The running theme for this year’s midterm elections will be about whether we’ll see a repeat of 1994, when voters wiped out Democrats’ congressional majorities after, among other things, the dud that was HillaryCare. One difference, however, is how voters are engaging with politicians.
Look no further than this Web site by the Tea Party Patriots, which puts an interesting twist on one of 1994’s dominant features. Rather than a “Contract With America” offered by a political party, this group wants to create a “Contract From America” and invite candidates to sign up to it.
Candidate pledges are nothing new. But the Contract From America is novel in its effort to construct a wide-ranging national political platform from the bottom-up. This is grassroots writ broad.
Visitors to the Web site can contribute ideas, vote on them and prioritize them: Voters use a scale of 1-10 to rank the importance of a specific issue, rather than just saying thumbs-up or -down. The resulting priority list (so far — the process is still under way) is intriguing.
Replacing the income tax and IRS with the FairTax is No. 1 by a healthy margin. But, contrary to the caricature of tea partiers, few of other most popular ideas relate to taxes. Far more are about spending, and changing the way government works.
Some relate to Congress: prohibit “unrelated amendments” from bills; institute term limits; bar members of Congress from exempting themselves from the bills they pass or granting themselves “lifetime salary or benefits.”
A few relate to energy policy: “Drill here, drill now”; expand nuclear energy; vote against cap-and-trade.
The project has still attracted relatively few participants, so it’s way too early to call it a phenomenon. But the recent history of tea-party activism suggests that it will pick up momentum and perhaps factor significantly in this year’s elections.
At the very least, it’s an experiment in turning politics upside-down.