The New Republican Contract on America Released

Dick-ArmeyThe final stroke in the Republican master plan to retake congress has just been released. It involves a purity list of 10 resolutions that candidates pledge to fulfill, in a mirror of the Contract on America in 1994.

According to the New York Times, “The battle among Republicans over what the party should stand for — and how much it should accommodate dissenting views on important issues — is probably going to move from the states to the Republican National Committee when it holds its winter meeting this January in Honolulu.”

This is the final piece of the puzzle from a playbook that has been identical to the one the Republicans used in 1993-94. This playbook was instrumental in convincing voters in 1994 to give the GOP a chance to pass some major pieces of legislation. The pattern leading up to this announcement was identical at that time to today, and includes the following steps:

*Avoid responsibility for failures of previous Republican administration(s)
*Increase the negativity to create apathy with everyone except an energized base
*Start a whisper campaign to ‘throw the bums out’ and call for term limits
*Make a grandiose list of pledges to supposedly fulfill if they are elected
*Retake congress and hamstring reformer president

The original Contract on America hatched by Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, and the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation had a different style and structure, although the principles listed in each are very similar. It was released much later in the campaign cycle as well, 6 weeks before the election to be precise, although certainly contributed to electoral gains by the GOP, and likely allowed them to take both houses of congress for the first time since 1953. This 1994 Contract contained the following provisions:

1. The Fiscal Responsibility Act
2. The Taking Back Our Streets Act
2. The Personal Responsibility Act
4. The Family Reinforcement Act
5. The American Dream Restoration Act
6. The National Security Restoration Act
7. The Senior Citizens Fairness Act
8. The Job Creation and Wage Enhancement Act
9. The Common Sense Legal Reform Act
10. The Citizen Legislature Act

Although the list below for today’s version of this is supposed to be a purity test for the Republican funding of candidates, it promises to evolve into a new list of promises meant to entice conservative voters to the polls in the 2010 midterms. There are already dozens of GOP politicians who fail the purity test, including Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. The pledge would also have banished the idol of the right wing in America, and a man who they tried to model this after: Ronald Reagan.

The Republican’s ability to get candidates elected with this extreme of a pledge might prove more problematic this time around, as there has been a generational shift in the country away from the conservative paradigm. The resolution, which needs to be ratified during next month’s GOP winter meeting in Honolulu could still have some modifications, but currently reads:

BE IT RESOLVED, that the Republican National Committee identifies ten (10) key public policy positions for the 2010 election cycle, which the Republican National Committee expects its public officials and candidates to support:

(1) We support smaller government, smaller national debt, lower deficits and lower taxes by opposing bills like Obama’s “stimulus” bill;
(2) We support market-based health care reform and oppose Obama-style government run health care;
(3) We support market-based energy reforms by opposing cap and trade legislation;
(4) We support workers’ right to secret ballot by opposing card check;
(5) We support legal immigration and assimilation into American society by opposing amnesty for illegal immigrants;
(6) We support victory in Iraq and Afghanistan by supporting military-recommended troop surges;
(7) We support containment of Iran and North Korea, particularly effective action to eliminate their nuclear weapons threat;
(8) We support retention of the Defense of Marriage Act;
(9) We support protecting the lives of vulnerable persons by opposing health care rationing and denial of health care and government funding of abortion; and
(10) We support the right to keep and bear arms by opposing government restrictions on gun ownership.

RESOLVED, that a candidate who disagrees with three or more of the above stated public policy positions of the Republican National Committee, as identified by the voting record, public statements and/or signed questionnaire of the candidate, shall not be eligible for financial support and endorsement by the Republican National Committee.

This document has been endorsed by 10 major national Republican players, including former GOP House Majority Leader Dick Armey, who now runs FreedomWorks, the well funded group primarily responsible for organizing the 2009 Tea Parties.  This pledge is also likely to cause even greater friction in already strained relations between Republican conservatives and the Libertarians who originally started the Tea Parties during Ron Paul’s grassroots campaign in 2007-2008.

This new list of 10 purity objectives by the Republican Party carries overtones of a more harsh language, and is reminiscent of a resolution last spring to try and rename the Democratic Party as the “Democrat Socialist Party” (ignoring the fact that there is already a DSP in the United States).  Whether this new rhetoric will backfire and energize reform advocates or fire up the GOP’s conservative base is yet to be determined, but it certainly has parallels to the events of 1994.


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