The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Republicans are embarrassed to tell us what they are for

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) speaks during a news conference after a Senate Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill on Jan. 19. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

President Biden at his news conference last week asked the question that the media should have been asking Republicans for months: “What are they for?”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) won’t say. Asked last week what was in Republicans’ agenda if they regain control of Congress, McConnell told reporters: “That is a very good question. And I’ll let you know when we take it back.”

Consider the arrogance and disdain for voters inherent in that answer. Responsiveness to the voters? Solutions to the problems they complain about, such as inflation? Only suckers would care about such things, Republicans seem to believe. They prefer to spend their time concocting cultural wedge issues, spreading conspiracy theories and obstructing progress on issues for which there is broad, bipartisan consensus (e.g., a path to citizenship, reasonable gun laws).

But it would be misleading to say Republicans are not for anything; they certainly do have an agenda. The problem is that it is so unpopular they dare not remind voters about their plans.

For years, Joe Biden said Republicans would be willing to negotiate with Democrats. Now, President Biden says Republicans are obstructing his agenda. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

Republicans have clear views on taxes. They want to protect the super-rich from paying more taxes, even though billionaires became 62 percent richer during the pandemic and many pay practically no federal income taxes. And Republicans really don’t want corporations to pay their fair share either. They favor keeping the corporate tax rate at 21 percent, even though corporate income taxes make up a mere 7 percent of federal revenue. (The Tax Policy Center reports: “Revenue from [corporate taxes] has fallen from an average of 3.7 percent of GDP in the late 1960s to an average of just 1.4 percent of GDP over the past five years, and 1.1 percent of GDP most recently in 2019.”)

Republicans are also for underfunding the Internal Revenue Service so that the agency does not have adequate resources to enforce existing tax laws. And they would like to do away with the child tax credit that cut child poverty by 40 percent. It is not a stretch to say Republicans actively promote income and wealth inequality.

Republicans are in favor of forcing women to continue pregnancies and giving birth, even in cases of rape and incest. They also delight in incentivizing Americans to spy on pregnant women whose reproductive choices don’t match the party’s religious doctrine and to turn them in for bounties. Meanwhile, they strenuously favor protecting anyone who refuses to be vaccinated or wear a mask. In other words, Republicans favor “personal choice” when it comes to preventing the spread of a deadly disease, but not when it comes to a woman’s body.

Republicans are all in when it comes to keeping in place monuments to the slave-owning traitors of the Confederacy; removing anything from school curriculum that might make White people feel uncomfortable, including Martin Luther King Jr. and the KKK; and stopping the FBI from investigating death threats against school board members and other public officials. No wonder white supremacists are so enamored with the GOP these days.

Republicans are also the best friends of climate change. Why else would they oppose the Paris accords, new subsidies for green energy, measures to phase out of coal and higher car mileage standards? They are, however, all for emergency aid when extreme weather strikes — but only for their own states.

And now we know Republicans are devoted to making voting harder and giving Republican lawmakers the ability to elbow out nonpartisan election officials so they can control vote-counting. They are definitely for respecting election outcomes — only when they win.

You don’t have to be a mind reader to figure out why McConnell wants to conceal Republicans’ agenda for as long as possible. What’s not to like?