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Leading Republican echoes Trump's American Carnage message for the midterms

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., released a blueprint for a sweeping conservative reimagining of the federal government.
J. Scott Applewhite
/
AP
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., released a blueprint for a sweeping conservative reimagining of the federal government.

Updated February 22, 2022 at 4:32 PM ET

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott has a sweeping vision for a conservative takeover in Washington that echoes the dark and fearful image of America in decline painted by former President Donald Trump during his inauguration in 2017.

Scott opens the blueprint by asking "Is this the beginning of the end of America?" and goes on to outline a vision he hopes will unite Republicans against Democrats. The plan includes major federal intervention in social policies like gender identity and racial equality, to a broad remaking of federal policies on education, taxation, immigration and crime.

"The militant left now controls the entire federal government, the news media, academia, Hollywood, and most corporate boardrooms – but they want more," Scott wrote in a letter introducing the plan. "If Republicans return to Washington's business as usual, if we have no bigger plan than to be a speed bump on the road to America's collapse, we don't deserve to govern."

The opening letter also attempts to preempt any criticism of the plan by predicting the plan will be mocked by "Washington insiders," and Scott proudly welcomed any fallout.

"It will be ridiculed by the 'woke' left, mocked by Washington insiders, and strike fear in the heart of some Republicans," Scott wrote. "At least I hope so."

He released the document from his personal campaign but currently serves as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Scott is also widely regarded within Republican political circles as a potential presidential hopeful, and the plan is specifically intended to be a blueprint for Republicans if they win majorities in the House and Senate in the midterm elections in November.

Democrats panned the outline, focusing much of their ire on a portion of the plan that would impose new taxes on the millions of people who currently earn too little to owe income taxes.

"Senate GOP candidates have found their midterm bumper sticker: raising taxes on Americans, seniors and working families." said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Communications Director David Bergstein in a statement.

Scott's foreboding message comes as divisions within the country are driving fears about the stability of American government. A recent NPR/Ispos poll found that 64% of respondents believe U.S. democracy is "in crisis and at risk of failing."

Political violence is also a major concern. More than 1 in 5 respondents in the same poll said violence is sometimes justified to protect democracy or American culture and values.

The message leans into culture war issues that have worked for the GOP

The framework revives many of the themes of the Trump presidency on crime and immigration and wades further into current culture war battles over identity. Scott presents an existential battlefield vision for a midterm election where Republicans are predicting major gains in both chambers of Congress.

Scott's social vision is built around issues like parental control in schools, gender identity and racial education that have energized GOP voters in recent state and local elections while enraging Democrats. Many of the proposals include ideas for federal interventions into social policies that Congress typically does not control.

Simply releasing the document represents a major break from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who has declined to release a unifying framework for how Republicans would govern.

McConnell has not weighed in on Scott's vision, but other GOP figures, like Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel, have endorsed the outline.

The education section is built around the premise that "children are being poisoned by a false political agenda in their schools."

The plan would close the federal Department of Education, implement school choice and eliminate teacher tenure at public schools.

The education section is framed around increasing parental control over what children learn in school, a huge motivator for GOP voters in recent polls. However, the plan also includes prescriptions for what should be taught in public schools.

The plan calls for teaching children "to love America" and requiring students to "say the Pledge of Allegiance, stand for the National Anthem, and honor the American Flag." Scott would also ban teaching children that "they are inherently racist because of the color of their skin, or that some Americans are oppressors and others are oppressed."

That message closely mirrors the campaign pledges that helped propel the successful campaign of Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin last year. Youngkin promised to ban teaching critical race theory in Virginia — even though it's not part of the state's public school curriculum — roll back mask mandates and COVID protocols in schools, and give parents greater control over their children's education.

Rejecting transgender identity and abortion rights

The plan also includes positions on abortion and gender, including denying the existence of transgender people, banning gender reassignment surgeries for minors and doing away with government forms that acknowledge gender identity and sexual preference.

Those positions represent a threat to current federal anti-discrimination laws based on Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex.

Scott stops short of calling for a federal abortion ban. The outline instead declares "abortion stops a beating heart," a clear reference to "heart beat bills" that ban abortion after a "fetal heartbeat" can be detected. That often occurs around six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.

But reproductive health doctors say the term "fetal heartbeat" is not a medical term and can be misleading at that stage of pregnancy. Dr. Jennifer Kerns, an OB-GYN and associate professor at the University of California, San Francisco, told NPR the electrical activity on an ultrasound does not represent "a functional cardiovascular system or a functional heart."

The plan also refers to ensuring federal programs and tax laws do not "reward people for being unmarried" and discusses helping low-income women choose adoption over abortion.

Other sections of the proposal deal with cracking down on Big Tech, reforming the federal government, imposing term limits on lawmakers and requiring all legislation to sunset after five years.

The plan would also end talk of comprehensive immigration reform in favor of enhanced border security and cutting off federal funds for "sanctuary cities." The plan would also deny immigrants access to social safety net programs for seven years after their arrival in the country.

Scott closes by directly embracing Trump's America First approach to foreign affairs. The plan involves cutting off aid to any country that opposes the U.S. at the United Nations, ending dues payments to "any international organization that undermines the national interests of the USA" and ending all imports from China.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Kelsey Snell is a Congressional correspondent for NPR. She has covered Congress since 2010 for outlets including The Washington Post, Politico and National Journal. She has covered elections and Congress with a reporting specialty in budget, tax and economic policy. She has a graduate degree in journalism from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill. and an undergraduate degree in political science from DePaul University in Chicago.