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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

February 25: Rick Scott’s Extremist Agenda for GOP a Ripe Target for Democrats

Some days you read something that leaps right off the page and sinks an evil fang into your arm. That happened to me with a document released by Florida U.S. Senator Rick Scott, and I wrote about it at New York:

In nearly every midterm election cycle in which U.S. House Republicans are in the minority, you will hear suggestions that the GOP adopt a new “Contract With America,” like the one that (not really, but according to lore and legend) led the party to its first conquest of the House many decades back in 1994. The idea is that everyone knows what Republicans are against, but nobody knows what they are for, since their contributions to the great legislative accomplishments of American history since about 1929 are limited.

This craving for a midterm GOP election agenda is typically strong in the House, partly because of the 1994 mythology and partly because House Republicans are, relatively speaking, pretty well united around a conservative ideology. You usually don’t hear much about this from Republican senators, as they are not quite so uniform ideologically and their long-time leader Mitch McConnell famously thinks obstruction of what Democrats are trying to do works just fine as a party message when the GOP is not in power.

In January, McConnell recommitted himself to election-year nihilism, as Business Insider reported:

“During a press conference on Wednesday, McConnell declined to offer any details about what Republicans would do in the event they recaptured both chambers of Congress in November.

“’That is a very good question,’ he told reporters. ‘And I’ll let you know when we take it back.’”

But now the senator who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Rick Scott of Florida, has released his own suggestion for an agenda, as Politico reports. “As a general rule, you know, probably this year’s election is going to be a lot about the Biden agenda. But I do believe we’re going to win,” Scott said. “We ought to have a plan and what we’re trying to get done when we get the majority.”

Scott’s “11 Point Plan to Rescue America” shows exactly why McConnell doesn’t like such exercises in hypotheticals. It is beyond extremist.

Sure, there is a lot of boilerplate conservative language in the document (the preamble harrumphs that “our government is eroding our work ethic by paying people not to work,” and one of the 11 points promises to end “the soft-on-crime days of coddling criminal behavior”). But there’s a weird “actually, science and scripture agree” tone running through the manifesto, which is quite an innovation. For example, here’s point 9:

“Men are men, women are women, and unborn babies are babies. We believe in science: Men and women are biologically different, ‘male and female He created them.’ Modern technology has confirmed that abortion takes a human life. Facts are facts, the earth is round, the sun is hot, there are two genders, and abortion stops a beating heart. To say otherwise is to deny science.”

Many of Scott’s specific proposals straddle the line between stupid and evil pretty effectively. He wants to impose a 12-year limit on all federal employment (with “exceptions” for national-security purposes). Think about the immense cost and inefficiency of that kind of required turnover in the federal workforce, whose numbers, by the way, would be reduced by 25 percent in five years according to another pledge in the agenda. Guess that would somewhat mitigate the massive cost and disruptions associated with Scott’s demands to “move most Government agencies out of Washington and into the real world” and “sell offall non-essential government assets, buildings, and land.” The IRS would receive an even more draconian 50 percent cut in funding and workforce, which might make it a bit tough to impose the new minimum income tax Scott wants to impose on the majority of Americans who now have no net tax liability.

But here’s the pledge that really takes the cake: “All federal legislation sunsets in 5 years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again.” 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.

I won’t go through the whole document, but you get the idea; whoever drafted this monstrosity must have been told to ask “What Would Trump Do?” on every topic and then ratchet up the right-wing anger and MAGA rhetoric considerably. Instead of just attacking affirmative action, the plan would ban collection of Census information by race or ethnic group. Criticizing excessive “wokeness” isn’t enough; Scott’s agenda promises to ban the use of “tax dollars for any diversity training.” And Trump gets his props in the plan, too: It proposes to “finish building the wall and name it after President Donald Trump.”

No wonder McConnell isn’t interested in a midterm election agenda, if this is what it means. There are undoubtedly multiple 2022 Republican Senate candidates who are trying to appeal to swing voters and would not particularly want to identify themselves with all this howling MAGA ferocity or explain why they want to destroy the federal government and some of its most popular programs.

Perhaps Democrats should disseminate Scott’s agenda themselves, beginning with Florida voters, who may be surprised to learn their junior Senator wants to let Social Security and Medicare lapse if they aren’t reauthorized every five years.

In all seriousness, it’s alarming that someone representing a large and reasonably competitive state would endorse a document that sounds like J.D. Vance wrote it in a panic after reading the latest primary polls in Ohio. Scott swears he’s not at this point running for president, which is a good thing, since his current thinking would be simply disqualifying.

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