Is America Speaking Out a gimmick? Sure it is. But having been elected to the majority in the House before --during the so-called 1994 revolution -- House Republicans know that gimmicks without substance and follow-through are meaningless, even disastrous. Which is why Republicans aren't in the majority now. And if they screw it up again - Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the presumptive Speaker of the House if Republicans do win the majority in November is pretty open and consistent about saying -- they'll deserve every loss that comes from it.
As one veteran of the 1994 revolution tells me: "Times are a'different than they were back in 1994 when Newt and Dick could descend from the mountaintop with the 10 tablets of the Contract, take out some ads in TV Guide and Reader's Digest, hold a mass event on the steps of the Capitol, and expect everyone to sign on."
He continues, "Trust in government is at a 50-year low, incumbent is a four-letter word, and the Republican Party remains in the dumps, so the approach to devising an agenda must take that new environment into consideration. Of course, it may unfold in an entirely uncharted direction!"
That's a gamble Republicans probably have to take. It's perhaps not that dramatic a gamble precisely because it suggests Republicans -- at least in the leadership -- are already doing a good bit of listening. They recognize the new, civically active environment. They also see that the Tea Party anger isn't simply a repulsion of Washington or government. Poll after poll suggests that the Tea Party movement reflects center-right, conservative values. These should be Republican voters.
America Speaking Out suggests confidence about exactly that. The site trumpets commitments to "limited, more accountable government; economic freedom; lower taxes; fiscal responsibility; protecting life, American values, and the Constitution; and providing for strong national security." Further, the Republicans will tell you that they feel confident that, in these Obama-Pelosi years, Republicans in the House have not only said "no" to bad ideas, but have offered alternatives on health care, spending, jobs, regulatory reform, energy, and other issues. It's a bummer most of those aren't taken seriously, but it's not the stuff of bums.
Long beyond the novelty of their website, Americans will keep speaking out. And, increasingly, the people who are willing to make the sacrifices to show up as elected representatives on Capitol Hill have little to no interest in deluding themselves that Washington runs separate from them. Power may corrupt, but having seen too many in their caucus go down that road in the past, they know it's what losers do. It's a long road to November yet, but it's not a bad way to jump into the summer.
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