With ‘Pledge to America,’ House GOP shoots, misses

WITH ‘PLEDGE TO AMERICA,’ HOUSE GOP SHOOTS, MISSES…. Months in the making, House Republicans will unveil a new agenda this afternoon, and it’s called the “Pledge to America.” It won’t be formally released for a few hours, but the contents are already online, offering us a chance to see what the GOP has in store.

Barring a dramatic last-minute overhaul, the “Pledge” appears to be something of a joke. I saw one analysis last night that characterized the document as “ridiculous,” “laughable,” and “dreck.” The review added, “This document proves the GOP is more focused on the acquisition of power than the advocacy of long term sound public policy.”

Did this come from the DNC? No, it came by way of a leading Republican media personality.

Looking at the bigger picture, it’s tempting to think House Republicans deserve at least some credit for making the effort. After all, the GOP hasn’t even tried to craft a policy agenda in many years. The point of the “Pledge,” presumably, is to help demonstrate that congressional Republicans aren’t just the “party of no”; this is a new GOP prepared to reclaim the mantle of “party of ideas.”

But that’s precisely why the endeavor is such an embarrassing failure. The document combines old ideas, bad ideas, contradictory ideas, and discredited ideas. The Republican Party that lost control of Congress four years ago has had an abundance of time to craft a policy vision that offered credible, serious solutions. Instead, we’re confronted with a document that can best be described as tired nonsense.

Ezra Klein’s take was entirely in line with my own.

[Y]ou’re left with a set of hard promises that will increase the deficit by trillions of dollars, take health-care insurance away from tens of millions of people, create a level of policy uncertainty businesses have never previously known, and suck demand out of an economy that’s already got too little of it.

You’re also left with a difficult question: What, exactly, does the Republican Party believe? The document speaks constantly and eloquently of the dangers of debt — but offers a raft of proposals that would sharply increase it. It says, in one paragraph, that the Republican Party will commit itself to “greater liberty” and then, in the next, that it will protect “traditional marriage.” It says that “small business must have certainty that the rules won’t change every few months” and then promises to change all the rules that the Obama administration has passed in recent months. It is a document with a clear theory of what has gone wrong — debt, policy uncertainty, and too much government — and a solid promise to make most of it worse.

If Republicans set out to prove that they’re wholly unprepared and incapable of governing effectively, they’ve succeeded beautifully. That may have been obvious when there was an actual GOP majority and they failed on a spectacular, generational scale, but any hopes that the party has since learned valuable lessons quickly fade with the release of the “Pledge to America.”

Indeed, the moral of the story this morning is very likely the fact that Republicans probably shouldn’t even try. Last year, the House GOP released an alternative budget, which was so tragically pathetic, it neglected to include any numbers. Several months later, the House GOP released an alternative health care reform plan, which made no effort to actually improve a dysfunctional system.

And today, the House GOP will release a “Pledge” that simply doesn’t make any sense to those who take reality seriously. It’s a reminder that the Republican Party just isn’t good at this sort of thing. It excels in attack ads, smear campaigns, and media manipulation; but the GOP struggles badly, to the point of comedy, when asked to do substantive work.

Ultimately, it may not matter. Voters are frustrated by a weak economy, and so Democrats are very likely to lose badly in November, even if they’re being punished for trying to clean the GOP’s mess. But electoral success for Republicans in the fall need not translate to an endorsement of this “Pledge.” It’s a transparent sham.