Posted on May 25, 2010A little more than a year ago, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor came up with what I thought was a smart idea. He convinced a group of distinguished Republicans, including Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, that the GOP needed to spend some time listening to the voters to find out what they wanted from their government.
He founded the National Council for a New America with that express purpose. Why don’t we just listen for a change?
For his efforts, Cantor was widely disparaged. The left hit him with spurious ethics charges because he used official resources to listen to the American people. The right, including luminaries like Rush Limbaugh and Tony Perkins, huffed that Cantor and his ilk lacked principle because they didn’t know what they stood for.
It was a ridiculous spectacle, because if there ever was a party that needed to step back and actually listen to the people, it was the Republican Party in the aftermath of the 2008 election.
A year later, Republicans are going to try again. Kevin McCarthy and Peter Roskam have led a new internal effort to conduct a civil dialogue with the American people. This time, they are doing it with technology. They are unveiling a new social media platform that will allow interested Americans to interact directly with their representatives. This could change dramatically how the governed informs the governors about how to do their job.
Called America Speaking Out, the website will be used to solicit the views of the people. Civil discourse will be required, but no ideas are off the table. While it has been reported that these new ideas will be formulated into a new Contract for the fall, in actuality, Republicans may not wait that long. As the leaders are expected to say today, these news ideas could form the basis for parliamentary battles on amendments, motions to recommit and suspension bills this summer.
Hell, if it is a good idea, it shouldn’t wait until next year.
One of the constant refrains that I hear from folks back home is that the Congress is just not listening to them. That is not surprising. Just think about how much money Congress spends talking at the voters and how much money Congress spends to better listen to the voters. There really is no comparison. Congress spends probably 100 times more money bragging about what it has done than it does finding out what the voters actually want.
Will the Democrats try to destroy this effort with an ethics attack like they did with the Cantor effort? Probably, but my guess is that they will be less successful. Cantor included obvious political figures in his plan, including the presumptive front-runner for the White House in Romney. This effort is all internal to the House Republicans. And while Cantor envisioned a much more active role for town-hall meetings and personal interaction with constituents, this effort is pretty much all in cyber-world, which requires a lot less resources and fewer approvals from the Ethics Committee.
Republicans get a big thumbs up for attempting to better listen to the people to find good ideas and to build a better consensus of where we should go as a country together in the future.
Democrats would be better off if they followed the GOP example, instead of trying to kill it.