John Boehner Throws Down the Gauntlet

Last night, a friend sent me a draft of the Pledge to America that the House Republicans will be releasing today. It rewards study.

Back in early August, I wrote a lengthy post entitled John Boehner’s Testing Time, arguing in some detail that we live in a critical time in which the ordinary rules of politics do not apply. In ordinary circumstances, we are condemned to a politics focused largely on patronage – in which political struggle revolves around finding the means to satisfy party constituents. In such circumstances, the dynamic I described in Soft Despotism, Democracy’s Drift pertains. Federal subsidies grow and grow, and with them come mandates binding the recipients – local and state governments, corporations, universities, and NGOs – in ways that gradually, steadily eliminate their freedom to maneuver and subvert political liberty.

In critical times – such as the moment in which we now live – it is possible to transcend the politics of patronage and ascend to a politics of principle. This is the imperative that the Tea Party is enforcing. What is needed, I added, is statesmanship – an effort by politicians equipped with a modicum of genius to unite a party around a set of principles. I then suggested that John Boehner and the Republican leadership in the House draft a new Contract with America like the one presented in 1994 by Newt Gingrich but improved in the following way. Newt’s Contract was a laundry list. I suggested that Boehner and his merry men ground their call in America’s first principles.

And that, I am very pleased to say, is what they have done with their Pledge to America. This document has three virtues. It gives the Republicans a platform on which to run in November; it reminds the American people of the manner in which we have departed from the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and embodied in the Constitution, and it binds those elected to act on their pledge.

In politics, as Abraham Lincoln argued, public sentiment is everything. Our task is to reconfigure public sentiment in an enduring fashion by effecting a return to first principles – and that, thank God, is what John Boehner and the Republican leaderships are attempting to do.

More on this topic:

SMITH > The GOP’s “Pledge to America”

DE SENO > Is the GOP Pledge Designed to Steal Tea Party Thunder?

  1. Jerry Carroll

    This document is a good idea. The next question is whether the Republican Party will abide by it when it regains power. Democrats elected to Congress stay liberal; Republicans slowly morph into RINOs in the give-and-take to get deals done and legislation passed, and the result is a steady leftward creep as the decades pass. John McCain, Orrin Hatch and Lindsey Graham are good examples of the process. All were good pals of Teddy. He never changed, but they did. McCain ran as a conservative to win renomination, but watch him shed that skin again.

  2. Jimmie Bise Jr

    I’m sorry, sir, but this Pledge is not a gauntlet. It is a soft gentleman’s glove, filled with a bland custard, lightly tossed in the general direction of the Democrats.

  3. River

    I’m glad they issued it, and the same strategy worked beautifully in 1994. Now Democrats can’t say that “Republicans have no ideas of their own… and say ‘no’ to everything we try to do”.

    Skeptics like the honorable Charles Krauthammer say, “Why not play it safe and let the Democrats have to answer for everything they’ve done?.. If you’re winning, you shouldn’t go long”, using a football analogy that means don’t throw the ball, and run out the clock; “Take no risks”.

    But I say, just as in championship football, playing not to lose is a losing strategy. You should play to win, and in this case, what harm can there be in restating GOP and traditional American principles of limited government?

    There’s always a risk that the Republicans will fail to fulfill their promises. It wouldn’t harm them any less if they were silent now.

  4. Jason Hart

    River, I agree that having something – even if it’s a bit watery – is important politically, to ensure that the “Party of No” trope gets the complete lack of traction it deserves.

    I’m glad the Pledge lists a number of positive things the Republicans plan to do, but does not gloss over the fact that Obamacare must be undone. I wish it resembled Paul Ryan’s Roadmap more closely, but to be honest I’ll be happy if they stick to the Pledge.

    The best outcome I can imagine is the GOP sticking to the Pledge, selling it clearly to the American public, and then tacking in an even more conservative direction as they realize, “hey, this limited government business might actually work!” Two more years of Obama and the well-documented leftward drift of politicians makes me not-terribly-optimistic.

  5. Jimmy Carter

    Here’s their “pledge:”

    “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God.”

    Not mangle the Constitution, not interpret it, not ignore it, but support and defend. I don’t need scores of pages called a “pledge,” just uphold the Constitution or amend it.

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