"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where--" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
North Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is part of a group of Republican lawmakers that believes the Republican Party may be suffering from an indecision similar Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. Graham believes the solution is a simple manifesto for Republicans to campaign on and use as a political to-do list. Wrote Politico:
Advocates of the strategy, which has triggered a closed-door debate in recent weeks among the party’s current 45 senators, say it would serve as a firm rejoinder to Democrats casting the GOP as the “party of no.” They say voters should know what they’d be getting by pulling the lever for Republicans in November.
“I think it’s a strategic mistake for our party leadership not to come up with a document that has four or five action items,” Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the House class of 1994, said in an interview. “I’ve tried to allow those in leadership to do this. If they don’t move forward soon, there will be a rebellion among the rank and file.”
Such a list would not be without historical precedent, much of which is positive.
One oft-forgotten example of a political planner was James Polk, president from 1845 to 1849. His campaign promise consisted of four points, which he promised to resolve in just one four-year term: lower the tariff, restore an independent federal treasury, acquire Western territories, and resolve the Oregon dispute. Polk resolved all four concerns and, true to his promise, left politics forever in 1849. Some historians call Polk our most successful president because, rather than taking separate stands on the prickly issues of his day, Polk developed a coordinated plan to address them.
The cited precedent for the senators' current proposal is from 1994, when the Republican Party developed a "Contract With America" manifesto under Newt Gingrich's leadership. The manifesto outlined a series of procedural changes and bills to be debated if Republicans took control of Congress. The success of the Contract With America was mixed, partly because of vetoes by then-president Bill Clinton, but it did precede a relatively significant Republican takeover of Congress.
Wyoming Senator John Barrasso is collecting written proposals from Republican senators in leadership, which he told Politico can be used as needed. Some senators are resisting, saying the party is too diverse, and such a plan could help incumbents in some states while handicapping others.
This concern need not prevent the party from escaping the Alice in Wonderland-esque ambiguity of those who don't know where they're going. Rather, it could provide direction, a grocery list to help America's public officials prioritize their efforts. After all, what would have happened if the Continental Congress had not decided to outline its goals for revolution in a short document known as the Declaration of Independence?