Everybody can relax and stop worrying. After two years of race-baiting, fear-mongering and legislative roadblocking, the Republican Party has finally produced a blueprint that will undoubtedly fix everything. In the spirit of Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America," the GOP on Thursday unveiled a 21-page document titled "Pledge to America" that, they hope, will be the banner to which the American people will rally come November. It's the biggest thing since the Magna Carta, if you listen to them tell it, and will surely be the solution to all that ails us.
It is, in full, a startlingly vapid piece of work. The language in the document is typically incendiary from the jump, a nod no doubt to the Tea Party hordes who are threatening to upend the entire Republican Party. Basically, according to the GOP, America has been taken over by a usurper whose administration does not reflect the will of the people. In other words, we're doomed:
In a self-governing society, the only bulwark against the power of the state is the consent of the governed, and regarding the policies of the current government, the governed do not consent. An unchecked executive, a compliant legislature, and an overreaching judiciary have combined to thwart the will of the people and overturn their votes and their values, striking down long-standing laws and institutions and scorning the deepest beliefs of the American people. An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates, and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many.
According to every poll in the known universe, the "deepest beliefs of the American people" include stronger regulation of Wall Street, health care reform, environmental protection, and pretty much all the things the GOP pledges to do away with in this document. If anything, the American people are annoyed with the Obama administration for not going far enough with the mandate they were handed in the 2008 election, but try telling that to these Republicans.
It took exactly four pages for the thing to get truly silly:
Politicians in Washington have imposed an agenda that doesn't reflect the priorities of the people. What's worse, the most important decisions are made behind closed doors, where a flurry of backroom deals has supplanted the will of the people.
Unless I'm mistaken, this "Pledge to America" thing was conceived, written, printed and distributed by "politicians in Washington." In order to appease the Tea Partiers on their right flank, the GOP has apparently decided to run against itself, and that just cracks me up. Call it the "I Hate Me" strategy, but I'm pretty sure the people this is aimed at aren't going to be snowed into believing they are reading something that wasn't produced by "politicians in Washington."
The rest of this manifesto basically repackages the same tired, failed chestnuts the GOP has been trotting out for years now. Taxes are bad, regulation is bad, health care reform is really bad, marriage is between a man and a woman, gay people are not good, we need to shrink the government and have a massive, robust national defense...and, yeah, those last two have always puzzled me. How do you have a huge military without taxes and a strong federal government? You can't grow an Abrams tank in a cornfield, so you have to pay the contractor when they build it. How does that work without a significant revenue stream, anyway?
Yeah, it's that kind of document.
Reaction to the GOP's "Pledge to America" came swiftly. White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House blog, "Instead of charting a new course, Congressional Republicans doubled down on the same ideas that hurt America's middle class. Instead of a pledge to the American people, Congressional Republicans made a pledge to the big special interests." The most surprising reaction, however, came from one of the GOP's most conservative corners. Erick Erickson of RedState.com erupted with vehement scorn upon reading the thing in a blog post titled "Perhaps The Most Ridiculous Thing To Come Out Of Washington Since George McClellan." In it, Erickson writes:
These 21 pages tell you lots of things, some contradictory things, but mostly this: it is a serious of compromises and milquetoast rhetorical flourishes in search of unanimity among House Republicans because the House GOP does not have the fortitude to lead boldly in opposition to Barack Obama.
It is dreck - dreck with some stuff I like, but like Brussels sprouts in butter. I like the butter, not the Brussels sprouts. Overall, this grand illusion of an agenda that will never happen is best spoken of today and then never again as if it did not happen. It is best forgotten.
The entirety of this Promise is laughable. Why? It is an illusion that fixates on stuff the GOP already should be doing while not daring to touch on stuff that will have any meaningful longterm effects on the size and scope of the federal government.
This document proves the GOP is more focused on the acquisition of power than the advocacy of long term sound public policy. All the good stuff in it is stuff we expect them to do. What is not in it is more than a little telling that the House GOP has not learned much of anything from 2006.
I will vote Republican in November of 2010. But I will not carry their stagnant water.
This thing would carry a lot more weight with me if it started with an abject apology. After all, the reason we are down in this economic ditch is entirely due to the GOP's harebrained policy ideas. I suppose that wouldn't make much sense, though. "Yeah, we screwed everything up and wrecked your future, but here's how we're going to fix it...by doing what we did to screw things up in the first place." Nah, that probably wouldn't fly.
It sure sounds like the GOP wants to get things done, though. One should bear in mind, however, the various pieces of legislation they've managed to block while in the minority. You have to ask yourself how committed Republicans are to the "deepest beliefs of the American people" after they killed or tried to kill:
- Franken's Anti-Rape Amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill: a bill to allow women who are raped while working overseas to have their case heard in an American court. Every Republican male in the Senate voted against it, but it managed to pass.
- Benefits for homeless veterans and homeless veterans with children: successfully blocked by the GOP.
- Health care for 9/11 first responders: successfully blocked by the GOP.
- A Jobs bill that gives tax breaks to companies that hire new employees: successfully blocked by the GOP.
- Stricter regulations for financial institutions to keep them from destroying the economy again: Republicans attempted to block this but failed.
- The stimulus package: Republicans went wild and wooly trying to block this, then turned around and took credit for the multiple aspects of the bill that worked.
- Oil spill liability to make oil companies pay more to clean up after a spill: successfully blocked by the GOP.
- Unemployment benefits extension for millions of unemployed people who are trying to hold on: blocked by the GOP for weeks before it finally passed.
- The Fair Pay Act, a.k.a. The Lilly Ledbetter bill, to ensure women are paid the same wages as men: the GOP tried to block it.
The list goes on, but you get the idea. If these actions are any indication, the true nature of the GOP's "Pledge to America" involves screwing as many people over as possible while lining their own pockets and the pockets of their wealthiest constituents.
Despite its myriad flaws, don't be surprised if this thing actually works. The "Contract with America" was less than 900 words long but managed to give the GOP majority control until 2006, so stranger things have happened. And then, of course, there are the Democrats, who could screw up the recipe for boiled water. On the same day the "Pledge" was released, both House and Senate Democrats made the mind-boggling decision to punt on the vote to repeal the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. The poll numbers in favor of such a repeal are through the roof, but these dunderheaded Democrats are refusing to move on it, thus denying themselves a key platform to run on in the midterms.
So, yeah, the "Pledge" is so stupid that it just might work...with a little help from the majority, of course.