Good news: GOP, conservative leaders, tea partiers all planning separate right-wing manifestos

Actually, the GOP’s manifesto is a list of policies they plan to enact if they take back Congress, but close enough.

Senate Republicans will lay out a 10-point election year agenda this spring, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) suggested on Tuesday morning.

McCain said Republicans would craft a list of 10 legislative pledges which they would seek to enact within the first 60 days of taking back control of Congress, if they were to do so in this fall’s elections.

“We Republicans have to provide — and we will later this spring — a positive vision with what we want to do for the country,” McCain said during an interview on KFYI radio in Arizona.

The Arizona senator said that those 10 promises could include things such as a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, and absolute cuts in federal spending.

Let’s count up the documents in the works: (1) The GOP’s policy list; (2) tea partiers’ “Contract from America”; (3) the “Mount Vernon manifesto” being drafted by conservative leaders; (4) Boehner’s “Contract with America” redux; and (5) whatever it is that Michael Steele and the RNC are reportedly drafting. On top of that you’ve got (6) the 2008 Republican Party platform, which the RNC recently reaffirmed as an informal litmus test for prospective Republican candidates, and of course (7) influential freelance statements of principles like Glenn Beck’s 9-12 Project.

I understand the impetus behind all this — grassroots conservatives don’t trust the GOP and want to try to bind congressional leaders as best they can to core concerns — but you’re guaranteeing yourself the sort of disappointment that the left is now struggling with vis-a-vis the Blue Dogs. Progressives thought that 60 Democrats meant 60 liberals, or at least 50 liberals plus 10 weak-tea centrists who could be bullied, but of course it hasn’t played out that way. The balance of power is in the center, which is why people like Lieberman continue to be able to dictate terms to Harry Reid. When the GOP regains power (and even in 2012 or 2014, it’s unlikely to be with a 60-seat majority), they’ll face the same problem with Snowe and Collins and Scotty B. Point being, you’re going to have to water down conservative programs to keep moderates like them in the fold or draw off people like Ben Nelson, and watering down programs necessarily means compromising on core principles sometimes. Unless you think you can elect 60 hardcore Reagan Republicans — which, I hasten to add, even Reagan couldn’t do while the Reagan revolution was in full swing — you’re bound to see those principles betrayed. Which isn’t the end of the world: It helps to stick a firm stake in solid conservative ground so that the Republican chieftains who are leashed to it don’t stray too far. But they will stray, because they have to in order to pass legislation. We’re all on the same page about that, yes?

Exit question: What do you guys think about the proposed planks for the “Contract from America”? I like the term limits and sunset provisions, not so crazy about the kooky line that the tax code can’t be longer the Constitution.

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