Republicans have made clear for years that they lack constructive ideas to respond to Americans’ real-world concerns. In lieu of rational responses to rising health-care costs or falling K-12 test scores or income inequality, they rant about Confederate flags and the New York Times’s 1619 Project. Instead of addressing economic challenges, they recycle 40-year-old Reaganomics. Most frequently, they scream “Socialism!” and expect voters to recoil in horror.

Nikki Haley, former ambassador to the United Nations and former South Carolina governor, once had a reputation for sane conservative views. She removed the Confederate flag from the state capitol’s grounds and even denounced then-candidate Donald Trump’s proposed Muslim ban. As U.N. ambassador, she managed to condemn war crimes committed by Syria and Russia despite her boss’s bowing and scraping before Russian President Vladimir Putin. She actually scolded Trump for his moral equivalence regarding the neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville.

Now, she is reduced to hollering about socialism. Perhaps with an eye on 2024, she figures nonsensical accusations are the way to gain favor in her intellectually vacant party. “The rise of socialism has been a long time coming. Four years ago, the Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders (I-VT) nearly became the left’s presidential candidate,” she declares on her PAC’s website. “Fast forward to 2020 and he almost did it again, while socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) are exerting tremendous pressure on leftist language and policy.” She is aware that Sanders lost both times, that President-elect Joe Biden rejected Medicare-for-all and that “leftist language and policy” are not evident in any of Biden’s appointments or rhetoric, right?

Haley willfully misstates the Biden agenda. As she writes: “The Democrat Party now demands a government health plan that would destroy private health care, an energy plan like the ‘Green New Deal’ that would use the power of government to remake virtually the entire economy, greater government power over job creators and workers through heavy-handed mandates, and massive tax hikes that would bring the economy to a crawl.” None of this bears any resemblance to reality, but that is par for the course now for Republicans.

Oddly, she decries that if “the past year has taught us anything, it’s that when government dictates how the economy is run, Americans suffer in extraordinary ways.” Haley, it seems, objects to lockdowns that saved lives. And socialism apparently does not extend to giving out $2,000 checks to Americans or extending loans to airlines, as Trump has advocated.

The mindless denunciation of policies Democrats are not pursuing, appealing to White grievance, reiterating delusions of Christian persecution and uttering empty platitudes about capitalism are what pass for Republican “ideas” these days. And remember, Haley is one of the smarter and saner Republicans. She simply lacks the intellectual integrity, creativity and courage to talk to voters like adults. It is so much easier to toss around inane buzzwords than to offer pragmatic policy ideas.

Republican 2024 aspirants think that appeals to White Christian victimology and cartoonish portraits of Democrats are the way to win over the MAGA crowd. Alas, I doubt that crowd is interested in a less inflammatory version of the message they have imbibed for four years, especially coming from slick politicians such as Haley. She might consider coming up with an actual agenda that improves the lives of the people to whom she is pandering. That would be novel in today’s GOP.

Watch the latest Opinions video:

The U.S. is more politically polarized than ever. The Post’s Kate Woodsome asks experts what drives political sectarianism — and what we can do about it. (The Washington Post)

Read more: