The rationale for keeping an agenda secret

THE RATIONALE FOR KEEPING AN AGENDA SECRET…. Jonah Goldberg argued this week that the “party of no” strategy has been a great success for Republicans, but suggested it’s time for the GOP to “call Obama’s bluff and offer a real choice.” By actually presenting a policy agenda, the GOP could achieve “a real mandate to be something more than ‘not-Obama.'” That sounds about right to me.

So, is there any chance congressional Republicans will take Goldberg’s advice and tell voters what they’d do with power? Not so much.

Yesterday, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) endorsed the notion of the GOP giving “certain specifics” about what the party supports, but he doesn’t want to see his party go into too many details.

“…I don’t think we have to lay out a complete agenda, from top to bottom, because then we would have the national mainstream media jumping on every point trying to make that a campaign issue.”

Heaven forbid.

As King sees it, Republicans could present an agenda, giving the electorate a sense of how the GOP would govern, but the fear is that the party’s ideas might become “a campaign issue.”

Perhaps King doesn’t fully understand the words he’s using here. If congressional Republicans have actual policy ideas — a dubious proposition, to be sure — they can offer them to voters as an alternative to the status quo. The media might scrutinize those ideas, but the GOP should welcome the chance to talk about the direction they’d take the country if given the chance. It’s what elections are for. A party’s ideas should be “campaign issues”; that’s the point of campaigns.

It’s about having the courage of one’s convictions. Deliberately hiding one’s ideas for fear of examination is not only cowardice, it’s indicative of a party that suspects its own beliefs would be rejected by the public.

Of course, this isn’t just about King. Note that would-be Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sat down with the Washington Post recently, and refused to give any details about how Republicans would govern.

It’s not a mystery why — GOP proposals would likely cost the party dearly if the public got a chance to consider them — but that’s hardly a good excuse.