It's time for a new Contract with America

Republicans searching for a winning message in next year's midterm elections and beyond should look back to the strategy the party employed in 1994: the Contract with America.  The Contract, as promoted by Newt Gingrich, featured mainly legislative proposals including a balanced budget requirement, tax cuts, and welfare reform.  These economic remedies were needed at the time, and, although the need for these reforms still exists, they seem almost quaint today in a time of larger problems that threaten the very foundation of the country.

The genius of the earlier Contract was in forcing the Democrat opposition to take a stand against popular sentiment.  This new platform would also propose commonsense positions favored by more than 50% of Americans and that are hardly fringe or extreme.  Some or all of these positions have been supported as centrist at one time or another by popular past presidents from Kennedy and Reagan to Obama and Trump, and appeal to a broad cross-section of the American electorate.  Any candidate that unapologetically champions these principles should be eager to invite his or her opponent to go on the record as opposing them.

Elements of a New Contract with America 2022 could look something like this:

We will enact pro–school choice policies and give all parents the freedom (and the vouchers) to do what is best for their own children.

We will restore faith in our elections at local, state, and national levels with fair and verifiable election mechanisms.  We support the principle of One Person, One Vote secured by voter ID, with open audit trails available to all parties at all times without regard to political influence.  States will run their own elections, but a secure and transparent voting system must be developed. 

We encourage all legal immigration and acknowledge that it is the lifeblood and DNA of our country.  All immigration to the United States must be legal and regulated.  Existing immigration law must be strengthened and will be enforced to the benefit of all.

We will promote a colorblind society as enunciated by latter-day founding father Martin Luther King, Jr.  Equality of opportunity for all races and creeds is the goal.  Laws and practices that favor or disfavor one group over another should be ended.

We will protect women's sports at the school and college levels and would prohibit males from competing against females in sanctioned events.

We support free speech principles across all public and private platforms.  Censorship is the death of a free and open society.

We will promote the passage of a new Glass-Steagall-style bill that will reinstate the ban on federally insured banks trading on Wall Street for their own accounts.

We support a return to congressional approval for all acts of war on foreign soil, as directed by the Constitution.  Executive military actions by a president of either party should be limited. 

These are baseline concepts to be used as a starting point.  All the ideas should be positive in nature and appeal to the collective desire of most Americans to reconnect with established values.  A position such as "We Oppose Critical Race Theory," worthy as it might be, conveys a negative rather than a positive message.  Also, it would probably be a good idea to resist the urge to address all of society's ills by tacking on an overly large number of items.  As Clemenceau said of President Wilson's Fourteen Points, God Himself had only ten.

Commonsense principles enumerated in the new Contract are not solely designed just to beat Democrats.  They are genuinely good for the country, something those with narrow political interests rarely seem to grasp.  The populist nature of these proposals would recommend a House-led movement on this agenda that would tend to be broad-based and would seep into the rest of the party from the bottom up rather than top-down.  Part of the success of the original Contract was the consistent national nature of the message.

All a message like this needs is the right messenger.  That's the hard part.  Gingrich was the right person at the right time in 1994.  The growing discontent with all things woke has been building for some time.  The media make the mistake of believing that Donald Trump created this movement when in fact the movement created Donald Trump.  The ideas that would propel a new Contract will continue whether Trump remains viable or not. 

The New Contract With America would set down a series of proposals based on the U.S. Constitution.  Perhaps the most important tenet of a new Contract would be a reaffirmation to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution at a time when it is under attack.  In an era when almost every institution in American life has failed us, the Constitution remains the fabric that holds the United States together.  These positions are popular mainstream beliefs that consistently poll well among all groups and could prove to be the difference-maker in many closely contested races.

Image: Gage Skidmore via FlickrCC BY-SA 2.0.

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