From conservatives, a bounty of political manifestos

SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson talks with The Christian Science Monitor about Republican efforts to make a comeback with voters.

By Linda Feldmann
Staff Writer

Washington — In conservative circles, manifestos are all the rage.

On Wednesday, it was the Mount Vernon Statement, an affirmation of “constitutional conservatism,” as the organizers styled it, focused on limited government and individual liberty. Signers included many familiar names from old-time conservative circles – Reagan-era Attorney General Ed Meese, direct mail guru Richard Viguerie, antitax activist Grover Norquist, to name a few.

Tea party activists are working up their own manifesto, to be called the Contract From America – a play on former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s Contract With America, from the breakthrough midterms of 1994.

On Thursday, at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, the group Tea Party Patriots will unveil its website, where activists can select 10 out of 21 priorities to go into the Contract From America.

Options include a constitutional amendment requiring a balanced federal budget, a repeal of all tax hikes scheduled to begin in 2011, and no regulation or tax on the Internet. . .

“Republicans see themselves as reliving 1993-‘94,” says Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “They’re the out-party, [with] big Democratic majorities that have taken the country in a policy direction that makes people nervous. They feel they’re about to mount a huge comeback.”

In fact, the 1994 Contract With America was released just six weeks before the midterm elections, and most voters had never heard of it.

“But in Republican lore, it bulks very large,” says Mr. Jillson. “It probably did define and hold together the Republican minority as it launched into that campaign, and they felt empowered by it, even though the voters were going about their lives and never even noticed.”

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