It’s been an odd strategy. After winding up on the losing end of the biggest presidential blowout since the Reagan era, the Republican Party, with the nation at war and in economic crisis, decided to sit the next two years out. While Obama offered the politics of hope, the GOP became the party of nope.
Now, after 23 months of nothing, the Republicans have unveiled their answer to these tricky times, giving voters something to weigh as they fill out their ballots. Or at least that’s the goal of “The Pledge to America.” (If it sounds like they’re plagiarizing their own “Contract with America” of 1994, that’s exactly the idea.)
So far the Pledge has landed with a thud. When FOX News’s Chris Wallace quizzed John Boehner last week on why there’s nothing concrete on Social Security or Medicare in the Pledge — two big-dollar programs in the federal budget — Boehner answered, “I think we need to do this in a more systemic way and have this conversation first. Let’s not get to the potential solutions.”
No, let’s not. Why would anyone want to talk about solutions during an election? Could his answer be any more cynical and out of touch?
If the GOP seems hopelessly irrelevant, it’s by their own doing. By taking a powder break from politics, they allowed a vacuum to form. Guys like Boehner might hope that a decade from now everyone will still be talking about his Pledge to America, but they won’t. The storyline is set, and 2010 will always be the Year of the Tea Party.
As the GOP stepped aside, a civil war broke out and a new movement seized the party’s reins and set the agenda. In many primaries, Tea Party-backed, far-out candidates have sent old-school Republicans into retirement. Bringing in fresh blood is generally good, but was the lesson of the party’s electoral debacle in 2008 that America wanted a more hard-line, John-Birchy GOP? America wants more moderate leaders — people who can fix things and not ruin the country by testing out their crackpot theories.
So this whole Tea Party fling might turn out to be an epic bender; GOP honchos may wake up the morning after with a headache instead of all those expected electoral gains. Whatever happens, they need to quit the do-nothing routine and get back to work to collaboratively solve our problems.
That’s the call of duty in these tough times.