September 29, 2004


Remembrance of Contracts Past: Newt Gingrich and other Republicans look back at the Contract with America on its tenth anniversary. (David Skinner, 09/28/2004, Weekly Standard)

YESTERDAY, September 27, marked the ten-year anniversary of the historic signing of the Contract with America on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. And this fall marks the tenth anniversary of the subsequent (some would say consequent) election of a Republican majority in Congress. So far the celebrations have been pretty low-key, an unjust and probably unintended comment on the magnitude of the event. No matter. The Republican takeover with the midterm elections of November 1994 has become for conservatives a station of the cross in the progress of rightward ideas--on par with the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan in impact, a spiritual kin to the 1964 Barry Goldwater moment.

Furthermore, the Contract with America remains one of the most popular things Republicans ever did.

Still one forgets the breadth of strategist Newt Gingrich's campaign to win a majority. On a panel at the American Enterprise Institute yesterday morning with political consultant Joseph Gaylord, Rep. Jennifer Dunne of Washington, journalist Michael Barone, and former majority leader Dick Armey, the former House speaker emphasized that all but a couple of Republican candidates signed the Contract with America. The election yielded an additional nine millions votes for Republicans over 1992 and a pickup of 54 seats in the House of Representatives. [...]

Why the Contract with America worked so well was much discussed. Despite the image of the class of '94 as rabble-rousing radicals, all ten agenda items on the Contract enjoyed over 70 percent support of the American public, which was in fact required for their inclusion. The other criterion was that an item had to have been blocked from a floor vote by the Democrats. The contract's populist character was underlined by its marketing, including a national ad-buy in TV Guide, which set a record for "the most expensive political ad," Gingrich noted. Also, the language of the contract had to be positive and non-political. We were "consciously editing against the New York Times," said Gingrich.

To understand the decline of the Democratic party you need know no more than that the GOP could put together ten items that Democrats wouldn't even allow a vote on that polled at 70%-30% in the country. Today Democrats can only stop such ideas by filibustering in the Senate and perhaps not even that for long.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 29, 2004 2:59 PM

I think one of those items in the contract related to a balanced budget admendment. Therefore I conclude that you wouldn't even have signed it. Correct?

Posted by: h-man at September 29, 2004 3:56 PM

I'd have to check, but I believe that the actual item was to just bring it to a vote, in other words, stop the Democrats from blocking it and actually put it to a test. At least with the Senate judicial filibusters the Dems are blocking votes they known they will lose if the votes are permitted.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at September 29, 2004 4:15 PM

The amendment itself IIRC had an exception for times of war, which this is.

Posted by: AML at September 29, 2004 5:17 PM

A balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution is an even more silly idea than a flag-burning amendment, and far less likely to work.

It would just increase the number of items that are "off-budget".

The only thing that can cause balanced budgets is a desire by the American public for it to be so, which rarely happens anymore.

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at September 30, 2004 4:23 AM

The Contract changed the nature of the debate and that makes all the difference. Whether anything actually got passed is secondary.

Posted by: Bart at September 30, 2004 8:13 AM
« ONE LAST SCORE FOR THE GIPPER (via Robert Schwartz): | Main | AN ADVISOR TOO FAR? (via Tom Morin): »