Friday, September 17, 2010

House Republicans To Issue Lousy Agenda. . . Slowly

No film discussion today because I’m suffering from the flu. And because of this near death experience, I don’t have the mental clarity to talk about anything interesting or thoughtful. So instead, I will address the election agenda the Republicans are about to roll out. At this point we don’t have the full agenda (or even most of it), but we have enough to know that we will need to use the word “retard” liberally in any letter we send to the “leadership.”

Now I’ve been saying for some time that the Republicans need an agenda. Without an agenda, they will have no mandate and nothing to guide their actions once they win control of the House. In fact, I’ve gone so far as to produce an agenda.... here. But the leadership has been cowardly and inept on this. So I was somewhat heartened when I heard that they were finally preparing an agenda. But of course, it’s never that easy with the Republicans and there are a great many red flags going up.

Indeed, it was a troubling sign that no one in the leadership was willing to sign on to Paul Ryan’s plan, which is quite impressive. Clearly, cowardice remains the chosen course. And it was a bad sign when Mike Pence, who I normally respect a great deal, refused to sign the Contract From America on the grounds that he didn’t want to do anything that would confuse people into think the Contract and the Republican agenda were the same. Why aren't they Mike?

Then I heard about the “rolling out.” That’s right because nothing says “policies we really believe in” like a gimmicky two week roll out. . . like an unfunny David Letterman Top 10. What’s worse, it’s apparently closer to a Top 20. . . because the public loves long, unwieldy lists. Clearly, the Republicans have learned nothing about marketing. Always keep your lists short, punchy and relevant. And to get the greatest bang for your buck, release it all at once with a grand ceremony, never dribble out the details over a couple of weeks time -- especially when you’re talking about the things you supposedly hold dear.

Then I heard that none of the non-incumbent candidates had a hand in drafting this. At a time when the voters are sending messages to Washington, the idea of excluding the voter’s representatives from preparing the agenda is arrogant and delusional. And this will lead exactly to what it appears to have led to: meaningless insider crap that isn’t even about style, much less substance.

Indeed, the first known proposal will require that each bill include a specific citation to the constitutional authority under which the bill is being passed. Wow! If a member questions whether the House has that authority, the challenge would receive debate and a vote! Double wow! And this will do what about the debt, about the unchecked growth of government, about the intrusion on our rights, about the abuses of federal power? This sounds all constitutionally, but it’s nothing more than smoke and mirrors. At a practical level, all this means is that every bill will now have the words “Commerce Clause” printed on the top, and nothing else will change. Indeed, they already have the power to question their authority and the only people who use it are Ron Paul and his space cadets. This is pointless. We might as well require them to certify that the draft they read on the floor was written on legal size paper or that they washed their hands before they voted.

The second proposal is even worse. This one is a watered-down proposal stolen from Pelosi. From now on, they will “encourage” (but not require) that members read each bill before they vote on it, and they will require that the text be put on line for three days before the House votes on it. Again, so what? How does this change the content of these bills? And what does this do to change the culture in DC, the deficit, the crappy Obamaconomy, or the corruption? Moreover, as the Democrats discovered, this is not a practical rule because of the number of votes and the time constraints on those votes. Thus, once again, the GOP is choosing to steal an idea from the Democrats that has been proven not to work, and then promising to do it half as much. . . old habits apparently are hard to break. Maybe we should change our logo to a circle with a small case “d” in it? Further, talk about handing the Democrats an issue to ridicule us with: “the GOP doesn’t believe that its members need to read each bill they vote on, they only encourage it.”

These two proposals are what is called “inside baseball,” meaning they don’t matter to anyone except a handful of insiders. I’m sure the staffers are home right now touching themselves in inappropriate places as they read these policies and feeling that their life’s work is complete. But the rest of us know better. Those of us who don’t live our lives in a bubble know that this is all a meaningless gesture that will not change one letter of substance in any of the bills that get passed.

The rest of the proposals supposedly deal with tax proposals, health reform proposals and job-related measures. Ok, let me just say. . . no duh. What else were they going to deal with? Pest control? Decorating national parks? Criminalizing Dutch Subways?

