On Tuesday, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) unveiled what he modestly calls “An 11 Point Plan To Rescue America,” his policy platform proposal should the GOP retake the Senate in the November midterms. “I’ll warn you; this plan is not for the faint of heart,” Scott writes—and he’s right, in that it’s a truly terrifying document. It might not be as blatantly White Supremacist as last year’s “Anglo-Saxon” caucus, which turned out to be too racist even for the GOP, but it’s the most right-wing policy platform a major member of the GOP has put in writing to date.
David Walsh, a researcher of the conservative movement and the far Right, doesn’t mince words in his analysis of Scott’s plan: “I can say in all seriousness that I have read less extreme political manifestos from the John Birch Society.”
I can say in all seriousness that I have read less extreme political manifestos from the John Birch Society than this document from Rick Scott and the NRSC. https://t.co/6qs1IJiQUM
— David Austin Walsh (@DavidAstinWalsh) February 22, 2022
Scott paints a dire picture of the state of the country, echoing Trump’s claims of “American carnage.” The far left, Scott claims, “has driven the US to the brink of doom.” According to Scott’s narrative, only his plan can save America from certain destruction at the hands of an authoritarian, un-American ideology, personified by the Democrats, who are hell-bent on destroying or changing:
“American history, patriotism, border security, the nuclear family, gender, traditional morality, capitalism, fiscal responsibility, opportunity, rugged individualism, Judeo-Christian values, dissent, free speech, color blindness, law enforcement, religious liberty, parental involvement in public schools, and private ownership of firearms.”
What reads like a check-list of white Christian nationalist buzzwords actually achieves two things: first, it promotes classic GOP talking points of cutting back Social Security, fighting crime and strengthening border security; and second, it adds the unhinged culture war agenda of the far Right to the mix. Scott promotes a long list of drastic changes to the fabric of US society: in line with the Right’s attack on public education, schools will be forced to teach American exceptionalism and the public education sector would be diminished, as would the federal Department of Education.
Scott justifies the latter with the “states’ rights” rhetoric that the Right still uses to paint over the real cause of the Civil War, which was, of course, primarily slavery. He uses the classic lexicon of “school choice” that’s been popular with conservatives for decades, and pairs it with fascistic purges of teachers who don’t adhere to the ideology laid out in his “Plan to Rescue America.”
These parts are already being put into legislation at the state level by the implementation of draconian laws that seek to put the education sector under authoritarian control and essentially do away with the liberal model of public education in the US altogether.
Centering the white in ‘white Christian nationalism’
Scott’s plan also illustrates what Sam Perry, Andrew Whitehead, and other sociologists have shown time and time again: That the “white” in white Christian nationalism is central to its ideology. Scott would also eliminate anything that promotes diversity in government and public life—a drastic, devastating way of enacting the rhetoric of “colorblindness” into what it actually means: ensuring white, Christian dominance in all matters cultural and political.
Immigrants, Scott’s document claims, will only be allowed into the country if they “assimilate,” and they shouldn’t seek to “change” America, only to be Americans—or, rather, what Scott deems to be real Americans. This is along the same lines as the ethno-nationalist sense of “volk” that animates the latest ad for Peter Thiel-backed far-right candidate for US Senate in Arizona, Blake Masters. Both claim that there’s a narrow and fixed definition of who is and is not American—first and foremost, white, Christian people who look, sound, dress, worship, believe, love, and act like they do—and both draw clear lines to show who is in and who is not a part of it.
The future for all non-cis gendered people looks dire should Scott’s plan be enacted; in typical Christian nationalist language, he vows to “protect, defend, and promote the American family at all costs.” And when Scott refers to the American family he takes care to speak of “the nuclear family,” by which he means the conservative Christian ideal consisting of a cis married couple and children, with a paternal head of the household. The Christian aspect is central here: Scott explicitly calls this version of the family “crucial to civilization, it is God’s design for humanity.”
Echoing the Christian Right’s most conspiratorial jeremiads of the last decades, he claims that Democrats try to replace parents “with government programs.” It’s the logical development of the untethered radicalization of the Christian Right that was born through their resistance to the desegregation of schools. Even back then this was cloaked in paranoia about “secular education” that was seeking to take children away from their parents.
There are aspects of the plan that contradict one another or that seem to counter other right-wing talking points. Take, for example, the section that aims to send “dead-beat Dads” to court or jail for not paying child support. At first glance it seems to clash with the “Men’s Rights” sector of the far Right. But the racial undertones of this section settles this talking point rather comfortably within the white Christian nationalist narrative that has a long history of portraying Black fathers as neglectful and absent, in accordance with the underlying racist, hypersexualized image of Black men.
And while Scott lists anti-statist talking points when he calls for most federal departments and programs to be dismantled, he is more than keen to bolster state power when it comes to “law and order” politics. This corroborates the findings of Whitehead and Perry, who’ve shown that Christian nationalism is a strong predictor of support for racialized policies such as these.
We believe in science — just not yours
Of course, Scott’s plan doesn’t aim for logical consistency or cohesiveness because, when it comes to culture war issues, logic isn’t what the Right is after. Talking points don’t have to make sense overall or in relation to each other; they simply need to advance the movement’s goal, which is the preservation of cultural and political dominance in the face of a country that’s increasingly starting to resemble the multi-ethnic, pluralist democracy it always promised to be.
Scott’s plan picks up some old hits of the Christian Right with the denunciation of “pornography” and “obscenity” and merges them with the hottest topic of the Republican culture war: anti-trans propaganda. It painfully outlines the devastatingly anti-science position of the GOP on trans issues by actually claiming science as an authority to legitimize the party’s anti-trans-stance: “We believe in science. Men and women are biologically different. God created them that way.”
