Question for Erickson: What did he expect?
Here is the GOP cruising to a handsome election victory. Did you seriously imagine that they would jeopardize the prospect of victory and chairmanships by issuing big, bold promises to do deadly unpopular things?
But if the document is unsurprising, it’s also unsurprising that Erickson and those who think like him would find it enraging. The “Pledge to America” is a repudiation of the central, foundational idea behind the Tea Party. Tea Party activists have been claiming all year that there exists in the United States a potential voting majority for radically more limited government.
The Republican “Pledge to America” declares: Sorry, we don’t believe that. We shall cut spending where we can – reform the legislative process in important ways – and sever the federal guarantee for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Republicans will redirect the federal government to a new path that is less expensive and intrusive than the status quo. But if you want promises of radical change? No. Too risky. We don’t think the voters want that – not the smaller, older, richer, whiter electorate that votes in non-presidential years, much less the bigger, younger, poorer, less white electorate of presidential years. And even that smaller, older, richer, whiter electorate is highly wary of cuts to programs that benefit them, Medicare above all.
But the real news is this: You can primary a Bob Bennett, you can nominate a Sharron Angle, you can balk Karl Rove and Mike Castle – but when decision hour arrives, the leadership of the party rejects the assessment of the American electorate offered by Rush Limbaugh, Dick Armey and for that matter Erick Erickson.
Yet at the same time, we so-called RINOs can take no pleasure in this document. Yes, there is good in it. (Putting legislative language online 72 hours in advance seems Good Government 101.) The silly bits are not too silly: the promise to cite specific constitutional language is an empty sop to those so-called constitutionalists who vainly hope to revive the John Randolph school of constitutional interpretation.
But the true sad news is that this is not a document to govern with in the recessionary year 2010. It’s fine to reject Tea Party illusions. But without an alternative modern Republican affirmative program, the GOP will find itself at risk of being captured and controlled by special interests instead.
The most admirable thing about the Tea Party is its zeal to find a bigger message for the Republican Party than: do what K Street wants. The message offered by the Tea Party may have been unworkable, unrealistic, or worse – but at least it was large and public-spirited.
I’d like to see a Modern Republicanism that responds better to the needs of the country, while retaining still the Tea Party’s reforming spirit. What I fear is the worst of all worlds: a Republican majority that rejects not only extremist ideas, but all ideas.