Sunday, September 26, 2010

Is The 'Pledge To America'
A Worthy Successor
To The 'Contract With America'?

by Frank Luntz - September 26, 2010 - The Washington Post

I didn't write the "Contract With America." I didn't even name it. But I was the pollster who "messaged" it, testing how voters responded to the language. And I have always been proud of how that document contributed to the Republican landslide in 1994 and how it served as an organizing plan for congressional Republicans in 1995.

This past Thursday, House Republicans unveiled their own "Pledge to America," which, according to GOP House Whip Eric Cantor, is meant to "change the culture of Washington, returning power, control and money back to the people where it belongs." I wasn't involved with this document, but I have moderated almost 50 instant-response focus groups with thousands of voters this year, and I do have a good idea of what they really want.

The future of American politics is totally bound up with where the Tea Party movement goes after the elections of this November. No matter the outcome, their "Core Values" commitment has become the focus of much of the campaigning in this years critical elections. Those three core values, "Fiscal responsibility", "Free markets" and "Constitutional government", have resonated because they are so clearly what America stands for. These are not everything that America stands for. They are however the most serious issues we need to address before we can tackle other issues.

I personally appreciated the value of this assessment by Luntz of what he sees as value in the "pledge" Republicans are taking. Here are my thoughts on the Luntz assessment.

His first assessment is on wording. Luntz feels it needs to be a "commitment" not a "pledge". I agree. Words do matter. Next election we need to make our commitment clear.

Second assessment. I do not agree with Luntz that bipartisan is a direction that we need to follow when bipartisan is defined as "increase the size of government but at a slower rate than Democrats want." We need to change the dialog. Deny bipartisanship when all it means is slow surrender to big government. Explain why. Absolutely refuse to support bipartisan actions when surrender is all it means.

Third assessment. As a preamble, nothing can be better than "America is more than a country. America 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." The Declaration of Independence from which these words are paraphrased is as much a part of our social contract as the Constitution. We need to stick with this standard preamble until we have our country back.

Fourth assessment. The laundry list of the pledge is too long and too high level. next election we need to make our "commitment" specific and targeted.

Fifth assessment. We need to conclude using the words from the "contract" - "If we break this contract, throw us out. We mean it." Whether a pledge or a commitment, documents like the "contract" and the "pledge" are always "A Call To Action." To make the final step in the pledge a vague call to action weakens it. Let's return to the bold and emphatic language of the "contract."

The most important issue is that the The Tea Party movement needs to start thinking where we are going after November. A commitment by the Tea Party movement to the specific steps we support in the next elections is a perfect solution. It should come well before the last moments of the 2012 elections. We need to keep rallying our people for the entire two years coming up. Start as soon as the dust settles. Finish it quickly.


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