A Tea Party manifest it isn’t. That’s the immediate reaction (if you lean toward the Tea Party end of the political spectrum) that comes from reading the Republicans’ new Pledge to America.
This is not a call to arms for revolutionaries. The pledge does not advocate the elimination of the Department of Energy or Department of Education (as some Republican congressional do), call for private Social Security accounts or suggest the transformation of federal entitlement programs. (Perhaps that’s why the GOP’s most famous incumbent reformer, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was nowhere to be seen when Minority Leader John Boehner and other House Republicans unveiled the pledge yesterday.)
No, this is a document designed to put forth a strong alternative to the Obama/Pelosi excesses without alienating independent voters who went with Obama in 2008 but now find themselves disillusioned. It was written not for Tea Partiers, but for Americans who, though disenchanted with Obama, still remember why they voted for him two years ago. Namely, because it was hard to have faith in the Republican Party that year. It is a document about regaining trust, and that in itself is very encouraging.
Republicans in Washington seem to be learning. Unlike the party in power at the moment, they seem to be listening, which is the first prerequisite of learning. Being Republicans, they get that they need to oppose the Democrats. Being politicians, they get that they need to oppose unpopular legislation. This pledge does those things, but it goes a little bit – not much, just a little – further. It recognizes that Americans are not just upset with the Democrats for pulling the country so far Left so quickly, but that they are just as upset with the political class in general for lying to them, misleading them, and manipulating them to stay in power.
That is not to say that John Boehner, the man who once handed out tobacco company checks on the House floor, is a born-again reformer. It is to say that Boehner and the rest of the House leadership have listened closely enough to understand that the people don’t want them to simply return to their old ways. That is no guarantee that they won’t, of course. But it’s somewhat encouraging.
“We will launch a sustained effort to stem the relentless growth in government that has occurred over the past decade,” the pledge states. That’s an important phrase, “over the last decade.” It acknowledges fault, as the GOP was in control of the federal government within the last decade.
The details, though, are what throw some conservative critics. Sure, the aspirational statements are fine. But what are they really going to do? Here are some highlights:
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