House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Calif., right, and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., arrive to speak with members of the press after a House Republican leadership meeting, Nov. 15, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Credit: Patrick Semansky / AP

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Susan Young is the Bangor Daily News opinion editor.

In campaign ad after campaign ad, Republican candidates for office in last month’s election decried the terrible state of the economy. They blasted President Joe Biden, governors like Maine’s Janet Mills and other Democrats for mismanaging the economy and causing record-high inflation, which has raised the prices for many goods and services. Nevermind that inflation is a global problem, with the war in Ukraine, the consequences of the COVID pandemic and continuing supply chain issues playing a large role in shortages and price increases.

And Republicans trotted out the typical campaign trope that Democrats are soft on crime and want an open border, neither of which are accurate.

So, now that Republicans will have control of the U.S. House of Representatives, what is their plan for fixing the economy? Are they going to offer a comprehensive immigration reform and border security bill?

It’s hard to know because so far, House Republican leaders have devoted their energy to virtue-signaling moves, pledges to investigate the Biden administration and family and promises to kick some Democrats off House committees.

U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the U.S. House of Representatives, has pledged that one of his party’s first acts when it takes over the chamber in January will be to read the entire U.S. Constitution on the House floor. This, apparently, is supposed to show how patriotic the party is.

The announcement came after McCarthy proudly proclaimed that House sessions would begin with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer with Republicans in charge. Turns out, that’s how sessions begin now. It is written into the House rules. So, McCarthy’s virtue-signaling announcement was essentially meaningless.

McCarthy has pledged to remove three Democrats, who have had major disagreements with Republicans, from House committees. He, however, doesn’t have the sole power to do so; it requires a vote of the full House.

McCarthy has also pledged accountability for the Biden administration, with a potential long list of investigations. If members of the administration have done things that are illegal, they should, of course, be held accountable. Ditto for the president’s son, Hunter Biden, who is already under federal investigation.

A fresh look at the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could be helpful, as would a review of U.S. border policies and operations.

However, if these investigations are only about embarrassing Biden and members of his administration — which seems likely — McCarthy and his team have already signaled that they are not serious about governing. Looking backward can be helpful, but it won’t solve inflation and the other problems that Republicans pledged to tackle.

Shortly after the Nov. 8 election, in which there was no red wave, in Maine or across the country, Republicans lamented their losses, or absence of more and larger victories. What went wrong, they wondered.

In Maine, some members of the GOP suggested voters did not hear their message.

But, here’s a thought: Maybe voters heard the message but didn’t buy it?

Former Republican Gov. Paul LePage, for example, resoundingly criticized Gov. Janet Mills for her handling of the Maine economy as he sought, unsuccessfully, to unseat her. He fixed Maine’s economy before and he’d do it again, he proudly said. The problem is that LePage was woefully short on details about how he’d fix the economy. He pledged to lower prices, but didn’t really say how. He pledged to reduce government spending but offered few details. And, of course, he said he wanted to lower taxes, but didn’t offer realistic ways to offset the revenue losses.

Republicans — both those who will be in leadership in the closely divided U.S. House next year, and those in the minority in the Maine Legislature — have a difficult job to do. They’ve got to be more than just opponents of Democrats. They need to show people that they have real solutions to the very real problems that Americans are facing.

Reading the Constitution won’t lower food prices or fill oil tanks.

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Susan Young

Susan Young is the opinion editor at the Bangor Daily News. She has worked for the BDN for over 25 years as a reporter and editor.