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  • Writer's pictureDavid M. Rubin

Mitch Tips His Hand

As President Joe Biden rolls out one major legislative initiative after another addressing the economy, infrastructure, climate change, COVID-19 relief, and more, the Republicans continue to offer voters….nothing.

This is the logical outcome of the party’s amazing decision at its 2020 nominating convention not to offer a platform to voters. Trump is the party, and the platform is whatever Trump wants. So why bother writing anything down? So they didn’t.

But with Trump now out of the picture, Republicans have to reckon with the wreckage of this decision. It will not be easy for Republican candidates such as Nancy Mace and Tim Scott to face voters in 2022 if they and their party offer no vision of the future.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell revealed in early April how bare the Republican cupboard of ideas has become. He was raging against the possibility that Democrats in the Senate might do away with the filibuster because of Republicans’ ongoing refusal to engage in the legislative process.

McConnell threatened that if the filibuster were to be removed, the Republicans would eventually win back the Senate majority and, without the filibuster to limit them, pass their own set of toxic legislative priorities.

Take a look at what McConnell offered, or threatened, as the Party’s legislative wish list:

A national “right to work law” that would forbid unions from collecting union dues, a possible death sentence on the union movement;

A federal anti-abortion bill;

A bill that would permit persons with concealed-carry gun permits to bring those guns into all 50 states, regardless of the gun laws applying in those states;

A continuation of Trump immigration policies (which means almost no entry into the U.S. for anyone); and

Legislation to make it more difficult to vote.

What characterizes McConnell’s list, and the Republican mind-set overall, is that it shrinks from actually trying to solve any of the nation’s many problems. It is negative and punitive in spirit. Here is what any reasonable voter has a right to expect from a major political party:

A Republican legislative approach to climate change, even minimally.

An alternative to Obamacare, which Republicans have been promising for more than a decade, without results.

A solution to keeping Social Security and Medicare solvent. Many Republicans, of course, don’t even support these essential social safety net programs and want to roll the clock back to 1932.

Sensible gun control legislation, such as background checks, limits on ammunition magazines, or stronger red flag laws. Rather, McConnell prefers to protect the right to carry a concealed weapon into every state.

A trade policy. Trump’s failed tariffs are all Republicans have to offer.

A foreign policy beyond jingoistic sloganeering to “get tough on China,” whatever that means, and whatever the consequences.

In sum, Republicans have no vision, and are proud of it. McConnell isn’t threatening Democrats with alternative views on the nation’s problems. He is offering no views at all, because a party that was proud to offer no platform at its own Presidential nominating convention is no longer in the business of producing policies and solutions.

This is the real challenge for Republican incumbents such as Mace and Scott over the next 18 months. We know well what they are against: abortion, an expanded electorate, unions, immigrants, clean energy, and gun controls. But what are they FOR? That’s a tough one for McConnell and all Republicans.

In this competition, Democrats are cleaning their clock.

Blogger David M. Rubin is the former Dean of the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. He is a former columnist for the Syracuse Post-Standard and an expert on First Amendment law (speech and press). He lives in Summerville.

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