly 61 percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes.
“All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount,” it reads. “Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax.”
As Judd Legum suggested on Twitter, considering how unpopular tax increases on the poor are, this part of Scott’s platform could end up in Democratic attack ads this campaign season.
Scott also pledges that Republicans will “re-fund” the police, ignoring that every Republican opposed Biden’s American Recovery Act, which provides $350 billion to localities that can be used to beef up police departments.
Deconstructing the federal government and total culture war
There’s lot of wild stuff in Scott’s agenda. It would cut IRS funding and staffing by 50 percent, sell off all “non-essential government assets” to pay down debt, and move “many” government agencies out of Washington, if not abolish them altogether. It would “prohibit debt ceiling increases absent a declaration of war,” which would make it likely the economy would tailspin when the government proved unable to meet its financial obligations.
But perhaps the most radical idea in the document is a provision that says “all federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.”
Kilgore explains the implications of this in his New York Magazine piece thusly:
Presumably this would include the Social Security Act, the Medicare law, the Civil Rights Act, the Americans With Disabilities Act, and the immigration and criminal laws Scott is so determined to enforce with the maximum degree of viciousness. Any candidate running on that plank would be tarred and feathered.
That’s not all. In addition to the unusual GOP culture war grist (“there are two genders”), Scott floats another unpopular policy — a total federal ban on abortion.
You can begin to see why Mitch McConnell thinks exercises of this sort are a bad idea.
A gift to Democrats
It’s not that Republicans don’t stand for anything. It’s that they stand for things that are unpopular and divisive, and it’s therefore in their interests to talk about anything else. Mitch McConnell understands this. Rick Scott? Not so much.
Midterm elections are generally referendums on presidents anyway. And, frankly, it’s not like this has been a shining year for Democrats. Yes, the economy is in much better shape than it was a year ago, and the Biden administration did a great job distributing vaccines and making them available to everyone. But a combination of inflation, Covid’s resurgence, and international turmoil will make it challenging for Democrats to retain control of both chambers of Congress, barring major positive developments over the next eight months.
In that sense, Scott’s document is a bit of an own goal. It will make it easier for Democrats to highlight the looniness underpinning vague Republican talk of “parents’ rights” and “small government.” Indeed, both the White House and Nancy Pelosi wasted little time getting out messaging about the platform, with Jen Psaki noting that Scott’s economic plan “doesn’t include a single proposal to lower prices for the middle class” but would “raise taxes on half of Americans,” and Pelosi highlighting that he’s “doubling down on the long-standing GOP ambition of making seniors and families already struggling to make ends meet pay higher taxes.”
“Hopefully, by doing this, we’ll have more of a conversation about what Republicans are going to get done,” Scott told Politico. Democrats are happy to oblige.
As if to illustrate the point, Scott went on Hannity Tuesday evening and was immediately forced to lie when he was asked a softball question about criticism that his plan would raise taxes on a majority of American families.
“Did you have that in your plan?” Hannity asked.
“Of course not,” Scott said.
But here’s the proof that it’s in there, straight from Scott’s plan.
The moral of the story is that if you’re a MAGA Republican and Hannity, of all people, is poking holes in your arguments, you’re making some bad arguments.
Correction: An earlier version of this article was mistaken about when Scott is up for reelection.