In 2006, a crumbling GOP majority in Congress proposed a series of measures with no hope of passage, but were designed to stir up the Republican voter base. In the Senate, there was a constitutional amendment to ban flag-burning. In the House, there was a bill to prevent federal courts from ruling the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional. Democrats, in contrast, talked about issues people were actually concerned about: a war that was going badly, an economy that was weakening and a multitude of GOP scandals. The Republican attempt to change the subject of the campaign failed to stave off catastrophe for the party in the midterm elections.
In 2010, Democrats are doing what Republicans did four years ago. This week, they held a predictably futile vote on the Defense Department’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy for homosexuals in the military service. Democrats also rolled into the same vote the DREAM Act. That’s the Democratic proposal that grants an amnesty to certain illegal immigrants attending college here and allows their schools to admit them at a tuition rate that is lower than the out-of-state rate charged to American citizens. These measures are strictly designed to energize the Democrats’ left-wing base in an election year. The DREAM Act, in particular, will likely be touted in a series of Spanish-language television ads for Democrats in western states.
Meanwhile, the House GOP has unveiled its 2011 legislative agenda in a “Pledge to America.” It is far from perfect, but it is an encouraging sign that Republicans, like the Democrats of 2006, are talking about issues voters actually care about right now: out-of-control federal spending, excessive taxes and the backroom deals that characterized the passage of Obamacare and other legislation in the 111th Congress. The Pledge includes repeal of Obamacare and replacing it with reforms that put consumers back in charge of their relationships with their doctors and their health care. There are also spending cuts, and a promise to post the final versions of bills online for 72 hours before the House votes on them.
The Pledge contains a lot of common-sense ideas. The large tax deduction the House GOP promises for small businesses, for example, will do far more to boost Main Street commerce than President Barack Obama’s billions in new government-guaranteed business loans. And the freeze on stimulus spending is particularly appropriate, given the failure of Obama’s $814 billion stimulus package to generate private sector job creation. On Nov. 2, voters will have a choice between the substantive proposals in the Republican pledge, and more of the same kind of legislative gimmicks they saw from Democrats this week.