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Republicans are hiding their economic agenda: Democrats should expose it

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
Greg Nash
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is seen during a press conference after the weekly policy luncheon on Wednesday, September 28, 2022.

With just days left before midterm elections conclude on Nov. 8 (early voting is already underway in over 36 states), Republicans are repeating a dishonest tactic Richard Nixon used to win the 1968 presidential election: Complain about a problem and offer a “solution” that won’t really solve anything.  

In 1968, the unpopular Vietnam War was raging, and American troops were being killed and wounded daily. Nixon said he had a plan to end the war but had to keep it secret for it to succeed. Nixon actually had no plan, but his false claim convinced many hawks that he wanted to escalate the war and many doves that he wanted to withdraw troops. He won votes from both groups. However, Nixon failed to end the war. Fighting continued until 1975 when North Vietnam defeated our ally South Vietnam and unified the two nations under communist rule.  

Republicans today are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Americans again, just as Nixon did, only this time by falsely claiming they have a plan to slow inflation.  

Multiple state and local polls show that inflation is the top concern of voters in the midterm elections. In order to win, Democratic candidates need to talk about their very real plans to get rising prices under control and to help Americans cope with price hikes that have hit them hard.   

In doing this, Democrats shouldn’t sound like Pollyanna. But they need to admit that inflation is a serious problem, now running at an annual rate of 8.2 percent and forcing millions of families to struggle to put food on the table, make their mortgage and rent payments and fuel their cars and trucks. 

Of course, Democrats should also talk about the impressive accomplishments of President Joe Biden’s administration in concert with congressional Democrats — including yesterday’s news that the economy surged in the third quarter with 2.6 percent growth. Those measures have helped America recover from the destructive policies of former President Donald Trump and Republicans. 

Republicans will tie Democratic candidates to the president. Hey Democrats, you don’t have to agree with everything President Biden has done or failed to do, you just need to respond by saying Biden is using his political capital to help rebuild America’s infrastructure and invest in both the short- and long-haul. 

Voters need to be reminded that the Biden administration and congressional Democrats pumped trillions of dollars into the economy with the American Rescue Plan, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. These and other Democratic measures were a lifeline for millions of Americans as COVID-19 swept across the world.  

Trump left office with an unemployment rate of 6.3 percent (after a disastrous 14.7 percent in April 2020) and 2.9 million fewer jobs than when he took office. In contrast, the unemployment rate this September was just 3.5 percent. Ten million jobs have been created with the help of Biden policies, including distributing lifesaving free vaccinations and treatments against the coronavirus.  

But simply talking about Democratic accomplishments since Biden took office in January 2021 won’t be enough. Voters want to know what Democrats will do for them in the future.  

The Democratic economic message to voters in the next few final days of the campaign needs to be this: We can build on what we’ve done for you and give inflation a knock-out punch in the next two years if you give us continued majority control of the House and Senate. Giving us just two more seats in the Senate, so we have 52 votes, could enable us to modify the filibuster rule that requires 60 votes for the passage of most legislation in the Senate. That would let us do a lot more to improve your lives and focus on our future. 

And Democrats need to make clear to voters that the “secret plan” Republicans are offering to defeat inflation will be as ineffective and ultimately nonexistent as Nixon’s “secret plan” to defeat North Vietnam. 

Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) doesn’t believe voters have any right to know what actions Republicans plan. Asked by a reporter early this year what Republicans would do if they take back control of Congress, he cynically responded: “That is a very good question. And I’ll let you know when we take it back.” This response showed remarkable contempt for voters. 

However, the truth is that the Republicans’ “secret plan” to fight inflation isn’t so secret, because some in the GOP have already spoken about it, much to McConnell’s chagrin. The truth is that Republicans want to fight inflation by inflicting severe economic pain on the American people that would make our problems even worse.  

Put Republicans in power and they’re guaranteed to try to cut taxes for the rich and cut vital programs that help the rest of us. They did this when they approved then-President Trump’s harmful tax cuts, which were a gift to millionaires and billionaires like him while driving up the national debt and weakening our economy.  

A few candid Republicans have lifted the cloak of secrecy that McConnell wants to throw over their economic plans.  

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, has called for subjecting all government programs — including Social Security and Medicare — to a vote in Congress every five years to see if they should be renewed, changed or reduced. Cuts would be a recipe for disaster for the 66 million Americans who rely on Social Security to pay their bills.  

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), now running for reelection, has called for changing Social Security and Medicare from entitlements into programs that need funding approved by Congress even quicker — every year.

Republican Blake Masters, running for the Senate from Arizona, has gone even further, calling for replacing Social Security with private retirement accounts.    

Despite the stiff electoral headwinds facing Democrats, voters still want to know who’s on their side and which candidates will stand up and defend their interests. Democrats still have a fighting chance to win if they tell the truth and remind voters that they’re on the side of every American.

Donna Brazile is a political strategist, a contributor to ABC News and former chair of the Democratic National Committee. She is the author of “Hacks: Inside the Break-ins and Breakdowns That Put Donald Trump in the White House.”

Tags 2022 midterm elections Blake Masters Donald Trump filibuster reform Inflation Inflation Reduction Act Joe Biden Mitch McConnell Politics of the United States Richard Nixon Ron Johnson Trump tax cuts

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