The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Rick Scott just laid out a Republican agenda. He has done his party no favors.

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) waits to speak to reporters after a lunch meeting with Senate Republicans on Capitol Hill on Feb. 8. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) might be ruthless, cynical and power-hungry, but he is not dumb. There is a reason he declared late last year that the GOP would not put out an agenda for the midterms. When most voters learn what the party stands for (e.g., curtailing education on race, rolling back environmental laws, criminalizing abortion), they don’t like it.

Well, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, had other plans. He put out his own agenda on Tuesday — and it’s a doozy.

Let’s start with what is not in there: any proposal to bring down inflation (which Republicans have been hollering about for months); to increase wages or reduce income inequality; to prepare workers for the 21st-century economy; to provide relief from tariffs (which are essentially taxes); and to increase school performance on basic subjects.

What it does include is embarrassing. Start with this: “We will secure our border, finish building the wall, and name it after President Donald Trump.” Republicans had their chance to do this when the defeated former president was still in office and failed. Moreover, such a project would be so expensive that it has lost support in deep-red Texas. It’s also irrelevant to real border protection — so much so that it has become a punchline.

Rick Scott reveals the GOP’s election strategy: All culture war, all the time

Scott’s agenda also includes draconian cuts to government that Republicans did not even favor when they were in the majority. The proposed 25 percent cut in the federal workforce will not be popular with anyone who visits national parks, relies on federal law enforcement, has an issue with Social Security, needs a tax refund or thinks we need a strong national defense.

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Some items serve solely as an attack on minority groups. Consider this slam on transgender Americans: “Men are men, women are women, and unborn babies are babies. We believe in science.” This has nothing to do with any conceivable federal policy. It’s pure culture wars fodder for right-wing media.

Then there are the massive tax hikes: “All Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount. Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax.” That would affect tens of millions of Americans, including many working-class Americans and seniors. Interestingly, many corporations pay no federal income taxes, but the plan is silent on that. It might be the most regressive tax plan Republicans have ever come up with.

Some proposals are insincere, such as term limits for members of Congress (don’t keep running for office!). Others are pure racial demagoguery, such as the proposed ban on critical race theory in schools, over which the federal government has no authority. There’s also this statement: “Americans will not be required to go against their core values and beliefs in order to conform to culture or government.” What if one’s core belief is to discriminate against workers or refuse to pay taxes?

Some items are so deeply dishonest that they give away the game. The document accuses the left of rigging elections and deplores the term “voting rights,” which speaks volumes about how Republicans view their own voter-suppression tactics and schemes to subvert election results. This is the classic propaganda tactic: Accuse others of your own offenses.

Taken as a whole, the agenda reveals that the GOP is not a political party with ideas to improve the lives of Americans. It’s a frightful expression of White grievance and contempt for the intelligence of voters. And it confirms what we have long suspected: Republicans don’t lack an agenda; they’re just shy about revealing how unpopular it is. Democrats should publicize Scott’s blueprint far and wide.