But before you get excited that they may have stumbled upon something, let me caution you that they’ve leaked out that they don’t plan to do anything “grandiose.” Said one leadership aid, “we’re not re-creating the wheel.” In other words, don’t expect anything you haven’t already seen, i.e. it’s business as usual.

I will give this “agenda” a chance, but let me be clear. This is their last chance. The American people have tossed a softball across the plate, and if Boehner and his collection of idiots can’t find their way to the plate, then it’s time to be rid of them.


USArtguy said...

I had heard there was supposed to be a Contract From America but hadn't seen it yet. I just found the website. While at first blush it appears better than what you're describing from the GOP leadership, it seems a bit vague in parts. For example Democrats would argue that they "Protect the Constitution" and certainly have enacted "Fundamental Tax Reform" and that they try to "stop the pork"... one man's pork is another man's highway. I'm not saying their arguments are legitimate or helpful, I'm just saying the wording is vague enough to be used by either side. I can sort of see why Pence wouldn't necessarily sign on.

Anonymous said...

This comment might apply more to an article you wrote on Wednesday but this is why, despite the Tea Party and everything, I can't help thinking nothing will ever change and what's to stop new politicians (Tea and otherwise) from simply being "assimilated" into the system? I can see the articles now: "We thought we were voting for change but it's all business as usual!" (And where have we heard that before?)

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day. He leans a bit to the left but isn't really political at all. The subject of politics eventually came up and, much to my surprise, he went off for ten minutes about pretty much everything I stated above: how nothing will ever change, how he feels useless against the "machine," how he hates watching political documentaries because he knows he lacks the power to change anything, etc.

And be careful with the word "retard." Sarah Palin might ask you to apologize... to... someone. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

USArtguy, I understand your point on Pence and I'm keeping an open mind because he's been very good in the past. I also agree that the Contract From America is somewhat vague. But I do think the CFA includes a set of general principles that (while vague) do give a clear sense of what people want: smaller government, cleaner government, less intrusive government, and government that stays within the bounds set for it.

What bothers me about everything I've heard coming out of the leadership is that they seem largely determined not to change anything except the rhetoric, and when they do offer "change" it's this petty stuff. It's like saying, we're going back to the negotiation table with a new plan to get this thing done. . . we're going to switch the drinks in the conference room from Coke to Pepsi.

I truly believe that right now the public is speaking with an almost uniform voice -- "we want massive cuts in government spending, we want the government out of the things it's jammed itself into over the past decade, we want the corruption and the insider-money game brought to an end." Yet the leadership seems to be deaf to this. Instead, we hear them pimping for insurers on health care, we hear them worried about fake non-regulations that might barely inconvenience large banks, we hear about BS hearing intended to embarrass the Democrats, and now we hear about "changes" that are smoke and mirror procedural crap. Beyond that, whenever someone proposes a real change, they disappear like a Democrat when Obama visits their district.

That's what troubles me.

AndrewPrice said...

Scott, That's the problem, that the system is well set up to keep anything from changing. But change is very possible. The problem is that change in our system requires a leader who can drive it from the top down. There's no one like that right now.

I wasn't a fan of Gingrich (after the first 100 days) for a great many reasons, but one thing he excelled at was creating and passing a simple agenda that did change DC. Reagan did it over a period of year through a combination of public support, political savvy, and fearful Democrats who saw the writing on the wall if they opposed him.

LBJ and FDR brought change (not for the better, but change) because they had willing Congresses and the will to impose their will.

Right now, the country (the public and the system) is ready to accept that kind of change again, but there is no leader to deliver it. Instead, what you have leading the Republican party are a group of lifers who honestly don't understand the desire (need) for real change and are too afraid to bring it.

I know it's in vogue to say they're out of touch, but they really are at a more fundamental level than you can imagine. I've known many of these people, both professionally and in school, and I can tell you that they genuinely don't get understand the difference in the world outside the beltway and inside. They live in a world where changing where people sit in committee rooms is honestly seen as dramatic change. The idea of substantive change simply eludes them. . . I found my interactions with them to be truly disturbing.

So I fear that you are right that there will be no real change and the people will just get madder and madder until the public pops.


AndrewPrice said...

