The Republican House Minority will unveil their “Pledge to America” today; a plan that Minority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) claims will stabilize the nation’s economy and put it on the track to recovery. The plan is reminiscent of the GOP’s “Contract with America” that was the centerpiece of the Gingrich revolution of 1994 during the Clinton presidency. The centerpiece of the new Republican manifesto is a cap on domestic spending and the extension of the Bush era tax cuts, including those aimed at wealthy taxpayers.
Republicans are rolling out their plan as the foundation for congressional candidates on the ballot in this year’s midterm election. With polls showing great anxiety among the electorate over the state of the economy, and the Tea Party making waves in some states, the GOP leadership senses it has an opportunity to regain the majority in the House. It is a tall order given the size of the Democratic majority and polls that indicate the electorate views neither party favorably. Still, Republicans believe President Obama is vulnerable on the issue of the economy and is attempting to turn voter anger against Democratic candidates.
At the heart of the Republican plan is the party’s mantra that deficit reduction must take precedence given the size of the federal deficit. For months, they have hammered the Obama White House on this point and have characterized the President’s policies as fiscally irresponsible. President Obama has countered that charge by taking the position that all of the steps he has taken thus far, including the $780 billion stimulus package, were necessary to prevent the nation from sliding into a Depression. The problem with that defense is that millions of Americans remain unemployed, with the long-term jobless growing, and very few new jobs created in the economy. It is a dilemma for the White House as it struggles to explain its plan for recovery even while the recession has formally ended. To rally the troops, the White House is sending First Lady Michelle Obama on the campaign trail to stump for congressional Democrats who are vulnerable. President Obama is also making the rounds for candidates to raise campaign dollars.
For Black Americans watching this campaign season unfold there is a great deal of anxiety. While the recession is over, conditions facing Blacks rival the Great Depression. Complicating matters is the Black electorate’s support of President Obama and the quandary of maintaining that support despite high levels of unemployment and long-term joblessness. Many Blacks may also recall the 1994 Republican takeover of the House and the vitriol that accompanied the change in the chamber’s leadership. Already some personalities tied to the Republican Party, including former Speaker Newt Gingrich, have signaled their intention to revive racially coded rhetoric to fire up the party’s conservative base.
The core elements of the “Pledge to America” appear to hold little promise for Black Americans struggling to keep their heads above water in this economy. Tax cuts have never proven to stimulate economic opportunity for the masses at the lower rung of the economy and the proposed cuts in domestic spending will undoubtedly target programs serving the most vulnerable populations. In addition, the plan calls for the cancellation of the remaining spending obligations of the stimulus package. Republicans are also calling for a repeal of the health care reform legislation. At the same time, Republicans are opposing an extension of unemployment benefits for unemployed workers who have exhausted their full 99 weeks of benefits.
Though they are likely to attract little Black support for their agenda, Republicans are more interested in stalling the Democrats legislative agenda and setting the stage for the 2012 presidential election. It will not be as easy as some Republicans think and many in the party know the challenge the party faces. With a rogue faction in the form of the Tea Party and a pop-up celebrity in the person of Sarah Palin, there is an internal war raging for control of the Republican Party. As the party drifts rightward, there is little chance of it gaining Black support and due to its rhetoric on immigration, will have an uphill climb with Latino voters. In many respects, the Pledge to America is pitched to a core of white, conservative voters the Republican Party apparently has declared its base.