On Thursday, members of the Republican leadership introduced the country to the Party’s most recent plan to get the country back on to a path to prosperity. Let me say from the beginning that as a longtime Republican, I like what I see in the Pledge to America. It is right and proper for the GOP to outline a plan of fiscal responsibility and assurances that our national defense will be taken care of. There is little in the document that I think most Republicans (and most Americans for that matter) would have a problem with. But I harbor deep skepticism that the Republican leadership has the will to make the tough choices that they claim they will make. But before we go too far, let’s take a look at the content.
One of the first things that I noticed, aside from the overdone lambasting of what is described as an elitist Washington that ignores the will of the American people (these are the same Americans that voted the Administration into power, and sent the Republicans packing), is the rational behind the Pledge to America:
“Structure dictates behavior, so we have drafted this blueprint on a process of listening to the American people and fielding their concerns and ideas for turning things around.” Maybe its cynicism, but this kind of fluff only detracts from the greater message of the document. This statement essentially tells us that the collective Congress is unable to function as intended, so this framework somehow allows for more popular participation. Aside from a novel weekly online poll for cost cutting ideas, this piece never really plays out. But I will admit that on this point I’m nitpicking.
The Pledge to America gushes with promises to curb excessive spending, and to cut taxes. This is the heart of what could be the return to greatness of the Republican Party. Imagine, if you will, a Congress that enforces fiscal discipline. The tough calls are made, spending is checked, targeted tax breaks allow for the flourishing of small and medium sized businesses. With that kind of scenario playing out, within a few years, the American economic engine could recover, and we could start the arduous process of paying off our crippling debt.
But we’ve been burned too many times by these promises. We’re all too familiar with the reality that, if the Republicans did retake the Congress, the tax cuts would almost certainly fly through, but the spending cuts would not. It is on this point that I’ve lost the most faith in my political party. If they want to do what this country really needs, then stop with the short term political posturing. Don’t cut taxes just to position yourselves for a better shot at the presidency in 2012, because if history is any indication, the spending cuts will never resurface. This country is headed toward bankruptcy, and we need the GOP to not only promise what’s in this Pledge, and not only to enact it, but to go even further. Spending cuts are never going to be popular. Accept it, do it, and rest assured that you’ve served your country, even if the backlash means you are voted out of office. We have no problem asking our soldiers to risk their very lives for the good of our nation, so you Mr. or Ms. Congressperson should certainly have no problem risking your job. History will judge you kindly.
As would be expected, the Pledge to America promises to repeal the despised health care reform law, and replace it with loosely strung together ideas that few believe would significantly expand health care to Americans. It’s time to say what you mean: if there was any redeeming aspect of the health care debate of 2009, it was that the President made his goals clear. If expanding health insurance to most Americans isn’t a priority, then tell us what you expect to achieve with these proposals.
One point that I think almost everyone who reads the Pledge to America can agree on is where the document plainly states the need to restore trust to Congress. Cited within are very true, very valid points of Congressional buffoonery that has eroded faith in the institution and has also, in my opinion, helped to foster the vitriolic anti-government sentiment that exists today (remember the “Slaughter Solution”?).
But once again, if we’re to be honest with ourselves, the Democrats did not take over an esteemed legislative body from the Republicans. The heavy handed actions of Speaker Pelosi are not unique to the liberals. Since the Iraq War, both parties have acted in a manner that made clear their contempt for opposing view points. Opposition has been framed as borderline sedition. So the Pledge to America is absolutely accurate in its description of the state of the institution of Congress. But the ability to recover from this would be greatly increased if the GOP would recognize that they helped create the status quo.
I believe that for Republicans, the Pledge to America is a chance to start over and regain the trust they squandered when they took the Congress in 1994. With leadership and courage, should this roadmap propel the GOP to take control of Congress in November, the country as a whole would benefit tremendously. And many disenfranchised Republicans might finally feel like their party has finally come to its senses.