At times, Republicans sure act as though they don’t really want the Senate majority. They haven’t revealed a coherent plan to recruit candidates who can win or to persuade Americans to trust them with power.
As the Associated Press points out, “a series of Republican missteps including recruiting stumbles, weak fundraising and intense infighting is threatening the GOP’s path to the Senate majority.” The GOP recruits, many selected by former president Donald Trump, come with plenty of baggage.
In Georgia and Missouri, GOP Senate candidates have a planeload of baggage, including substantial allegations of domestic violence, though they deny wrongdoing. In Ohio, a duel has broken out between J.D. Vance and Josh Mandel to determine who is the most outlandish MAGA crowd-pleaser. In other cases, Republicans haven’t been able to persuade their favorite recruits to run (e.g., Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and former senator Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey).
But arguably more damaging than the weak candidate selection and tepid fundraising, the self-inflicted wounds from candidates’ own mouths provide a steady stream of gifts to Democrats eager to run on the “At least we’re trying, but the other guys are bonkers” message.
For starters, Republicans such as the unctuous MAGA crowd-pleaser Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) haven’t been shy about suggesting that impeachment of President Biden is in the cards if Republicans take back the House and Senate. “Yeah, I do think there’s a chance of that, whether it’s justified or not,” he memorably said.
So if chaos and more acrimony are your speed, definitely vote for the Republicans. They won’t be waylaid by war, pandemics, economic turmoil and dozens of other critical issues that should be occupying their time. Instead, brace yourself for a gusher of crazed accusations about the president and his family.
Then late last month came what might have been the worst policy gaffe in recent political history: Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) rolled out a plan to raise taxes on 100 million Americans and to let Social Security and Medicare expire in five years. Furthermore, he apparently aims to ban abortion nationwide and dictate what every school teaches students about race. (Why else put these items in an 11-point plan for the Senate?) He managed to combine the worst Republican economic ideas with the most abusive designs for government overreach.
And now Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) — purveyor of some of the most egregious coronavirus disinformation, racist rhetoric and Russia propaganda — has confessed that Republicans still want to repeal the Affordable Care Act. (Yes, they did try it when they had control of both houses and the White House, but John McCain gave the thumbs down on that unpopular idea.) To millions of Americans who have benefited from subsidized health insurance premiums, Johnson’s message amounts to: Tough luck.
Well, you say, all these harebrained schemes would get vetoed by Biden. True, but think of the dozens of ways Republicans could pursue their ends — from shutting down the government to defunding Obamacare operations (as they did when Biden’s predecessor was in office). Nonstop obstruction. Nonsensical investigations. No judges or executive branch nominees confirmed. We’d be looking at every Republican vying for the 2024 nomination trying to outdo rivals as the looniest, most radical candidate.
Moreover, what all of this tells us is that Republicans have no idea how to solve the problems we actually have. Where’s the inflation-fighting plan? The plan for energy or child poverty or housing or really anything the federal government can actually impact? In truth, Republicans view government not as a vehicle for solving problems but as a stage for performative politics, which in the case of those courting the MAGA base invariably includes long monologues laced with xenophobia (Did I mention that Rick Scott wants to bring back the border wall and name it after the guy who instigated the Jan. 6 riot?), racism, schemes to infringe on family privacy and attacks on women’s autonomy.
Scott, Johnson and Cruz might find themselves in a whole lot of Democratic ads. Those three and their fellow MAGA-pandering senators have let us know in no uncertain terms that they are extremists, bent on yanking the country back to the nightmarish Trump years. Should voters give them back control of the Senate, venomous politics and chaos will be the order of the day. You cannot say you were not warned.