But, there is reason to think change is coming. First, you need to realize that the parties do change, but it takes time. Look at the Democrats, they have been changing (not for the better) since the 1960s. They've gone from a liberal, but pro-American party to an angry collection of self-assigned victims. And over the past decade, the "progressives" have intentionally set out to push them further and further to the left, a change they have managed quite successfully.

The ONLY reason nothing happened for them was their blind stupidity in choosing Obama. My honest assessment of Obama from the beginning was that people were deluding themselves. He had no accomplishment and no track record of accomplishments. There was no evidence that he has the slightest bit of intelligence, the slightest political insight, the slightest ability to be a leader, or the slightest hint ideology. I know everyone on the right likes to call him a socialist, but they're wrong -- he's nothing. He believes nothing. He knows nothing. He stands for nothing. And you see the result of that now: he doesn't stand up for a single one of his "ideas," he can't discuss them, he can't develop them, and he can't implement them. He's an empty suit, and relying on him to bring genuine leadership is like hoping a crash test dummy can drive you across country through a maze.

What's more, people deluded themselves on his message. What exactly did he promise? Nothing. He promised "change" and "a new America." This is how empty suits speak. If he was an empty-suit CEO he would have spoken about "new paradigms" and "a return to competitiveness." These are meaningless phrases intended to let the listener think they're hearing substantive thoughts and then fill in those thoughts with their own prejudices.

That's why the far left heard that he was going to bring socialist utopia, the center-left heard a return to a more liberal form of capitalism, conservative Democrats heard a return to the pre-1960 Democratic Party, the populists heard an end to the big business/big government relationship, whites heard an end to whining about racism, blacks heard the mother of all affirmative action programs, etc. He offered all things to all people because he said, "I'm with you" and then let everyone fill in the blanks for themselves.

So I always felt that he would fail utterly (as I've documented on this site from the beginning) because (1) he lacks the ability to lead, (2) he has no idea where he wanted to lead people too, and (3) he allowed everyone to hear different promises.

That's why they failed... and frankly, I'm glad they did.

(continued... because I'm on a roll)

StanH said...

Washington statist are going to have to be dragged, kicking and screaming, too put real limitations on the thing they love most, “power.” When you clear away the brush, you have two party’s headed in the same direction one just a little faster than the other. Trent Lott, former Mississippi Senator Republican made a very telling comment the other day to the effect, “What are we going to do with a bunch of Jim DeMint’s running around here, how’s anything going to get done!” Bear in mind Trent Lott and John Breaux formed a lobbyist firm that lobbies the Senate. My point is, it will require new blood, and the fear of God to straighten this out.

AndrewPrice said...

So will there finally be a change? Yes, but it won't happen in 2010 and probably not in 2012.

What is changing the party is Jim DeMint. DeMint has learned the key to changing a political party: if you want to change the system, you need people who are willing to change the system. And that means stepping on toes and ending the Republican system of "if you've served your time, then we look up to you no matter how daffy you are."

Thus, he's been the guy who sought out and promoted each of the insurgents who have unseated the cozy-clubbists in the Senate. What this will do is change the culture of the party (as you already see people like Olympia Snowe complaining about last night) to being more ideological -- this is the same change the progressive caused in the Democrats.

What's more important, is that these new people are not beholden to the old interest groups, and thus you will see a dramatic change in the nature of the party and who they are concerned about, which will translate into a change in what kinds of laws they pass and how they do them.

Could they be coopted? Sure, but it seems unlikely with this group -- especially after the scorched earth campaign the establishment is waging against them.

As for the retard comment, I don't accept political correctness from either side of the spectrum.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, check out the final part of my comment to Scott -- I discuss Jim DeMint. He is seen as the Anti-Christ right now by the establishment because they know he's onto the one thing that can change their lifestyles.

They've been able to dismiss guys like Ron Paul because he's not effective at building a core of support. And they haven't had much to worry about from most conservatives because they play the game, biding their time. DeMint is different. DeMint poses the same threat to them that Soros posed to moderate Democrats.

Anonymous said...

