Why do I consider Sen. Rick Scott of Florida, the wealthiest person in the U.S. Senate, so thoroughly dreadful? Is it his background in defrauding the American taxpayer? His penchant for spreading disinformation? His smarmy habit of getting all Jesus-y, even in the face of a public health crisis?
It was indeed very Christian of Scott to release his new plan to "save" America — but I don't mean that as praise. At least he's honest: The gentleman from the Sunshine State openly advocates for dismantling the federal government, undoing all federal laws and regulations and effectively transforming our democracy into a white male Christian theocracy.
OK, not in so many words, but that's the idea. For some reason Scott dispensed with a hyphen in the title of his "11 Point Plan to Rescue America" — is punctuation "woke" now? It's so hard to keep up — which might better be described as a Christian-right reboot of the Ten Commandments (plus one).
Before we discuss Scott's plan to save the country, it's worth mentioning that as founder of Columbia Healthcare and then CEO of the merged hospital corporations Columbia/HCA, Scott was in charge in 1997 when the company was fined $1.7 billion for overbilling and defrauding Medicare and Medicaid, at the time the largest health care fraud in U.S. history. He was forced to resign and said he took "responsibility" for the fraud, said responsibility apparently requiring him to invoke the Fifth Amendment some 75 times while under oath.
Scott kept his chin up, however, and walked away with a huge financial package, including some $300 million in stock. An earlier excursion in business at Solantic, a Florida chain of walk-in urgent care clinics, resulted in several lawsuits around discriminatory hiring practices. Randy Schultz, in an opinion piece for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, wrote that Scott "built his political career with a fortune based on fraud.
Florida voters, in their wisdom, elected this guy twice as governor and then sent him to the Senate in 2018. Lately he's been given to calling Democrats "the enemy within," and now he wants to tell us how the country can be "saved."
Salon's Heather Digby Parton thinks that Democrats should shine as much light as possible on Scott's plan, since it is "batshit lunacy" yet has been embraced by many Republicans. As she recently put it:
Much of it is the usual right-wing cant about work and family and law and order. But there is some stuff in this thing that will make for some beautiful ads if the Democrats can find it in themselves to get off the defensive and tell the American people about it.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was apparently horrified that Scott's plan was published (remember, the Republican Party refused to have platform for the 2020 presidential campaign), but Scott himself fearlessly and correctly observes that "Americans deserve to know what we will do when given the chance to govern."
One might note here that Republicans always have a chance to govern — every single day — by choosing to work with members of the other party to find suitable compromises, rather than by employing scorched-earth tactics against their "enemies"— but, you know, whatever The oddly cherubic yet spiteful Newt Gingrich — who long ago took Rush Limbaugh's admonition to treat the opposition as your enemy and ran with it — is smiling somewhere in the opulence that negative life work too often brings. He very much likes the plan.
I'm tempted to winnow these down to a few highlights, the way comedian George Carlin famously did with the Ten Commandments, which he got down to just two (along with a third he added himself).
On Scott's Point 1, "Education": I have no problem with the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, even if it's a bit odd, given their insurrectionist bent and love for foreign despots, for Trumpists to demand that children prove their loyalty to the country. Let's compromise: We'll leave in the mention of God, which was added to the pledge in 1954 in an attempt to thwart "godless communism," and then we outlaw the use of the U.S. flag as an advertising vehicle, flying enormously over used-car lots and the like. To avoid making the flag meaningless (if not noxious) with overuse, let's fly it only over public buildings, like the public schools you are trying to destroy with your "classical" charter schools, and, as desired, on private residences.
Scott's Point 7, "Fair Fraud-Free Elections," is just out-and-out projection. With these guys, every accusation is an admission (which is deeply troubling when it comes to their recent focus on pedophilia). In this Toddler Nation of ours, even senators — men and women who are said to cool the passions of House members — are given to the schoolyard taunt: "No, you!" One thinks of candidate Trump's "No puppet, no puppet! You're the puppet!" when Hillary Clinton said that if he were elected, he'd be cavorting at the end of Vladimir Putin's strings. We know how that worked out.
Scott's Point 10, "Religious Liberty and Big Tech," clearly has a special resonance for the evangelical component of his audience. "Americans will be free to welcome God into all aspects of our lives" is in boldface type, and OK, that appears reasonable enough. As always, the devil is in the detail. Scott goes on to reveal that what he means by "all aspects" is that the personal religious beliefs of people like him should be pushed into public policies that affect all of us, which is a form of government known as theocracy. What he means, but does not quite say, is that certain Americans will be free to welcome their idea of God into all aspects of other Americans' lives.
Last, but perhaps not best, comes Point 11, "America First," where Scott informs us, "We are Americans, not globalists." Yeah, OK — but so what? Who says that being American and having a global consciousness are incompatible? Most of us can walk and chew gum at the same time, and the world is proving to be a surprisingly small place.
