A Brief 2010 Republican Midterm Platform

Republican prospects for 2010 have grown big. The generic congressional ballot shows Republicans with a statistically significant lead. Once-safe Senate Democrats like Ben Nelson now trail badly in their reelection bids. The Rasmussen Poll numbers for Obama reveal a steep drop in job approval. 

Obama was intended by Democrats to be the post-partisan leader who would energize and inspire Americans. Instead, he seems to flounder when confronted with actual decisions. He surrounds himself with incompetent fans like Desiree Rogers and Janet Napolitano rather than serious administrators. Obama has charm, but he has overused that charm, and now it bores and irritates rather than delights. 

Obama's growing weakness is more dangerous for Democrats because they have followed him in lockstep. When the notional "conservatives" like Ben Nelson utterly ignore their constituents in favor of wildly unpopular health care legislation, then Democrats have defined themselves as obedient slaves of Obama. 

The slavish devotion to Obama would not matter if Republicans waffled and wavered. Instead, Republicans have united in opposition. Voters increasingly see the two parties as different. Republicans must define that difference. That happened in 1994: House Republicans unified behind a clear and written mission statement for the midterm elections called the Contract With America. Although this bound only those House members who signed on for those ten stated objectives, Americans connected the Contract with America to Republicans at every level, from state legislative races to big state Senate races.  

The Contract With America dealt primarily with bringing to vote specific popular measures. What enrages and infuriates Americans today is that the very process of government seems divorced from the will of the people. A health care bill opposed by the vast majority is bought through bribery, which is openly defended by Democrats as "business as usual." Republicans should attack this specific idea of government for sale.

This is what Republicans should do in 2010: Write in simple words what the Republican Party will do if given power. Unless the majorities gained are overwhelming, which is almost unimaginable in 2010, Republicans can promise only to bring to a vote and to support most of these measures. If kept, that promise can be the beginning of a new revolution. 

This 2010 Midterm Platform should be very short, very clear, and very definite. It should be small enough to fit in a short letter. It should be easy enough for nearly every American to understand. It should be a solemn pledge that must be kept (as the each specific term of the Contract With America was kept). Let Democrats stumble through thousand-page congressional bills which no one has read and which are changed in the middle of the night to win wavering votes. This is what Republicans should promise:

In either house Republicans control, adopt a new rule which would prohibit voting on any bill unless the entire language of the bill has been made public at least thirty days prior to the vote. End all hidden dealings on federal legislation and last-minute amendments, and allow a real national debate on any new federal legislation in the exact form of its ultimate enactment. Adding pork into crevices of vast bills is simply a way to buy votes. Obama vaguely promised to oppose this, and then he broke his word. Republicans must absolutely guarantee uncluttered congressional bills. Legislation too murky and vast for voters to possibly understand destroys the whole idea of democratic government and places legislation into the hands of political operatives. 

Republicans should vote to repeal all health care legislation passed under Obama and insist that any new proposal be published completely and without amendment at least thirty days before Congress votes on it, in accord with the new rule. This could allow Republicans in control of the House to circulate to all America a very short and popular health care reform bill which accomplishes, without political payoffs or backroom deals, many good and popular changes. In fact, if Republicans could adopt a bill so short that it could actually be mailed to all Americans a month before its vote in the House, then all Americans could read in a few minutes precisely what Republicans are planning.  

Support for the Republican bill could become a self-generating political juggernaut that could undo all the harm in Obama's health care plan and make our health care system better. Pick, as in the Contract With America, what the vast majority of Americans think is needed and make that the bill. It would pass the House with overwhelming support. Senate Democrats and Obama could support it, or else rightly be seen as the obstacle to reform.

Finally, Republicans should promise to adopt rules for the House and for the Senate which require a two-thirds majority to bring to a floor vote any federal legislation with earmarks in it. The monstrosity known as Fiscal Year 2010 Defense Authorization Bill had more than 1,700 different earmarks, and Obama signed it despite a solemn pledge four months earlier to veto a defense appropriation bill larded with earmarks. There is simply no reason to put earmarks in bills. The political party that really ends this legislative vice will win the trust of the voters.

These Republican reforms would not be substantive. The reforms would not lower taxes or abolish useless government agencies. But they would unite Republican and throw even "conservative" or "moderate" Democrats like Nelson or Landrieu, who sell principles out for pork, into opposition. Obama came into office with an aura of change and hope. He has squandered that. Republicans can and should reclaim what Obama has forfeit by promising not platitudes, but very clear, very brief, and very absolute change. If this happens, Republicans will have earned the right to be the majority party again.

Bruce Walker is the author of two books: Sinisterism: Secular Religion of the Lie and The Swastika against the Cross: The Nazi War on Christianity.
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