Andrew - thank-you for your (unexpectedly lengthy!) reply. I'm gonna be out of the house for most of the day so I might have more to say tonight. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

You're welcome Scott, I'll be here... if I don't die first. ug.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I happen to be one of those who thinks the concept of citing constitutional authority is a good idea. Sure, it could become pro forma very quickly, but astute legislators could also challenge the authority cited and if necessary, take it to court. That said, there's a big but. I'm not so sure that it belongs in an agenda that the public would like or pay attention to when there are BIG issues that need to be addressed as a cohesive party.

How many times have people blissfully ignored the basic writing dictum: KISS (keep it simple, stupid)? Taxes, spending, medical care, privatization, smaller government, more freedom-fewer rules. These are what we need to get in front of the public in a simple and workable manner.

Still, I think the requirement of citing the constitutional grounds for legislation, particularly when it involves government intrusion or huge spending is a good one. And it dovetails with another part of your article. The Constitution is designed precisely to avoid immense and sudden change as a result of the will of temporary majorities. The best way for governmental over-reachers to accomplish their goals is to pass legislation and ignore the Constitution (viz., requiring people to pay for health insurance they don't want). By citing the constitutional authorization in a bill, the grounds for challenge are automatically narrowed and focused.

Pittsburgh Enigma said...

Andrew: great three-part rant in the comment section! I especially agree with what you said in the third part that change will likely come more slowly, and maybe the significant part of it will be after 2012. How many people are overlooking Obama's veto? That's not going to be insignificant while he's still in office.

And like you said about Jim DeMint, that's one thing that's happening almost quietly but steadily: lots of new blood is coming into the party (well, assuming most of them make it through the general election.) These people aren't career politicians and don't want to be. I can see there being an eventual great upset in the leadership of both houses, and no one is going to see it coming, except those of us who have been backing the Jim DeMint's. And the days are numbered for RINO's like Snowe, Collins, Graham, and maybe even Scott Brown. They are going to get primary'd just like many RINO's did this year.

When Nov 2, 2010 passes, the tea party groups aren't just going to pack their bags and go back to their old lives. They are quietly infiltrating the party at the local level. I was amazed at how many people in our local tea party group captured positions at the local party level. At some point, the establishment is going to find themselves outside the house looking in the window and wondering how they got locked out.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, I would agree with you in principle, but in practice, this is a meaningless gesture because (1) the courts aren't serious about the Constitutional limits anymore -- if they were, we wouldn't even need this, and (2) they fully intend this to become a pro forma exercise. Every piece of major legislation always gets tested in court and they always cite the Commerce Clause, this just makes them say the same words before they go to court rather than waiting until after they get to court. I can't conceive of any way that this changes the way business gets down in the Congress.

In any event, if this is what they are selling as the kinds of substantive change they are planning to promote, then I think it's obvious that they aren't being serious.

AndrewPrice said...

Pitts, Thanks! I think you're absolutely right. The only way to change a party is to change the people, and that starts at the local level, which is where most candidates are chosen.

I have been thrilled to see Tea Party people invade the Republican Party and start to take over local leadership positions. I think this is what it will take to change the party culture to align them with the public again rather than K-Street.

And I know that you're connected with the Tea Party, so I'm glad to hear your confirmation that they have invaded the Republican Party. I think this is much more likely to bring about a sustainable change in our country than anything else the Tea Party people could have done.

Indeed, between these new Tea Party people and the DeMints, I think the leadership will need to change soon to reflect the will of the people, or they will find themselves on the outs. Right now, they're resisting, but that's ultimately useless and I think they will eventually bend to the inevitable.

In all my years of watching the party, this is the first time that I genuinely feel that a permanent change may be about to happen.

Unknown said...

Andrew: Things change at the Supreme Court over time as well, so I'm sticking with my support for the requirement. Twenty years ago I wouldn't have given it a snowball's chance in hell that the Supreme Court would uphold individual gun ownership as a constitutional right. But I do take your point, and I know that as a practical matter, it won't make much of a difference. Let's just hope the Supreme Court begins to see the "Commerce Clause" justification as mere surplusage that should no longer be taken as dispositive.

Nevertheless, I agree with your conclusion about a lack of seriousness.

