Hugh Hewitt is not only a nationally syndicated radio host with Salem; he’s also a brilliant law professor and practicing attorney, an accomplished author, and a true leader in the conservative movement. He’s been a good friend to me, and we spent 30 minutes on his show discussing my book on the faith and athletic life of Jeremy Lin — and then I spent most of last week with him at a conference held by the Alliance Defense Fund, where Hugh was a terrific host and moderator for the media sessions.
When Hugh speaks, conservatives should listen. And in a 4th of July blog post he writes:
[I]t is clear the GOP doesn’t yet get the enormous, urgent need to lay out a detailed timeline for repeal, one that not only underscores the resolve of the party but which promises accountability. Governor Romney, Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell would harness the powerful energy of the grassroots in a way not seen in years if they appeared together in the near future and unveiled just such a plan, one replete with the specifics of how repeal is accomplished and the target dates for getting it done, target dates that don’t accept the “Washington way” of doing things but instead convey their collective resolve to act as though the economy really and truly needed repeal. Such a plan would in essence be a “Contract with America” with only one promise, but the one that matters most right now: Repeal by a date certain, a date that is in black and white and backed up by the pledge of the nominee and the leaders of the party on the Hill, a repeal that would remove the cloud and by necessity be accompanied by a budget that tackles the entitlement issues.
There are advantages to focusing like a laser on this issue. What I would recommend, though, is a Business Contract with America, where the first point is the kind of detailed commitment to repealing Obamacare that Hugh describes, given the massive burden that Obamacare will place on our national economy in the years to come. The second part would be Romney’s plan to get the economy humming again, and the third part would be entitlement reform. One could also include energy and immigration reform as the fourth and fifth parts of the plan, but the Romney campaign and leading Republicans on the Hill (since they would inevitably, regardless of what their plans actually said, be painted as hating brown people and wanting to destroy the planet) may prefer to focus on the first three issues.
Among the advantages of a “Contract” approach are:
- That voters get to vote for plans and not just principles. Keep them simple but specific, with measurable goals and means of accountability. Voters see something very concrete and pragmatic, as opposed to the gaseous bloviations that too often pass for political speechmaking.
- A “Contract” approach, as we saw with Newt in 1994, nationalizes every Congressional race. When you vote for the candidate who signed the contract, you’re voting now just for that candidate and his local concerns but also for the contract. It also communicates that merely electing Romney is not enough; one must also win both houses of Congress in order to see the Contract put into action. In other words, it holds the voters accountable to do everything they can to support Republicans.
- It clarifies the issues at stake in the election. The country feels adrift. The Obama administration spent its capital and has no real solutions. Setting forth a plan, agreed upon across the party, puts to rest the “Party of No” accusations and shows the Republicans have clear solutions to offer.
There is, to be sure, some risk in a Contract approach. The people might not like your contract, it commits you to specific goals your opponents can attack, and it holds you accountable to, well, you know, do what you actually said you would do. But the time is ripe for a Business Contract with America; Republicans can focus on the most necessary and popular measures; and without a Contract approach, where every local race is dominated by local issues, it’s extremely difficult to win a commanding majority in both chambers of Congress.