The Contract with America ain’t walkin’ through that door

Washington, D.C. is concluding a week under a blanket of snow with a promise of a new Contract With America… sort of.  Under the headline, “Conservative Manifesto coming soon,” Politico reports that leaders of the inside-the-beltway Conservarati are drafting a “mission statement for the right.”

There are two problems with this.  Just as Republican presidential candidates fell all over themselves to quote Ronald Reagan in last year’s primaries, Republicans hopeful that 2010 is the next 1994 are looking to resurrect the Contract with America.

There are two problems with this.

First, establishment conservatives are not the most appropriate voices for an anti-establishment message – and if anything is clear about the electorate, it’s the anti-establishment sentiment.

Second, and more important, the original contract was a political platform, a promise to voters that, if elected, Republicans would follow a certain policy course.  It was not a statement of principles, but a set of specific policy goals.  From tea party groups to conservative organizations, the institutions creating these new Contracts are asking for something from government.

The best “Contract with America 2.0” I’ve seen was written by Matt Lewis, who actually thought through policy ideas and has proposed laws which would roll back free speech restrictions, promote personal retirement savings, and promote national security.  But forward-thinking policies should not find themselves listed under a recycled term.

The Contract with America was a great idea in 1994.  Sixteen years later, conservatives should be looking forward to the next big thing – not the last.

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