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Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Pledge of tired retread: GOP 2010

Never one to solely rely on interpretation of things and events by my colleagues in the nation's newsrooms, I took some time to read A Pledge to America (cue soaring strings and other orchestral music here). In case you had been yawning, this is the much hyped plan from Republican House members to “restore America.”

Photo: Ricky Carioti, The Washington Post
 It was meant to capture the urgency of the ‘90s-era Contract with America, with an attempt at a 2.0 twist. It wound up just twisted, a wretched and ultimately hollow blob of sloganeering overreach. It was so bad, once fawned over Tea Party members issued a counter Pledge.

What’s been interesting is that some of the sharpest critics to date on the GOP manifesto haven’t been the usual suspects. Instead, it’s been GOP allies, those who are now doubly mourning the passing of conservative stalwarts such as William F. Buckley and other Republican public intellectuals. Yes, there was a time when those terms once were compatible. This Pledge adds proof that today, not so much.

After the first three pages of big print and graphics (note the gigantic shot of the Statute of Liberty), come the words, a mash of patriotic paraphrasing of the Declaration of Independence to give it some heft. It has gems like this one:
An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates, and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many.
Yes. Self-appointed elites, not duly elected officials. And certainly not the authors of this work, as it were.

Evidently, a bunch of folks snookered an innocent public and snuck into Congress. The many in this case would be . . . well, still trying to figure that out. At last check, America operated under this crazy system called representative government, with people sent to halls of power to represent, you know, we, the people.

But for the purposes of making it past the fourth page, stick with the narrative of the masked Svengali-bandits that invaded an unsuspecting Hall of Power. Because of them, those people, it is proclaimed, “urgent action to repair our economy and reclaim our government for the people cannot be overstated.”

Again, insert masked Svengali-bandits here for this to make sense. Of course, the bulk of them just arrived in D.C. on January 2009. Or so the narrative would go. The brave legislators proposing a reconnection of “highest aspirations to the permanent truths of our founding” actually were kidnapped by said Svengali-bandits and had no idea of what was to come, all these things meant to upend American values.

That’s the only reason why poor GOP House members, despite valiant effort, couldn’t ensure a quick, painful death of the auto industry that made this nation a world leader. Thwarted in shenanigans to retain a status quo to keep every little Jimmy not born in perfect condition off insurance rolls. Defeated in a crusade to help banks continue to pick the pockets of credit holders without trust fund-level resources. It’s been a horrifying nightmare, all this consumer protection business being advanced. Daggone it!

Truthfully, I had held out hope to read something new, innovative. An approach that inspired more than ridicule. Re-reading the bill-inspiring Contract and then contrasting that with today's Pledge, sadly, it must be reported that was not to be. This bit of fluff is overwrought rhetoric that snarls with quiet fear without delivering anything close to intellectual rigor. These Crusaders of Congress decry what they're up against, detailing the state of affairs as if they never spent any significant time there.

Uh, yeah.

And a note to the PR team: visual aids are meant to enhance, not detract, from a product. In apple-pie-happy pap like this, examples of American ingenuity shouldn’t be limited to well-worn techniques like increasing margins and fonts or inserting photos. It sets off the BS monitor, and this 45-page document is cause for full sirens.

The Mount Rushmore and cowboy shots? Classic. The whole Dick-and-Jane construct that is so deeply missed? Compelling. So much so it compelled a round of that fun GOP pastime, “Spot the person of color in the crowd.” Even with prescription glasses, it's a tough call.
If unintentional, it’s well past Freudian. It’s time to fire the PR team. This is 2010, not 1950.

Then again, maybe it was all intentional. Maybe the GOP honestly thinks the bulk of this nation is stupid – or at least willing to overlook the fact that the authors of this treatise are and have been part of the institutions they are so roundly attacking with virulence. But if this is intended to move a national agenda and dialogue, not just stoke nostalgia and fear, maybe someone needs to package decoder rings along with this mess upon distribution.