Twenty years ago this week, the famed “Contract with America” was put forward by the House and Senate Republicans of 1994. The Contract committed to voters that, if given legislative majorities in the upcoming elections, the new GOP-run Congress would, within the first 100 days of the 104th Congress (1995–96), propose tax cuts, a permanent line-item veto, measures to reduce crime, and constitutional amendments requiring term limits and a balanced budget.
The power of the Contract was not in any of its particulars, but in the promise of speed, action and urgency. Now as the country rounds into the homestretch of the 2014 election contests, the GOP has the wind at its back as the issue set has shifted dramatically in its favor. Adding to existing dismay with Obamacare (extremely high in places like Minnesota) there is a pervasive and deep reawakening of the fear that America has not kept up its defenses, nor its important role in the world.
The drift of Obama has created a draft in which GOP candidates across the country are moving forward and past their Democratic opponents, even when the latter are deeply established incumbent D.C. “lifers” like Sens. Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana and Mark Udall in Colorado.
The Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus is already well and rightly known as a agent of massive change within the party, and the “Reince reforms” on the scheduling of caucuses and presidential primaries, the organization of debates, the selection of Cleveland as the site for the 2016 Republican National Convention and an early convention date, are all powering increasing optimism that the GOP will be in a good position to challenge the Hillary Leviathan come Nov. 2016.
But to match the Democrats in credentials and stagecraft in the race to replace Obama in the White House over the next two years, the GOP must retain its majority in the House and gain one in the Senate. And the majorities would not only produce achievement and stagecraft but perhaps also crucial breakthroughs, such as a restoration of some critical funding for the Pentagon and steps on border security that are a necessary precondition to regularization of the millions of illegal aliens in the country.
To set the stage for the climate of urgency and action, Priebus is said to be preparing a key speech for Thursday of this week in which he will lay out a template reminiscent of the vision document of 1994. He is not a legislator of course, but he is the leader of the party nationally, and has earned the right to speak on the party’s behalf about the key pillars of conservatism, as governors and state legislators join with incumbents and challengers for federal office. Priebus is actually the only Republican positioned to speak into the media vacuum on behalf of the Grand Old Party right now, so Thursday’s address will be an important one.
Let’s hope it stresses not just speed in D.C. and a commitment to deep reforms, but an ongoing recognition that a free people are best left to decide for themselves how to use their time, their money and their land, educate their children, choose their health care, and worship their God as they see fit. The military’s needs have to be front and center, and the reform of a bloated entitlement state, but mostly Priebus needs to capture the spirit of serious and fast reform, and a refusal to stand by for the last two years of Obama’s epic fail bemoaning but not acting.
Watch that space. It will be interesting indeed.
This column was originally posted on WashingtonExaminer.com.