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Don't get me wrong, I absolutely do NOT disagree with you that this is something that should be done. I think its vital to our republic that the government start to obey the limits placed on it, and like you, I am very happy that this Supreme Court is finally trending that way.

But, I don't see this requirement being anything more than smoke and mirrors. I think Congress cares less about the Constitution than they care about the toilet paper they used this morning. And all they will do in response to this is to add a macro to their word processors that prints out the words "Commerce Clause" at the top. I don't think 90% of them will even realize it's there.

That's why it bothers me that this is something the Republicans would consider being the kind of substantive change that the public should be happy about. If they are serious about changing government, they should be looking at balanced budget bills that don't allow things to be put off budget, genuine pay as you go with each year needing to be in balance, undoing the court decisions that let Congress get away with vague laws where the courts fill in the blanks, limiting the time Congress sits, restricting access by contributors and lobbyists, ending the revolving door, and slashing taxes to cut the amount of money the government has to play with.

That's my point.

Ed said...

Being a Republican is like volunteering to get kicked in the teeth every couple weeks. Good comments. I hope DeMint can change the party because it's clear Boehner, Cantor and McConnell won't.

Joel Farnham said...

Interesting article Andrew.

BTW the little bit I gave you on the other thread is just a teaser. I am still researching all the rest.

I do need your commentators that you used to come to those conclusions about O'Donnell. I need them to find out where they got their information. I believe there is a larger story in this. I believe that some of your commentators have stepped in it and are doing their level best to destroy the credibility of a conservative because she had the temerity to buck North Eastern liberal Republican Establishment.

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, It feels that way sometimes doesn't? I've been used to getting kicked in the teeth since George Bush I, and they've never really stopped.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Joel, I'll gather the ones I remember and post them in the other thread.

Cris said...

Suggested Agenda for Republicans:


Get it?

AndrewPrice said...

Cris, Let me put that through the Washington filter:

1. This woman is crazy and knows nothing.

2. Let's placate her by talking about "out of control government."

3. Let's send her a mailer to see if she contributes.

Sad huh?

By the way, I like your agenda! :-)

AndrewPrice said...

P.S. Chris, your kind of clarity is something that you just don't see in people who spend their lives in politics, and that's the problem -- that's why they're out of touch, because they don't understand that the public's priorities are actually quite simple and easy to satisfy.

BevfromNYC said...

All I want is for someone, ANYONE to do whatever Chris Christie is doing in NJ!

FYI - I hope you feel better soon, Andrew! Chicken soup. It will cure whatever ails you...really!

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks Bev, I think I'm going to start taking it intravenously before my head explodes, which it seems ready to do. :-(

I hate to admit it, but I haven't kept up with Christie enough to know everything he's doing, but what I have seen impresses me. I want a common sense conservative, and that's what it sounds like he is.

P.S. I hear some candidate for governor in New York is sending out garbage-scented mailers. Nice move.

CrisD said...

I am sending dough to candidates because I sent money to RNC before but now I realize that that is a black hole ( kind of like my tax dollars.)

If the D and R's in Washington thinks its biz as usual--they ought to realize that even the least educated among voters know that the economy crashed due to decades of mismanagement and we are now living on a HUGE credit line of our children and grandchildren!!

I say, "Washington, go ahead and laugh--all the way to the guillotine!" They are arriving with pitchforks and the R's can MAYBE surrender and get away with merely being voted out.

P.S. Every relative between 40 and 55 was laid off in the past year--they had college and in some cases grad school.)

P.S. Feel better, Andrew, I am Miss Chris, not Madame LeFarge :)

AndrewPrice said...

CrisD, I'm sorry to hear that about your family, I hope they all find jobs soon!

Thanks for the well wishes. This stuff is pretty unpleasant. I think it's Obama-induced flu.

I'm glad to hear you're giving directly to candidates -- that is the way to do it! :-) Those are people who need to be supported! Those are the people who can change the systems. The RNC is the system.

And I agree with you about the change in the public -- nice line about the guillotine! Everything I've seen says the public won't put up with this anymore.

CrisD said...

Thanks, we all took it in stride and have made lemonade out of the lemons. Such a strain with kids in college, etc...

...But, then again, don't feel so bad about handing the Rino's their hats :)

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