Mitch McConnell knows how to win the midterm: Oppose everything Joe Biden does, blame him for anything that goes wrong, but never lay out an agenda that turns the election into a choice rather than a referendum.
Last week, however, Sen. Rick Scott — a billionaire Medicare scammer who scammed Floridians into narrowly electing him governor twice and senator once, and who is in charge of electing Republicans to the Senate — threw a wrench into the machine with his "11 Point Plan to Rescue America," a manifesto that mixes Newt Gingrich's kick-the-poor '90s with Trumpian authoritarianism, white Christian nationalism, overt attacks on voting rights, economic and constitutional illiteracy, and a Mack truck full of gaslighting.
The 11 points speak for themselves:
• Turn schools into patriotism factories where kids are forced to say the Pledge of Allegiance (unconstitutional) and teachers can get fired for making white children uncomfortable (i.e., "critical race theory"). Then again, none of that will matter after they close the Department of Education and implement a voucher program that ghettoizes public schools and routes billions of tax dollars to unregulated religious institutions.
• End diversity training "or any woke ideological indoctrination" in the military — "woke" is Scott's new favorite word — cut off funding for universities that try to diversify their student bodies, and proclaim as a point of fact that the nation is colorblind (as if the last 400 years never happened).
• Impose more draconian sentences for violent and nonviolent crime and expand qualified immunity so that cops can even more easily abuse their authority with impunity. Blue lives matter, etc.
• "We will secure our border, finish building the wall, and name it after President Donald Trump."
• Give the president a line-item veto (not only unconstitutional, but it would render Congress irrelevant), prohibit debt ceiling increases (calamitous), tax poor and retired people (everyone should have "skin in the game"), and whatever "socialism will be treated as a foreign combatant" means.
• Enact term limits for members of Congress and civil servants (unconstitutional and will empower lobbyists), move government agencies out of Washington and "into the real world" (expensive), and cut IRS funding in half (presumably so Scott's pals can get away with tax fraud).
• Ban same-day and automatic voter registration (because fraud, or whatever), unmanned collection boxes, and public campaign financing ("No serious person would ever favor this," says the billionaire), and don't count absentee ballots that arrive after Election Day. But voter ID will be mandatory, of course.
• Ban abortion, ban porn, give tax breaks to "nuclear families," and allow faith-based groups to discriminate against whoever they want.
• God says trans people aren't real, so doctors should be banned from treating trans children and trans men should be banned from women's sports — which the party that just a few years ago ridiculed Title IX now finds sacred. (Strange, that.) Also, "no government forms will include questions about 'gender identity' or 'sexual preference.'"
• Ban Facebook and Twitter from banning users for hate speech or spreading misinformation (unconstitutional), "reject both the roots and the adherents of cancel culture in America," and "stop investing federal retirement dollars with 'woke' fund managers and companies that put left-wing politics ahead of profits" ("woke" means clean energy, I presume).
• Stop participating in peacekeeping missions, end imports from China (only $435 billion a year), "take climate change seriously but not hysterically" (i.e., do nothing), and "treat our enemies like enemies."
There is the Republican plan to "rescue" the country, which was apparently humming along fine until Jan. 20, 2021.
Most of it isn't new, per se. What's new is Scott's attempt to marry the party's anti-tax, pro-austerity wing with Trump's populist, authoritarian wing. On the surface, that seems dubious. To the degree Trump had a policy outlook more sophisticated than "Build the Wall," it was that he promised everything to everyone — cut taxes and increase spending and cut the deficit — and pretended he never made those promises when they became inconvenient.
Scott, however, wants to reframe the oligarchical (read: deeply unpopular) aspects of the GOP agenda as an extension of the culture wars: The "woke" left is sending your money to "undeserving" others; you don't have to squint to see the racial subtext. From start to finish, this is an authoritarian document dressed up in the language of freedom. Like all variants of right-wing populism, it focuses the grievances of its target demo (a loss of cultural primacy) at scapegoats (the wokes).
Consider how Scott begins his treatise: "The militant left now controls the entire federal government, the news media, academia, Hollywood, and most corporate boardrooms — but they want more. They are redefining America and silencing their opponents."
Put aside the obvious question — how much LSD does a man have to take to think of Joe Biden as the "militant left"? — and allow me to translate from Fox Newsese: Scott's version of a white, Christian America that idealizes capitalists (for example, him) has lost favor in the cultural marketplace, and people who espouse racist, misogynistic, or bigoted views now face consequences they didn't before (which they call censorship). A multicultural society forces their children to learn more than the historical myths on which their purported superiority was constructed (which they call indoctrination).
They are victims, forever and always. Scott is promising to avenge their victimhood by imposing their cultural norms on everyone else — in the name of freedom — and maintaining the socioeconomic caste system that has fostered the greatest level of inequality in a century.
That is the Republican Party's 2022 platform. It's also a gift to Democrats — if they can figure out how to use it.
Get more at billman.substack.com.