In my previous post, I suggested that although the current iteration of the Tea Party lacks a uniform agenda, the potential for a competitive party to emerge centered around a balanced budget and reduced government spending is relatively high – but only so long as the long-standing national parties do not make a credible effort on the issue. Republicans’ “Pledge to America” not only attempts to refute the “party of no” label that Democrats have been assigning them, but may also represent an attempt to co-opt the fervor around these key issues.
However, the “Pledge” appears to fall far short of making a credible effort on the issue. The Pledge focuses on government spending and the deficit (as well as health care reform), but the specifics on how they will do it seem lacking. In particular, expanding on defense spending, extending the Bush era tax cuts for everyone, and repealing health care reform all would increase the budget, rather than decrease it. They avoid discussion of popular government programs like Medicare or Social Security – programs whose costs have been increasing steadily.
Although Republicans claim that conservatives are responding favorably to the Pledge, Democrats are attacking the bill as an extension of their flawed policies. Whether the Pledge changes the minds of Independents or really convinces those individuals who support the Tea Party for their position on government spending issues, rather than social issues, is yet to be seen. I remain convinced that there is the potential for a new party to take advantage of public outrage over the deficit and spending and become true contenders – or at least push the parties to really address these issues in meaningful ways.