Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Pledge to Do Nothing

The Republican "Pledge to America" is an attempt to show that the Republicans are more than a Party of No. The Pledge to America, however, is just a clever way to disguise a set of promises to undo or not do; but it is not ultimately a pledge to do anything.

Party platforms make a little more sense in the British parliamentary system, from whence they developed, because parliamentary sovereignty there does not have to contend with the separation of powers. But the Republican’s watered-down platform is a stunt if only for one reason alone. It's called the presidential veto, and the Pledge exaggerates what Republican takeovers in one or both chambers of Congress in November could achieve. This is a Pledge of faux intentions because Republicans know full well that it would only take a stroke of a presidential pen and almost every one of the proposals contained in the Pledge will not see the legislative light of day. If Democrats think they had it tough in the last two years trying to get 60 senators on board with each of their proposed bills, wait till the Republicans try getting 67.

The Pledge, then, is not even governing by campaigning, because it is pretend-governing by campaigning. How the Republicans are going to deliver, for example, on their promise that they will allow any lawmaker (Democratic or Republican) to introduce an amendment that would cut spending on any spending bill boggles the mind. What if the likes of Dennis Kucinich introduces amendments to reduce defense spending in every bill and the Congress grinds to a procedural halt? And if that’s the intention (as John Boehner flirts with the idea of shutting down the government), there is a problem there too.

At root, there is something fundamentally inconsistent about the Pledge. A philosophy of Government against Government is rather more self-defeating than the far Right admits. Not many people and certainly not many independents want to send representatives and Senators to Washington to sit there and do nothing or merely to undo something (like Obamacare). And Tea Partiers should realize that no politician is going to endure the campaign trail and finally get to DC only to make his/her job and reason for existing perfunctory. There is a built-in bias for government in the very notion of elections, and the far Right’s desire to starve the beast called the federal government cannot be accomplished for as long as the American people support Medicare and Social Security (neither of which are given much attention in the Pledge.) The beast is here to stay, so we might as well learn to tame it.

The GOP plans to unveil this Pledge at a hardware store in suburban Virginia on Thursday. The ceremony and hoopla may look patriotic, and heart-felt, and in keeping with our highest founding ideals. But the Pledge to America is little more than a publicity stunt revealing the danger of pretend-governing via campaigning in America. The solution to our troubles is not no government, but better government, and this nuance appears to be lost on the poll-tested slogans of this election year.

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