It would be unbecoming for us at The Weekly -Standard—we do have to uphold standards, after all!—to chortle with glee as the Democratic party melts down. It would be unkind to whoop at the top of our lungs as Obama White House big shots quit or get fired, and to cheer with gusto as the GOP leadership behaves sensibly, the Tea Party goes from strength to strength, and momentum builds towards a huge Election Day repudiation of big government liberalism.
So, instead, we’ll simply point out, calmly and quietly, that the Democratic party is in meltdown, the Obama White House is in disarray, and the voters are in rebellion against both of them.
As Matthew Continetti notes above, the Democrats seem ready to let Congress adjourn without ever voting on next year’s tax increases. And as the Democratic Congress has dithered, the Obama White House has crumbled. This White House will have lost, by the end of this year, a remarkably high percentage of its original senior staff members. The White House counsel, communications director, budget director, and chair of the council of economic advisers are already gone—to say nothing of the estimable Van Jones, special adviser for green jobs, enterprise, and innovation. The chief of staff, national security adviser, and top economic policy director will follow shortly. Almost all of them were oh-so-convinced they were the best and brightest, oh-so-contemptuous of others who had labored in those jobs, and oh-so-disdainful of the American people. If we were less good-hearted and generous in spirit, we would be tempted to say: Goodbye and good riddance.
Meanwhile, much to the amazement of experienced laborers in conservative and Republican causes, the Republicans aren’t blowing it.
Last week, for example, House Republicans unveiled their Pledge to America. Yes, it was a little overhyped in advance, and a bit pompous in presentation. But it actually does consist of a sensible series of first steps for a GOP Congress.
The Pledge, moreover, is a step up from 1994’s Contract with America. GOP strategists in 1994 seized on the idea of a “contract” as a way of bringing disillusioned Perot voters back into the tent. One source of Republican disillusion was that the first President Bush had promised not to raise taxes, and then did so. A contract was a way to make up for the failure to honor the promise to “read my lips.” And the good-faith and sincere attempt to implement the contract, to the degree congressional Republicans were able to do so, went a long way to repairing the damage of the broken promise of 1990.
But still, perhaps because it was making up for a breach of trust, there was something contrived and almost desperate about the contract as an attempt to allay the suspicions of the American people. This year’s pledge is a more dignified way for the people’s representatives to present themselves to their fellow citizens. Its allusion to the Declaration of Independence’s last sentence makes it appropriate for the year of the Tea Party. It suggests an open-ended commitment, one that goes beyond, and goes deeper, than fulfilling a contract with those who’ve “hired” you (to recall a locution that was popular in the era of Clinton and Perot). A contract merely limits the ability of our elected officials to do damage. A pledge does that as well, but it also supports a commitment to move forward, to act on behalf of the people in the cause of solvency, liberty, and self-government.
It looks as if 2010 will be a bigger electoral landslide than 1994, and more significant as well. But the true significance of 2010 will be to lay the groundwork for an even bigger victory in 2012—a victory that would allow President Obama to follow the example of so many of his senior staff, and depart the White House sooner than he once expected.