AMAC Exclusive-By Shane Harris
When Senator Rick Scott of Florida unveiled his “11-Point Plan to Rescue America” in early March, nearly everyone in the Washington establishment – on both the Left and the Right – immediately dismissed it and derided Scott himself for even releasing it. But what most pundits inside the beltway missed is that, despite a few questionable provisions, the vast majority of Scott’s plan, if reported honestly, will likely resonate with ordinary Americans. At the very least, the plan provides a forward-thinking roadmap for what Republicans could do with their newfound power if they do indeed take back Congress this November.
Soon after its release, Scott’s plan was already notable for doing the impossible in uniting conservatives and progressives against it, as the Left slammed it as too conservative while the Right seemed to believe Republicans shouldn’t put forward an agenda at all. Salon called it “Rick Scott’s loony-tunes 11-point plan,” while the normally friendly National Review called the plan “daft” and slammed Scott himself as a “howling hurler of hooey.” Republicans often haven’t sorted out their legislative priorities before gaining power – a mistake that has led to wasted time and cost the party dearly in recent years, something the reactionary media class and many elected Republicans ignore, and what Scott and GOP voters appear to recognize.
For all their electoral success in Congressional races since 1994 when Newt Gingrich led the GOP back to power for the first time in forty years (thanks in large part to having a specific set of legislative promises), Congressional Republicans haven’t exactly done a stellar job of advancing conservative policies once elected.
To be sure, the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was a major achievement and paved the way for three years of historic economic success under President Trump, a trend that was only accelerating when the pandemic hit. But infighting and disorganization among Congressional Republicans during the Trump years also sank the effort to repeal Obamacare (the very reason that voters first handed the GOP back control of Congress back in 2010) and stalled work on an infrastructure bill – both of which have now come back to haunt Republicans. During the Bush years, Republicans were similarly mired in internal divides that frustrated much progress on initiatives that might have staved off or at least slowed down the slew of progressive legislation during the Obama years. By contrast, when the GOP did have a real and bold agenda – Newt Gingrich’s famous “Contract with America” – they were able to force a Democratic president to moderate and usher in an era of relative prosperity.
Scott, no doubt aware of this history, appears to understand the need for a set agenda this time around and calls attention to the problem by asserting in a letter introducing the plan, “We must resolve to aim higher than the Republican Congresses that came before us.” While there can and should be some debate over what the specifics of the GOP’s governing plan should be if voters hand back power this November, it’s undeniably true that no one else aside from Scott has stepped up to the plate to even make an attempt at defining what Republicans should actually try and pass.
The plan itself consists of 128 bullet points organized around 11 broad themes. While some of those points are more general statements about what America would look like under Republican leadership – like asserting that “the nuclear family is crucial to civilization” and that “abortion kills human children” – the plan contains a slew of specific policy proposals aimed at turning that vision into reality. As just a few examples among many, Scott’s plan promises to reduce the government workforce by 25% in five years, pass legislation mandating that Congress balance the budget, develop a plan to make the U.S. #1 in the world in math and science by 2030, close the federal Department of Education and send all education money to the states, put term limits on members of Congress, and end training on diversity and Critical Race Theory in the military.
Most of the outrage – from both the Left and the Right – has centered on one bullet point in Scott’s plan, which says that “all Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount. Currently, over half of Americans pay no income tax.” That’s not exactly true – every American pays income tax, but with the way the system is currently set up, about half of taxpayers have no income tax liability at the end of the year. And admittedly, saying that the poorest 50% of Americans should pay more tax in isolation sounds like a losing strategy for any political party, particularly one that has for decades built an identity around lowering the tax burden.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed defending the plan, Scott says that it is only unsustainable runaway spending that has allowed the current tax system to take root and that “the change we need is to require those who are able-bodied but won’t work to pay a small amount so we’re all in this together.” Scott asserts that “this may be a scary statement in Washington, but in the real world, it’s common sense.”
The wisdom of this specific point is undoubtedly debatable. But that proposal is just one sentence in a 50+ page document, yet it has been used by both the media and establishment politicians in both parties to dismiss the plan entirely, something which seems neither prudent nor productive. While Republicans are understandably reluctant to go anywhere near something that appears to be a tax hike on the poor, that doesn’t mean that the plan itself is of no value.
On every issue that matters to Americans, including many the media won’t cover, Scott has specific plans for how to address it. Moreover, he collects in one place all of the things that Republicans should be talking about heading into the midterms, a sort of first draft of one master document that Republicans can use to send a clear message to voters about what they stand for.
With the Biden administration and Congressional Democrats facing down a cascade of self-inflicted crises and a wave of public disapproval, it can be easy for conservatives and elected Republicans to settle into a comfortable pattern of attacking the Left for their failed policies and incompetent governance. That is indeed a worthy endeavor, one that must be undertaken with vigor, but not at the expense of having a real plan to implement once elected – a plan that the American people should be well aware of when they head to the ballot box. On that, the GOP may do well to follow Scott’s lead.
Shane Harris is a writer and political consultant from Southwest Ohio. You can follow him on Twitter @Shane_Harris_