Striking a Balance

Carol Platt Liebau
Posted: Sep 23, 2010 10:30 PM
Below, Kevin discusses whether the Pledge is "platitudes or platform."  I would suggest it is both -- by design.

On the one hand, it is platform.  Not a complete platform, mind you, but nonetheless a pretty decent starting road map for where Republicans would be headed and what they care about.  Last I heard, they weren't telling anyone they couldn't offer more ideas for inclusion.

Along with providing a road map for governance, perhaps the Contract with America's greatest boon was in offering victorious Republicans in 1994 the opportunity to speak with a unified voice -- giving the party out of power a huge advantage in combating the power of the presidential bully pulpit.  It avoided fragmentation of the party into disparate groups when it came, post-election, to implementing an agenda and conveying that agenda to the American people.

The Pledge can do the same thing.  And if Republican leaders are smart, they have Paul Ryan and other smart Young Turks working on an even more comprehensive Pledge-type document to be unveiled after the election.

But it's also platitudes -- and while that isn't optimal, it is probably necessary.  On the one hand, one must be honest and forthright with voters about the party's positions.  That's what mandates are made of.  On the other hand, it is foolish (yes, foolish) to load any document with policy details that make it easy for Democrats to distort and demagogue any effort to reform government, thereby scaring either other liberals who might otherwise stay home, or "soft" Republicans and moderates.

I know the Tea Parties are all about changing the way we all do business.  And that's good and right and necessary.  But independents are what is making the Tea Party an electoral powerhouse, and if Democrats are able to steal moderates' votes (or at least make them stay home or vote third party) and/or frighten enough disillusioned liberals into going to the polls, then there will never be an opportunity to implement the Pledge -- or better yet, the Pledge on steroids.

Ultimately, Republicans should -- and hopefully do -- know by now that any victory they win in November doesn't guarantee them anything.  As far as most Americans are concerned, they will be on "double secret probation" -- and slipping back into free-spending, government-loving ways will seal their doom.

So let's not let the perfect be the enemy of the good when it comes to the Pledge.