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House GOP's Looooong Pledge to America

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, September 23 2010

House Republicans' "A Pledge to America" has dropped. And by "dropped," I mean posted by CBS News to Scribd. Pure politics aside, the GOP plan for post-midterm America plays up the collaborative way in which the plan was vetted. In its section for reforming Congress, we find this:

The top-down way of governing is outdated and just plain backwards. We will launch a prolonged campaign to transfer power back to the people and ensure they have a say in what goes on in the Congress. This year House Republicans launched a first-of-its-kind web platform called "America Speaking Out" to engage directly with the American people and allow them to establish a dialogue with their members of Congress. We will continue this groundbreaking transformative effort to give people a voice in real time with their government. We recognize that if we are truly committed to addressing the American people’s highest priorities, the House of Representatives must operate differently -- differently from the way the Democrats do now, and differently from the way Republicans did in the past. Change begins at home.

Ace writer Walter Kirn recently had a great piece in the New York Times Magazine about how America, as a country, seems to have a new-found obsession with process particulars and inside baseball, an article which might shed some insight on why House Republicans might think that Americans might care how this new platform was drafted. But in this case, they might well be right about that. For one thing, ABC News did a nice big piece on that angle. For another, that's what's suggested by the fact that both the White House and the Center for American Progress' Think Progress are hammering Republicans hard for failing to transcribe one of the more popular entries on America Speaking Out into their platform.

(Transparency fans, the plan also gives a healthy shout-out to the "read the bill" movement.)

As others have pointed out, "A Pledge to America" is pretty lengthy -- 48-pages long if you count the considerable number of photographs and the front and back cover art. Compare that to the House GOP's '94 "Contract with America" -- 866 words, and legend has it, written by one guy, more or less. To whatever degree collaboration played a part here, it didn't translate into concision. But to treat the tech here as determinative, that's not really what the America Speaking Out platform was built for. It's not so much a collaboration tool than, as the name of the proprietary software behind it implies, a townhall. Verbosity in, verbosity out.