Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Contract II - Step I

The Republicans need something along the lines of the 1994 Contract with America for the 2010 elections. This is not only to have something to offer disaffected Democrats and Independents, but to keep their own focus, and to give us something to hold them accountable for.

To review, the CWA was several things last time - some procedural changes in Congress, plus some specific legislative goals. Examples of the former would include requiring a 3/5 majority for tax increases, zero baseline budgeting, and term limits for committee chairs. The legislative proposals included legislator term limits, balanced budget, and SS reform. The complete list of both parts can be dug up pretty easily with a search engine.

There were two main problems, one of appearance and one of reality. Though the Contract signatories had only promised to get all these items to the House and Senate floor for debate and vote, there was nonetheless a widespread impression that they had promised to make all these things happen. The House largely did its job in this, and passed a lot of the items as well. Many of these died in the Senate or were vetoed by Bill Clinton. The Senate, you may recall, including many Republicans, took the view that they didn't want to make changes too quickly, and wanted to slow them down and consider things. This was ultimately the heart of the erosion of support for Republicans over the next decade. And despite the rhetoric of revolution, the GOP never had strong majorities even then. As not all Republicans are conservative, conservatives never had a majority in either house.

The second problem was more substantive, but less noticed. A lot of Republicans gradually went native in DC, passing budget increases and doling out pork. A minority stuck to their guns throughout, and they remain largely unthanked by American conservatives. They fought the long twilight struggle against most Democrats, some Republicans, and most of the media.

Frankly, I wouldn't mind if we just took the 1994 package and tried it again. There's some pretty good stuff in there. But if Contract II has only partial overlap, and includes some things more current, that's fine too. I ask only that we all keep focus that the first aim is to bring the key requests of the people up to the floor of both houses for debate and vote. We are so far in the hole at this point that passing any major reform is likely to be beyond legislative capability - particularly with presidential vetoes in play.

But we can air out the debate and take names. Contract II - Step I


ELC said...

The train is heading for a washed-out bridge. Democrats like to drive the train at 100 mph. Republicans think the alternative is to drive the train at 90 mph.

I'm not sure what another alternative would be. I think we're going to find out, though, over the next 5-10 years.

It ain't gonna be pretty.

Eric said...

The Contract with America only promised to bring the issues to a vote because there was considerable dissension within the Republican Party about the desirability of the items.

I'm not sure the Party could even agree to bring the items to a vote this time. This is not a good thing.