Last month, a new effort to reconnect the populace with its public servants was launched: Contract From America.
This consultation exercise aims to gather ideas from the public on laws they would like to see passed or eliminated. The ideas will be boiled down to three in each policy area by a panel of tea party activists from all over the nation and then submitted to political leaders.
Considering the arrogance displayed by many members of Congress towards their constituents and their wishes, this project intends to make them aware of just how driven people are to see a change in governmental behavior.
An interview with Ryan Hecker, the head of Contract From America:
AD: What prompted you to create this project?
RH: In the past, public policy has been entirely a top-down affair. Politicians work with consultants and others to create public policy initiatives, for which the electorate either show support by re-electing the politician or reject by choosing his opponent. However, we have seen over the past decade that politicians have largely been bereft of economically conservative ideas. I created this website because I strongly believe that the citizenry has a lot of ideas to offer to politicians if given the chance to speak and make an impact. We no longer have to sit passively as politicians present their ideas to us. We can all help in creating a Contract From America that we can use to direct public policy in 2010 and beyond.
AD: What is your background and how did you come to this sort of activism?
RH: I am an attorney in Houston, Texas, and a graduate of New York University and Harvard Law School. While I have long been a fan of free markets and limited government, I had limited political involvement until 2007, when I left my job at a New York law firm to join the Giuliani for President campaign. I strongly supported him because of his success in turning around New York City by adhering to economically conservative principles. However, in the months leading up to the 2008 election, I felt the Republican Party as a whole had abandoned such core principles of fiscal responsibility, and thus had abandoned me. I knew I had to do something, and like many fellow free market supporters, I joined the tea party movement. It is so wonderful being part of something greater than myself, and I think this movement is going to spearhead real reform.
AD: Do you think politicians are actually going to pay attention to the contract?
RH: Absolutely. The Contract From America is not going to be created by me at my computer desk, by any one person, or even by tea party leaders alone. It’s a document that is created by everyone in the movement and outside of it who want to vote for leaders who actually believe in fiscal responsibility and limited government. The Contract From America, when it is completed, will thus have the strength of the grassroots behind it, which is a very powerful motivation for politicians who need to get elected. However, I hope that this contract also has the effect of creating new leadership and separating politicians who actually believe in the free market from those who only do so when it suits their self-interests.
AD: What will it take for them to do so?
RH: For the Contract From America to succeed, it needs the grassroots to stand strongly behind this document. While we have had almost 15,000 visitors in two weeks to the site, we need increased support over the coming months. Additionally, we need the economic conservative blogosphere to unite behind this document, as well as to find support from the public policy community. There is a long road ahead, but we believe that we have a foundation in place right now to accomplish such unity of purpose from free market supporters from around the country.
AD: Where do you see the tea party movement, of which this effort is a part, heading in the near future? And beyond?
RH: I see the tea party movement shifting somewhat from a protest movement to a movement offering real solutions in 2010 and possibly 2012. We need to take all the anger towards the liberal policies of both President Obama and certain segments of the Republican Party and turn it into a positive call for reform.
With growing frustration along with rising interest in governance, this effort — like the tea party movement as a whole — seeks to turn angst into useful endeavor. The site is already busy with ideas and feedback, and we shall soon see if it finds success.