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Enough with my sniping. (Scott cleverly anticipates how his plan will be mocked by "the wokes.") If you read it for yourself, be sure to delve into the details. No matter what Mitch McConnell says, this appears to be an accurate reflection of what the GOP wants to do if or when they take full control in Washington again: Dismantle the federal government and its "deep state" of experts; have a do-over on all federal laws and regulations (someone seems to be still smarting from that federal charge of fraud); force all Americans to pay taxes, even the poor (so they have "skin in the game"); end all public discussion of race and gender; and force schoolchildren to pledge their allegiance to a nation whose history has been whitewashed and sanitized by right-wing Christians.
In an opinion piece in the Orlando Weekly, Jeffrey C. Billman notes that the plan is "Scott's attempt to marry the anti-tax, pro-austerity wing [of the GOP] with Trump's populist, authoritarian wing." Billman writes that the plan is largely a familiar litany of grievances from white male conservatives who are worried about losing their leg-up in society:
From start to finish, this is an authoritarian document dressed up in the language of freedom. Like all variants of right-wing populism, it focuses the grievances of its target demo (a loss of cultural primacy) at scapegoats (the wokes).
I will mention again that Scott, supposedly a devout Christian, has taken to calling his political opponents the enemy, which, it hardly needs to be pointed out, is a precursor to violence and even genocide. When it comes to a holy war against the secular, socialistic, "woke" enemies of America, I guess all bets are off. It's disturbingly similar to the language of Putin and his official mouthpieces in describing Ukrainians and Russian dissenters as "scum" and "traitors," likening them to gnats that must be spat out of one's mouth.
In Carlin's famous Ten Commandments routine, he holds off a while from commenting on the Fifth Commandment. Those who call themselves religious, he observes, have never had that much of a problem with murder: "More people have been killed in the name of God than for any other reason….The more devout they are, the more they see murder as being negotiable."
Scott's Point 10, which attempts to pit religious liberty against the "wokeness" of big tech, ends with an implicit threat of violence: "Remember – the Second Amendment was established in order to protect the freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment."
That's like killing two birds with one stone tablet: Scott is willing to encourage violence against his political opponents while simultaneously grossly misrepresenting the meaning of the first two amendments to the U.S. Constitution.
Honestly, we owe Scott a debt of thanks for setting this out in plain type. Let me try to repay that with my own 11-point plan to save America, in a spirit of give-and-take and constructive debate, which is sometimes necessary even with one's "enemies":
- In a democracy, you should not lie or spread misinformation — or trust anyone who does. Democracy depends on reality-based information and the best reporting of what is known right now. Let's make it illegal for any corporate entity to willfully disseminate false information.
- You should not treat people who are different from you — in race, color, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation or anything else — as second-class citizens. America's not-so-secret strength has always been in its diversity.
- Your religious freedom is not a license to harass others with your personal beliefs. Your faith is no doubt a strength for you; hold it close and know that many of us envy the solace you derive from it. But keep your faith out of our bodies, our relationships, our libraries and our critical scientific research. As historian Garry Wills put it, the separation of church and state is the one unique, genius thing in our Constitution.
- You likely have your hands full with your own love life. Don't pass judgment on the consenting activities of other adults. Get your business out of everyone else's business (see #3). In a world reeling with hate, why would anyone attack love?
- You should not ban books (unless you want to see them on the bestseller list). You say you believe in the free market and in free speech. Stop being outrageous flaming hypocrites on this stuff.
- You should be careful in picking your populist pals. The "elite" are not always who you think they are. Ron DeSantis, Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley and Tom Cotton all went to Ivy League schools, no matter what dialect they affect when they sidle up to you to talk self-serving nonsense.
- Your culture wars are an attempt to divide and distract Americans. They are pushed down your throats by unscrupulous politicians and true enemies of America, like Vladimir Putin and his lapdog Donald Trump. They should be ignored.
- Your freedom of speech is not under attack. You can say pretty much anything you want, at home as well as in the public square. But other people have every right to respond, and even to challenge what you say. Threatening the lives of election administrators, public health officials or school board members, however, is a crime, and goes way beyond what you call "cancel culture." Banning novels and the teaching of real history makes it seem like you are canceling culture for real.
- You should not elect obvious grifters to public office. America does best when it is not led by sociopaths and criminals.
- You should bear in mind that we need each other. When Americans come together in mutual effort — supporting each other after natural disasters, or coming to the aid of Ukraine — it's a beautiful, powerful thing. We have far more in common than we are led to believe.
- We all need to get out more often — to walk in nature, see a play, hear some music and, most of all, stop thinking about our political disagreements. We could all stand to gain some perspective on the world and each other. What Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg about the "unfinished work" of American democracy will always be true. To continue that work, we could use a break. People of good faith are not relentless, but we need to show endurance against the unceasing attack on democracy.
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