If you have reviewed the congressional Republicans' "A Pledge to America," you will recognize what I believe is an earnest effort to tap into the tea-party spirit that is propelling the GOP's hopes of victory in November.
It makes all the right gestures to the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
It is genuinely an improvement over the strictly issue-oriented nature of 1994's "Contract With America."
I truly hope that congressional Republicans are sincere in setting out what they call "a new governing agenda built on the priorities of our nation, the principles we stand for and America's founding values."
Perhaps its strongest asset is a pledge to ensure that all future legislation specifically cite which part of the Constitution authorizes such actions by the federal government. I would like to see an up-or-down vote on that provision by every member of the new Congress.
But, before we start celebrating this good effort to get Washington back on track, there are a few cautions that should be noted.
"America is more than a country," states the pledge right off the bat. "American is an idea – an idea that free people can govern themselves, that government's powers are derived from the consent of the governed, that each of us is endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. America is the belief that any man or woman can – given economic, political and religious liberty – advance themselves, their families and the common good."
A pretty good start.
But then there is this: "Whenever the agenda of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda and set a different course."
Actually, though, the Declaration of Independence went much further than that. It's not just the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda. It is, instead, "the Right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government."
This might sound like nit-picking, but I assure you it is not. In times like these, we need to be thinking like our Founders thought – not like politicians. We're losing our country. And we don't have much more time to save it from those intent on destroying it. There is no room for error.
There are some terminology problems as well. For instance, on page 5 of the foreword, we find this enticing idea – one that sounds radical on the face of it: "It's time to do away with the old politics: that much is clear. It's not enough, however, to swap out one set of leaders for another."
But it suggests the goal of elections is to anoint "leaders." Actually, in the American system, we're supposed to elect "representatives" whose job it is to carry out the will of the citizenry.
The plan is also obsessed with economics, to the detriment of other primary concerns if we are to take America back:
The Pledge to America is a good start. I like its reminders about our roots and the founding documents. But it doesn't go far enough. If Republicans want to do more than ride a wave of popular opinion against the Democrats, they need to reflect values beyond the material.