It had been 40 years since the Republicans had controlled the US House of Representatives, and a decade since they held the Senate. Two years earlier, they had also lost the White House for the first time since the 1970’s and were desperate for a new type of strategic initiative in the upcoming midterm elections. The year was 1994, and a rebellious conservative leader named Newt Gingrich came up with a brainstorm: present the voters with a blueprint outlining their agenda with ten specific legislative promises and call it the GOP’s “Contract with America.” The Republicans subsequently stormed into power in both chambers of Congress, picking up a whopping 54 seats in the House and eight in the Senate. Now, 28 years later, prospective House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has tried to bring back the magic with what he calls the Commitment to America, designed loosely on the Gingrich initiative, though more populist (read Trump-friendly) in nature.
Unveiled in a speech by McCarthy Friday with 30 GOP House members of various stripes on hand in the heart of blue-collar America – Washington, PA, just south of Pittsburgh – the plan makes four lofty, overarching promises: “An economy that’s strong, a nation that is safe, a future that is built on freedom, and a government that is accountable.”
Will this initiative succeed? Well, this is not McCarthy’s first rodeo. The California-based congressman and current House Minority leader has considerable experience in the realm of grand designs. He played a key role in orchestrating the Tea Party-inspired takeover of the House by the GOP in 2010, which eclipsed the 1994 turnaround with a 63-seat swing to the Republicans. But while McCarthy spent the better part of a year compiling a document acceptable to both the so-called MAGA wing and mainstreamers, that does not mean there is universal support on the right for the structure, if not the substance, of this plan.
Commitment to America – Substance or Bluff?
Leading conservative activist Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center, tells Liberty Nation the effort is “noble – but empty.” As a major supporter of the Contract with America, Bozell opines to LN, “The four goals laid out are four goals that could be readily endorsed by the Democrats. The particulars within those goals are correct, and clearly distinguish the Republicans from the Democrats – and that is good. But where is the plan? What are the deliverables? What are the deadlines? Without these things you have yet another nice policy paper, and nothing more.”
Indeed, the goals are very broad, designed to uphold widely popular concepts which appeal to centrist and right-of-center voters with hot-button – and undoubtedly heavily poll-tested – language. The economic element focuses on reducing runaway spending, curbing inflation, cutting gas prices, and returning to Trump-era energy independence. On safety, the plan speaks of securing the border, re-funding police, and curbing crime by stopping catch-and-release. In the area of freedom, there are promises to pass a parents’ bill of rights in public education, expand school choice, and take on social media censorship. And on the matter of accountability, they say they will focus on reinforcing freedom of speech and the Second Amendment.
But their signature promise, and the first bill McCarthy pledges to bring forward, is one which will likely attract the most attention, and is almost certain to be popular everywhere except on the tax-loving hard left: a repeal of funding recently approved by Democrats for the Internal Revenue Service to hire tens of thousands of new agents.
And in a prospective 118th Congress which will undoubtedly launch multiple investigations, McCarthy envisions probes focused on at least three burning questions. “Why don’t we know where the origins of COVID started? Why don’t we know what happened in Afghanistan when the president listened to the military? What about an Attorney General who went after parents and called them terrorists simply because they went to school board meetings? This is where we’re going to hold the agencies all accountable,” McCarthy told Breitbart.com.
Will voters believe that the GOP will actually do what they promise? Of the ten promises in the Contract with America, all but one were passed by the House, but the rest were rejected or ignored by the Senate. And the one which did not pass the lower chamber was arguably the weightiest: term limits, long demanded by both the left and right. Years later, the Republicans’ promise to overturn Obamacare failed thanks to the late John McCain, who enjoyed flamboyantly tanking one of Donald Trump’s signature promises – seemingly just for the sport of it – after saying for years he was committed to exactly what he then defeated. This assured that the Affordable Care Act would become all but permanently embedded in the American health care system.
This begs another question: to what extent will voters reward genuine effort, as opposed to concrete results? For example, how much credit should Donald Trump receive for his legendary, but largely futile, efforts to build The Wall, while being obstructed at every turn by the Democrats? It is somewhere between bold and disingenuous to promise things that are beyond one’s control. And if any of the broad promises in this document are seen as unfulfilled – and how can they not be when Joe Biden still occupies the Oval Office? – Republicans can easily be depicted as failing to deliver on their promises. And that can then serve as a crucial talking point for their opponents in 2024.
If nothing else, this Commitment to America signals that the GOP has made the tactical decision to not only go negative on the Democrats, as recommended by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, but present a specific and striking contrast to the party which controls both chambers of Congress and the presidency. The question is, to what extent the rest of the more than 450 GOP candidates for federal office – and the voters – will embrace this exhaustive but idealistic blueprint.
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