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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

March 4: Rick Scott’s Extremist “Plan” for Republican Rule an Opportunity for Democrats

I’ve been following the antics of Florida Senator Rick Scott lately. This is my latest report at New York:

What does Florida senator Rick Scott want? Does he want to impress Donald Trump by displacing Mitch McConnell as Senate Republican leader? (He says he’s not interested in challenging McConnell, though he acknowledges that Trump personally asked him to do just that.) Maybe he’s positioning himself to run for president if Trump sits out the 2024 campaign? I surely don’t know. But something’s up. Scott has promulgated an “11-point plan” for what he thinks Republicans should do if they win back Congress this November. And now that McConnell has publicly rejected it, Scott has taken to the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal to boast of his courage in an op-ed.

Scott claims the “plan” contains 128 “ideas,” which may be accurate if you consider owning the libs and cutting culture-war capers “ideas.” The “plan” is innovative insofar as it marries the very latest in apocalyptic hate-filled MAGA rhetoric with fiscal and social positions from the museum of conservative ideology circa 1964. But if emblazoned on Republican banners going into the midterms, Scott’s “ideas” would ensure an otherwise unlikely Democratic midterms victory (perhaps coincidentally, or perhaps not, the Floridian is not up for reelection this year). Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell knows that, which is why he dismissed Scott’s handiwork contemptuously last week.

“If we’re fortunate enough to have the majority next year, I’ll be the majority leader. I’ll decide in consultation with my members what to put on the floor,” McConnell told reporters. “Let me tell you what will not be on our agenda. We will not have as part of our agenda a bill that raises taxes on half the American people and sunsets Social Security and Medicare within five years. That will not be part of the Republican Senate majority agenda.”

McConnell was referring to just two of the more politically disastrous “ideas” Scott was advancing: sunsetting all federal laws every five years, and requiring federal income-tax payments from those whose tax liability has been eliminated by tax credits. He didn’t bother to mention some of the other howlers Scott endorsed, a few of which I described when the plan came out:

“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.'” 

Without specifically referring to McConnell’s criticism, Scott took to the conservative ideological bulletin board of the Wall Street Journal editorial pages on Friday to simultaneously boast and whine that he had angered the Swamp People of Washington.

“In the real world beyond the Beltway, Republicans and independents demand bold action and a plan to save our nation,” Scott wrote. “They see no point in taking control of Congress if we are simply going to return to business as usual.”

Actually, in the real world beyond the Beltway, Scott’s “bold action and a plan” would lay waste to Republican campaigns as far as the eye can see. But he’s too busy posturing as a lonely patriot speaking truth to power to consider that. He continued:

“The militant left has seized control of the federal government, the news media, big tech, academia, Hollywood, the Democratic Party, most corporate boardrooms and even some of our top military leaders. The elites atop our nation’s institutions are working hard to redefine America and silence their opponents. They want to end the American experiment and replace it with a woke socialist utopia, and we are sitting around watching it happen.”

If conservatives are “sitting around watching it happen,” why can’t you go a millisecond without hearing the same tired litany about the all-powerful Woke Police and the March to Socialism from a thousand voices? The truth is that the more popular of Scott’s “ideas” have been repeatedly and redundantly and incessantly advanced by demagogues for eons, particularly such tired chestnuts as congressional term limits, a balanced budget amendment, and the refusal to honor the national debt, all of which he mentioned in his op-ed before backpedaling to a defense of his tax-increase proposals with the bait-and-switch tactic of pretending he’s only concerned about President Biden “paying people to not work.” (Though as the Tax Policy Center noted in 2019: “Nearly half of those paying no federal income tax are retirees living on Social Security benefits. Many others worked but made too little to pay federal income tax. Nonetheless, they still paid sales taxes, payroll taxes, and perhaps state income taxes.”)

There’s something especially unsavory about Scott posing as the working man’s only friend in Washington and as a tight-fisted steward of the public treasury. This is a guy whose entire political career has been bankrolled by the golden parachute he was given by Columbia-HCA to go away after the health-care company he led as CEO was hit with a $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud.

The most accurate line in Scott’s op-ed is this: “There will be many more attacks on me and this plan from careerists in Washington, who personally profit while ruining this country.” If he keeps it up, his critics will include delighted Democrats who would love to depict Scott’s toxic manifesto as party orthodoxy, and “careerist” Republicans who would like their careers to last beyond this November.

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