Opinion Republicans won’t say what they’re for. But it’s not hard to figure out.


HR King
May 29, 2001
By Katrina vanden Heuvel
July 12, 2022 at 7:00 a.m. EDT
What are Republicans for?
It’s a good moment to address the plaintive question President Biden recently posed. All signs point to the Republicans taking control of the House and possibly the Senate in this fall’s elections. Large majorities of Americans think the country is on the wrong track. And Biden’s popularity has stagnated.
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Yet Republicans seem intent on not telling us what they would do if they won back control of Congress. We know that they line up in lockstep against everything Biden and the Democrats propose. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) just brazenly demonstrated that once more, threatening to sink a bipartisan bill to help the United States compete with China in computer chips unless Democrats abandon efforts to pass a bill that includes lowering drug prices.
But asked this year what Senate Republicans would do with the majority, he replied that “I’ll let you know when we take it back.”
Even on inflation, which Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, chairman of the Republican Senate campaign committee, considers a “gold mine” for Republicans, there’s no GOP agenda. Scott suggested that the most effective thing would be for Biden to resign.
The lack of an agenda isn’t surprising, considering that in 2020 the GOP famously passed a platform resolution declaring that “the Republican National Convention will adjourn without adopting a new platform.”
Nevertheless, some Republican platforms do exist. Earlier this year, Scott put out his “11 Point Plan to Rescue America” (now a 12-point plan), warning that it is not for the “faint of heart.” In addition to recycled right-wing culture-war forays — guns, abortion, the Pledge of Allegiance — he called for requiring our dysfunctional Congress to reenact all laws, such as those creating Medicare and Social Security, every five years. Not surprisingly, McConnell quickly disavowed the effort.
Despite their reticence, Republicans do have a core agenda, even if they don’t care to own up to it. The main points:
On democracy: Embrace former president Donald Trump’s “big lie” of a stolen election. Act to impede any independent investigation of the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. At a state level, pass legislation to make voting harder, primarily in urban — read minority — areas, elect partisan election officials and empower legislatures to overturn elections when they don’t like the results. Block efforts to limit the role of big money in elections.
On inflation: Lowering deficits and spending is no longer part of the GOP playbook when in power, so Republicans blame Biden and urge the Federal Reserve to continue raising interest rates — fighting inflation by putting people out of work. Add other parts of the traditional conservative arsenal: more deregulation, ignoring the growing concentration of various industries, more drilling for oil, more efforts to weaken workers’ demands (undermining unions, opposing a higher minimum wage) and railing against any pandemic restrictions.
On national security: Climate change isn’t a national security threat, or if it is, nothing can or should be done about it. The Pentagon needs more money, no matter that the bloated military budget is the largest source of waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government. Allies are a luxury, except when we need them. The economic challenge posed by China’s rise is best met by bolstering our military forces in the Pacific (admittedly a bipartisan folly).
On crime: More money and fewer restrictions for the police, ending efforts for reform. More guns for Americans. The party of a chicken in every pot is now the party of a gun in every pocket.
On social issues: Full-court press. McConnell pledges to put a national ban on abortion to a vote. End affirmative action. Allow businesses to discriminate against gay customers. Punish “woke” corporations.
In many ways, the gang of six right-wing zealots who now make up the majority on the Supreme Court provide the clearest guide to the Republican agenda. In recent months, the court eliminated the right to abortion, overturned a century-old New York state law regulating the carrying of guns, blocked Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandate for large businesses and gutted the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to address climate change.
In its next term, the court will rule on ending affirmative action, stopping curbs on racial discrimination in redistricting and empowering businesses to discriminate against gay couples seeking to celebrate their weddings. Most ominously, it will take up the pernicious claim that state courts and state constitutions cannot limit the license of state legislatures to gerrymander congressional districts.
That the Supreme Court, the most undemocratic branch of government, defines the Republican course shouldn’t be a surprise. The actual Republican agenda is unpopular. It requires that a minority party find ways to rig the rules to enforce its preferences. The Supreme Court’s gang of six — ignoring precedent and restraint while acting to undermine fair elections, overturn established rights and cripple government action — is a perfect expression of what Republicans are for.

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