Gimmick #3

GIMMICK #3…. If the House Republican leadership invested as much energy into learning public policy as it did into coming up with new political gimmicks, they might be more effective lawmakers.

The first gimmick was the National Council for a New America, spearheaded by House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.), which would engage the nation in a dialog about Republican ideas. The project organized an outside-the-Beltway event, which just happened to be inside the Beltway. Despite having been launched to significant fanfare, the NCNA was unceremoniously scrapped.

The second was the YouCut project. Here, Republicans pick government programs they don’t like, and invite the public to vote on which one they want to see eliminated. GOP lawmakers then try to cut the “winning” program, responding to public demand. The YouCut website garnered a fair amount of traffic, but the project ended up targeting a bipartisan jobs program, which made the whole initiative look rather foolish.

Which brings us to Gimmick #3.

House GOP leaders have planned a high-profile event at Washington D.C.’s Newseum Tuesday morning to launch the start of their “America Speaking Out” project.

Chief Deputy Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is in charge of the initiative to result in the release of a set of policy items that Republicans would pursue if they won back control of the House in November.

According to officials involved in the effort, “America Speaking Out” will focus on gathering feedback from Americans on what items that lawmakers should be focusing on in the future.

GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) touted the project, but was oddly cryptic about which arm of the party was sponsoring it.

In any case, all things considered, this might be the least compelling gimmick so far. Democrats have been arguing for quite a while that Republicans are effectively out of ideas and have no meaningful policy agenda to speak of. The “America Speaking Out” project seems to be the GOP leadership’s way of saying, “We’re hoping the public will help us figure out what we think and what we want to do.” Indeed, the materials announcing the initiative specifically say they want Americans to help the Republican leadership “develop a new governing agenda.”

I can appreciate bottom-up politics as much as the next guy, but less than six months before national elections, the party that intends to take the majority needs help from the public figuring out its own agenda?

This is about the time in the process in which voters turn to the parties and candidates and say, “Tell me more about your priorities and principles.” Under this new initiative, the Republican response seems to be, “You tell us.”

Fewer gimmicks, please.