One of the biggest mysteries heading into 2022 will be: What exactly do Republicans stand for? But it's not a new question—it's a holdover query from 2020 when the Republican Party refused to produce a party platform.
Instead of doing the work to present a new vision last cycle, the Republican National Committee simply adopted its 2016 platform all over again and then declared itself the party of Donald Trump.
“The Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the president’s America-first agenda,” read the resolution that was passed in August 2020 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Now Senate Republicans are promising more of the same. According to Axios, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has told both colleagues and top donors that the Senate GOP won't release an agenda before next November. McConnell's long-held belief is that articulating for voters what a party plans to do if they retake the majority merely distracts from keeping the focus on the policies of the party in power.
McConnell reportedly made his strategy perfectly clear at a meeting with donors and lobbyists on Nov. 16, when a donor dared to ask what Senate Republicans planned to run on next year. Gasp.
"McConnell's response was something to the effect of, With all respect, that's not what we're doing," wrote Axios.
McConnell was sure right about that—legislating is not what Republicans do, particularly when a president of the opposing party is in the White House. As long as President Joe Biden is in the Oval Office, Republicans won't do a damn thing for the country other than doom Biden's agenda, which they will count as a huge policy win. In fact, when Republicans had full control of the federal government under Trump, they only proved capable of passing one major piece of legislation: the highly unpopular tax giveaway to America’s wealthiest.
And therein lies the problem: The Republican Party now caters to the fringes of society, and they have nothing to offer from a policy standpoint that is mainstream enough to attract crossover voters. Imagine a Senate GOP agenda promising to put a final dagger through Roe v. Wade (pleasing roughly a third of voters), ban all mask and vaccine mandates nationwide (another real winner with roughly a third of voters), cut more taxes for the rich, and, who knows, maybe burn some books.
Some GOP operatives and donors apparently want to offer voters some type of vision along the lines of the 1994 "Contract with America."
"Donors especially are always asking for an agenda of some kind and McConnell pushes back hard. Because he knows that all it does is take the focus off unpopular Dem policies and gives Dems something tangible to tear apart," one Republican strategist told Axios.
Sure, one can argue that McConnell wants to keep the focus on Democrats. But what grows more apparent with each passing day is the fact that congressional Republicans don't have any policies popular enough to sell, particularly in a broader statewide setting.
The other truth is that the GOP no longer even knows what it stands for, which makes putting together a cohesive agenda sheer farce.
As Senate GOP Campaign Chief Sen. Rick Scott of Florida pointed out, "There's some conversation that people would like to have some agreement that everybody runs on something. That sounds good, but it's hard to do."
Well said. So just like the RNC in 2020, Senate Republicans will offer a repeat performance in 2021. And guess what: All those dismal donors who think Republicans have a bunch of fresh ideas but simply won't share them will ultimately donate anyway. And when they do, they will have exactly nothing in hand to hold Senate Republicans to their word. Because Senate Republicans dare not speak their agenda ... and it might not exist anyway.