Mitch McConnell’s know-nothing, do-nothing agenda
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (Mande Ngan/AFP)

Not to worry, we always have Mitch McConnell to tell us what to swallow politically.

This week, the Senate Republican leader told donors and party faithful there will be no Republican legislative agenda to share with voters before next year’s midterms elections, say participants in private sessions.

As Axios explained, in every midterm cycle there are party donors and workers who want a positive, this-is-what-we-want outline to unify its candidates.

McConnell is adamantly rejecting this idea, preferring to skewer Democrats for perceived failures.

This Week.com summarized, “It’s not that Republicans have zero ideas about how to govern the country. They just don’t think those ideas are worth talking about. So, they won’t.”

Between Republican state legislators gerrymandering districts, approving partisan-tinged voting rules and maps, passing laws to limit voting rights and allowing Republican election officials to overthrow unfavorable vote results, the GOP may not need actual issues.

Of course, with Republican state legislators gerrymandering districts, approving partisan-tinged voting rules and maps, passing laws to limit voting rights and allowing Republican election officials to overthrow unfavorable vote results, the GOP may not need actual issues.

And, with right-leaning media, in particular, preaching daily the perception that it is Joe Biden and Democrats who are responsible for continuing Covid contagion, rising prices, the moral downfall of the nation and increased crime well beyond what reason and evidence might support, Democrats already are bracing for a bad showing next time around. Anger of the type we saw in the Virginia elections for governor is deepening.

Missed Opportunity

It is neither my interest nor role to advise politicians, but as a citizen, it seems that abandoning a message forthrightly setting visionary goals for voting is a missed opportunity.

And it invites opponents instead to substitute what they see as Republican goals, including smaller federal responsibility, constantly lowered corporate taxes and pushing any issues requiring social response including health, education, welfare, income equality, abortion rights and gun control to states where Republican state legislatures can safely quash them.

Of course, that doesn’t sound terribly positive, but polling right now, well before elections, shows that McConnell’s approach may be winning the day.

“Voters deserve to know the specifics of how challengers will do better, rather than just that they’ll be different in some vague, undefined way,” argues This Week. “McConnell’s strategy drains politics of its content, leaving only a cacophony of negative ads, angry tweets, and Fox News hits. And it creates a sense that power is to be acquired for the sake of power itself, rather than be wielded for the common good.”

So, dumping a full-throated party vision is a message in itself: Winning is more important than governing. Remaining in power keeps the other guys out.

Look ahead and we well could have a change of party in the already narrowly split House and/or Senate, a change in committee chairs and a sudden practical end to anything that still grudgingly moves forward during the current gridlock. Forget about replacing the most aging Supreme Court justices if nominated by Biden, forget about DACA and immigrant rights, or legislation aimed at providing more help for public education and public health or an intelligent look at civil rights, climate change, voter rights or a whole slate of individual rights guarantees at the federal level.

Interestingly, House Minority

Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., does believe in an outline for party, but is having trouble wrangling his own caucus into coloring inside its lines. He can only get full agreement for opposing Biden’s proposals and cannot keep his own members from appearing to endorse white supremacist statements, personal attacks on opponents or even a unified view on issues like Covid treatments.

No Agenda is a Message

Let’s be clear: The McConnell message of no agenda is an agenda – for more outwardly conservative judges, for an immediate end to inquiries into the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt, for a louder voice for the right-leaning extremes.

Practically speaking, of course, the McConnell approach allows Republicans not to have to answer whether the base is moving to the Marjorie Taylor Greene-Lauren Boebert-Ron Johnson wing of the Republican Party. It allows McConnell himself the enviable role of deciding to support or reject whatever he personally wants to see happen about the issues of the day, and for others to feast on whatever political largesse he chooses to offer on that day’s menu.

In that sense, whether we choose authoritarianism from a second Donald Trump White House or dictatorship from a Senate Majority Leader depends solely on the political cast of the holder. This is a message about Power, not about Democracy. “Despite the fact that the (Republican) party might win majorities in Congress, and thus be required to actually govern, apparently, it’s bad politics to tell voters what you’ll do with the power they give you,” noted The Week.

It is true that Donald Trump did exactly the same thing in 2020, and Republicans decided not to write a platform, choosing instead only that what mattered was Trump. How has that worked out? Regardless of political viewpoint, the Trump years ended poorly by most accounts unless you were – and remain – a wealthy, tax-evading developer, or corporation.

Here’s the question: Don’t we as voters deserve to know the specifics of how challengers will do better, rather than just that they’ll be different in some vague, undefined way?