Anti-trans positions are central to today’s GOP and likely will be a focal point of their midterm strategy. This ideology, which actively puts trans children at an increased risk of suicide by denying them the health care they so desperately need, is already being written into legislation on the state level. Recently, Texas governor Greg Abbott called for health care workers and members of the public to report the parents of transgender minors to authorities for child abuse if children are receiving gender-affirming medical care.
Preventing fraud by preventing (the wrong) people from voting at all
In line with GOP rhetoric on the 2020 election, Scott’s plan announces what’s already happening at a state level: a crackdown on voting rights under the guise of preventing “election fraud.” In language reminiscent of the Birchers, Scott alleges that the protection of voting rights is actually the Democrats’ “election rigging plans.” Democrats, he claims, want to “rig the system to stay in power.” The level of projection and gaslighting here is truly stunning: Scott calls Democrats’ efforts to protect voting rights “Orwellian.”
This allegation would be almost comical, given Republicans’ use of the phrase “ensuring election integrity” to promote Trump’s Big Lie, were it not for the hundreds of voter suppression laws that are already being introduced in Republican-controlled legislatures all over the country. Scott’s dystopian plan frames the crackdown on voting laws as a necessary measure to prevent the destruction of American democracy at the hands of the “radical left.”
Scott’s calls for authoritarian voter suppression are in line with white Christian nationalist stances on who should be able to participate in American democracy. Perry and Whitehead outline this in their latest study, published in January, which demonstrates that Christian Nationalism is:
“a leading predictor that Americans deny that voter suppression is a problem, believe that the US makes it ‘too easy to vote,’ believe that voter fraud is rampant, and support measures to disenfranchise individuals who could not pass a basic civics test or who committed certain crimes.”
Further, they conclude:
“Christian nationalism seeks to institutionalize founding ideals in which civic participation is rooted in hierarchies, being restricted to a ‘worthy’ few. Appeals to America’s religious heritage thus facilitate stratifying America’s citizenry and justifying restricting participation to preserve dominance.”
This stance is in line with the Christian Right’s decades-long disdain for a pluralist, multi-ethnic democracy. Little analysis is needed here—the architects of the modern Christian Right made their position perfectly clear. In the words of Paul Weyrich: “I don’t want everybody to vote.”
The anti-semitic dogwhistle trifecta: socialism, woke-ism, and globalism—oh my
Naturally, on this Christian nationalist bingo card, the bogeyman of “socialism” can’t be left out. Scott takes it a step further: He chillingly announces that “Socialism” (which he capitalizes, perhaps to make it appear more threatening) will be treated as a foreign combatant which aims to destroy our prosperity and freedom”—implying imprisonment or worse for anyone he deems a socialist.
In maybe the most deranged part of Scott’s plan (and that’s saying something), he claims that there’s a sinister conspiracy of “Big Tech” and the far left to suppress and persecute American Christians for their “anti-woke” beliefs. To combat this conspiracy he announces a federal crackdown on “wokeism” and “cancel culture”—a violent one, if necessary, if his invocation of “second amendment rights” here is any indication.
In another truly stunning section Scott claims, with clear anti-semitic undertones, “We are Americans, not globalists,” while at the same time winking to Christian Zionists by naming Israel as the only ally worthy of American support.
‘They won’t go too far’ isn’t a good opposition strategy
The “Plan to Rescue America” sees itself as the heir to the legacy of Newt Gingrich’s 1994 “Contract with America”—only it’s much more extreme. Gingrich, who mainstreamed today’s aggressive, incendiary and authoritarian rhetoric of House Republicans, focused on tax cuts, term limits and other fiscal issues in his “contract,” whereas Rick Scott’s 2022 version seems like a “haunted house version” of Newt’s agenda, as Charles P. Pierce aptly put it.
The plan would also raise taxes for more than half of Americans including pensioners and low-income people—harking back to Mitt Romney’s ’47-percent’ comment in 2012. After criticism from Jen Psaki and Chuck Schumer, Scott sat with Sean Hannity for a softball-interview during which he denied that his plan included any tax hikes—a lie that Hannity happily let slide. The tax hike, Scott claims in the document, would be necessary to “grow America’s economy, starve Washington’s economy, and stop Socialism.”
Scott’s plan, however, should not be ridiculed. Because, while stunning in its garish, at times incoherent, and paranoid crusade against everything and anyone that could threaten white, patriarchal, conservative Christian hegemony—be it cultural or political—it also provides a valuable insight into the current mindset of the GOP.
What Scott promotes here, isn’t fringe—it’s the party’s mainstream.
While Mitch McConnell publicly rebuked the tax-hike element of Scott’s plan on Tuesday, he didn’t speak to any of the far-right culture war policies. Some media coverage has painted this as a “backlash” from within the GOP against Scott’s plan, but this is misleading. They may not be on board with Scott’s tax-hike gaffe, and they may worry that such a candid statement of far-right values may make things easier for Democrats in the midterm elections, but that’s as far as their “opposition” goes. Mitch McConnell isn’t releasing his own agenda, because he knows that only a plan like Scott’s will satisfy the base. Kevin McCarthy, on the other hand, the minority leader in the House, and not exactly a strategic mastermind, has announced he will release his own policy platform later this year.
For Democrats, the attack ads for the midterms write themselves at this point. The Republican mainstream has long accepted that they can’t win a majority with their far-right positions. If you rig the system through gerrymandering, voter suppression, the criminalization of protests, and authoritarian legislation to keep the education sector in check, you simply don’t need the popular vote.
Scott’s plan presents a terrifying version of America: an authoritarian, fascist fever-dream that becomes a real possibility should Republicans win the House and Senate back. Pay attention now—Scott and the GOP mean what they say. It should be clear by now that “they won’t go that far,” is an empty hope that should be abandoned. They will—and then some—unless they’re stopped.