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.
SMITH > The GOP’s “Pledge to America”