24 May 2010

Republican Contracts

In 1994, Newt Gingrich and his Republican caucus released a document called the "Contract with America." It was basically a set of promises their party was vowing to keep if elected. They were well-chosen issues that carefully avoided being divisive - generally shying away from sexual freedom issues like abortion or religious issues like school prayer. They were also very specific promises, with vows to pass eight procedural reforms and ten bills - the text of which was made available. It was a smart and common-sense way to put up a platform and unite your base, and even if I disagree with many provisions, I also agree with some. This thing was a good idea, and it got a lot of people elected.

Naturally, they have been trying to duplicate its success ever since.

One recent attempt was the "Contract From America." It was organized by tea party activists as well as FreedomWorks, an organization run by Dick Armey (one of the original Contract's authors). This one was much more populist, since it was created by having tea partiers vote on long lists of vague proposals. The most popular ten became promises they want candidates to make. And they are about what you'd expect.

Most of the proposals are either burnt offerings to the Constitution or fiscal snarkiness, along with the elimination of a few programs hated by the right. I only agree with a single one, the balanced budget amendment. The rest of them are radical, abhorrent, or stupid. There is no chance for the vast majority of them, since they are unspecified and sweeping changes with no support.

In addition to the Contract From America, there is also an even stupider "New Contract with America" with no adherents. And on the horizon, the GOP has promised an official new thing going up at AmericaSpeakingOut.org. The Post reports:
According to Republican staff familiar with the site, it's going to be almost entirely user-driven, with Republicans picking avatars and debating, coming up with, and voting on issues like prosperity, fiscal responsibility and national security. Members of Congress will be responding to them, and site members will earn points as they participate -- an idea, I'm told, modeled on the "gamer points" earned by XBox Live members.

I expect yet more evidence that the tenor and quality of debate on the right has plunged in the past decade.

EDIT: The new GOP site went live shortly ago.

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