At roughly this point two years ago, Republican officials were supposed to be working on their party platform. That didn’t go well: In 2020, the GOP decided to go without a party platform for the first time since 1854.
In the two years since, Republicans haven’t expressed much of an interest in governing or serious policymaking, but don’t worry, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told Fox News last night that this will soon change. From the network transcript:
“You’ve got to do more than just criticize, and this is where I have a really strong, different opinion than Mitch McConnell. We are going to lay out to the American public, just like when the Contract with America, and I’ve worked with [former House Speaker Newt Gingrich] about this as well. It’s going to be a Commitment to America. And what will we actually do? I’ve put all of our members in conference. We have gone to different taskforces, listening to the American public, working on solutions to our problems.”
As part of the on-air appearance, the House GOP leader proceeded to share some pleasant sounding ideas about energy independence, crime prevention, and investigating “where the origins of Covid came from,” among other things.
So, a few things.
First, McCarthy appears to have been working on his Commitment to America since at least September 2020. I can appreciate the fact that crafting a governing blueprint can take time, especially for a party that hasn’t exercised its policymaking muscles in many years, but I’d love to hear an explanation from GOP leaders as to why, after a year and a half, the plan still doesn’t appear to exist.
Second, in the event that the Commitment to America ever sees the light of day, it’s unlikely to be impressive. As recent events have reinforced, the Republican Party remains a post-policy party that remains indifferent to the substance of governing.
Third, while McCarthy & Co. will probably, at some point between now and Election Day 2022, unveil something resembling an anodyne plan, it will almost certainly obscure the GOP’s actual goals. After all, genuine Republican goals include tax breaks for the wealthy, weaker social-insurance programs that families depend on, weaker gun laws, and a systemic effort to roll back the clock on reproductive rights, voting rights, civil rights, and environmental protections.
And that’s a tough sell for a party that wants to win.
But what stood out for me as especially notable was McCarthy telling Fox News that he’s “worked with” Newt Gingrich on the partisan plan.
For some observers, this might seem sensible. As regular readers may recall, ahead of the 1994 midterm elections, House Republicans, led by Gingrich, presented voters with the Contract with America. For the first time in nearly a half-century, the GOP claimed a House majority soon after.
It wasn’t long before many observers made the case that one development caused the other: Republicans crafted an agenda, voters liked what the GOP was offering, and the party won big at the ballot box. The truth is far more nuanced: Polling at the time suggested most Americans had no idea what Gingrich’s “contract” said, and Republicans likely would’ve done just as well in that election cycle had the legislative blueprint never existed.
But some myths linger anyway, which probably led the would-be House Speaker to consult with Gingrich — putting aside the fact that the Georgia Republican hasn’t held elected office in more than two decades because his own members forced him out after a series of failures and controversies in the late 1990s.
All of which is to say, if Gingrich was involved in the creation of the as-yet-unreleased Commitment to America, it’s best to keep expectations low.