Kevin McCarthy’s 2022 campaign agenda is all hat and no cattle
In September, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) issued “Commitment to America,” his 2022 campaign agenda. Predictably, the document blasts Democrats for having “no plan to fix all the problems they created.” McCarthy’s “Commitment to America,” however, fails to present its own plans to address those problems, relying instead on the Republican playbook of omission, distortion, and distraction.
On foreign policy, McCarthy cites “mistakes” by the Biden administration on Ukraine but includes no examples and offers no alternatives. The United States, McCarthy declares, “must prioritize National Security.” However, he offers only clichés — support our troops and increase the (already huge) defense budget. The document does not mention threats to national security posed by domestic terrorists. McCarthy does not indicate whether he agrees with Donald Trump’s oft-expressed pledge in 2016 to impose lengthy jail sentences on anyone who mishandled classified information because “no one will be above the law.” He does not address whether a president does — or should — have the authority to declassify documents without following procedures and informing relevant agencies.
Failing to acknowledge the role of COVID-19-related supply chain disruptions and the war in Ukraine in what is clearly a worldwide problem, “Commitment to America” blames the Biden administration for inflation and the likelihood of a recession. McCarthy does not mention that when Trump left office, 2.9 million Americans had lost their jobs; the trade deficit had increased by 40 percent; home prices rose 27.5 percent; and the national debt had skyrocketed from $14.4 trillion to $21.6 trillion — or that every Congressional Republican voted against renewing the Child Care Tax Credit, which helped reduce child poverty by 46 percent in 2021, had the greatest impact in red states, and is supported by 59 percent of Americans (and 41 percent of Republican voters).
The Republicans’ economic agenda also rounds up the usual suspects: McCarthy wants to reduce “wasteful spending,” deregulate, and cut taxes. He does not address the inflationary impact of tax cuts or whether a GOP-sponsored bill in 2022 will, as it did in 2017, disproportionately benefit the wealthy.
McCarthy supports “maximum production” of domestic oil and gas but ignores the windfall profits currently enjoyed by energy companies, the impact of his proposal on climate change, and the time lag in implementation that will drastically reduce the impact on energy prices in the immediate or intermediate future.
“Commitment to America” promises to “personalize health care” and “lower prices through choice and transparency.” McCarthy doesn’t explain how “personalizing health care” will be implemented. He does not mention the dozens of times House Republicans voted to defund, deauthorize, or repeal the Affordable Care Act, without ever agreeing on a replacement. Or that when Trump left office, the number of Americans without health insurance had increased by 3 million. Or that every Congressional Republican opposed the Biden administration’s bill reducing prescription drug prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies.
“Commitment to America” announces an intention to “protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers.” The document is silent on red state legislation that bans abortion with no exceptions for rape and incest and imposes criminal penalties on abortion providers. And on the nationwide ban on abortion recently proposed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).
“Commitment to America” advocates “increased accountability in the election process” through voter I.D., accurate voter rolls, and observer access to polls, without explaining what problems these “reforms” will solve. The document is silent on whether Joe Biden was legitimately elected president. McCarthy does not mention, let alone condemn, the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Or that all but nine House Republicans (who have since announced they are retiring or have been defeated in a primary) voted against legislation clarifying that the vice president does not play a substantive role in recording and certifying Electoral College results submitted by states.
“Commitment to America” weighs in as well, albeit obliquely, on “culture wars” issues. In a veiled reference to attempts to prohibit discussions of gender identity, race, and racism in public schools, the document declares that “parents should be able to choose a curriculum for their child that fits with their values and beliefs.” McCarthy does not explain whether each individual parent has that right, how such a right should be exercised, and the implications for teachers, administrators, local and state boards of education.
Apparently, he does not know — or care — that only 18 percent of parents believe their child’s school teaches about gender and sexuality in ways that conflict with their values … and that the figures for race are 19 percent and for U.S. history, 14 percent.
“Commitment to America” claims that, you guessed it, building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico will dramatically reduce illegal immigration. McCarthy does not mention that illegal immigration rose by 14 percent during the Trump administration. Or that Republicans have blocked comprehensive immigration reform legislation for decades.
Without mentioning that the murder rate reached its highest level since 1997 in Trump’s final year as president or that local governments — not Washington D.C. politicians — have the primary responsibility for preventing crime and punishing criminals or that crime has increased in red as well as blue states, “Commitment to America” denounces all attempts to “defund the police,” a policy also opposed by Biden and the vast majority of Congressional Democrats.
The principal goal — perhaps the only goal — of Republican politicians, who now take their marching orders from MAGA extremists and election deniers, is to do whatever it takes to gain and retain power. If the GOP wins a majority of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, as seems likely, and McCarthy becomes Speaker, we can expect House Republicans to exact revenge against Democrats, with hearings and impeachment proceedings against, among others, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and President Biden.
As to passage of policies that will address issues relevant to Americans, don’t hold your breath.
Glenn C. Altschuler is the Thomas and Dorothy Litwin Professor of American Studies at Cornell University. He is the co-author (with Stuart Blumin) of “Rude Republic: Americans and Their Politics in the Nineteenth Century.”