Vol. 48, No. 3

In this edition

by Lou ZICKAR Twenty years ago this fall, 367 Republican candidates from all around the country gathered on the West Front steps of the U.S. Capitol and signed the Contract with America. At the time, it was an historic moment because it helped give Republicans control of Congress for the first time in four decades.

The Contract with America: Where It All Began

The Contract With America is a story of political perseverance. Its real antecedents were in the formation of the Conservative Opportunity Society in 1983. That group, brought together by Newt Gingrich, had as its mission the transformation of the House Republican Conference and ultimately taking control of the House.

The Contract with America: The Power of a Positive Message

In the months leading up to the 1994 Contract with America, then Republican House Whip Newt Gingrich used the pollster he trusted most to develop the content – himself. Yes, the Gingrich team conducted a handful of focus groups but the bulk of the public opinion input that drove the Contract’s 10 major points […]

The Contract with America: A Model for Campaigning… and Governance

Shortly after more than 350 men and women from around the country joined together to sign the Contract with America, a panicked House challenger phoned me. He had just received a call from the political director of the RNC telling him that embracing the Contract was a sure path to defeat and if he wanted […]

“It gave people something to vote for.” – Q&A with Haley Barbour

When Haley Barbour became Chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1993, the prospects for the GOP’s future looked rather grim. The party was coming off an election that saw it lose the White House for the first time in 12 years, and Democrats were led by a charismatic young President who came to town […]

“A Contract for Today”

When 367 Republicans signed the Contract with America on September 27, 1994, they were not only signing onto a document that would help guide them in their campaigns, they were also signing onto a governing agenda that would help guide the party after the election. At the time, providing such an agenda was important. After […]

Republicans, Energy & the Environment

At a time when Republicans are being criticized for showing indifference toward the environment, it is worth noting that the party has a rich legacy on the issue on which party leaders can build. The GOP’s great conservation legacy began with the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, who set aside the Yosemite Valley for the […]

The President’s Shortsighted Policy on Coal

As the Environmental Protection Agency wages its war on coal, it seems that the U.S. is exporting hypocrisy. With U.S. greenhouse gas emissions plunging due to our abundance of cheap natural gas, the dirty little secret is that coal exports are beginning to boom.

The Red Tape Factory

Since President Obama moved into the White House in 2009, his administration has been churning out spools of red tape. The Environmental Protection Agency is the administration’s biggest red tape factory, issuing more economically significant rules than any other agency and contributing to making energy prices more expensive.

Leading from the Front on Energy

Recent events such as the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the crisis in Ukraine demonstrate that it is in our national interest to assume global leadership. The idea that “energy independence” would somehow free us from global responsibilities and promote the benefits of isolationism now ring hollow as the […]

States, Not Localities, Should Control Fracking

This past June, the New York State Court of Appeals issued a ruling that could have repercussions in all 50 states. In a 5-2 decision, the Appeals Court ruled the towns of Dryden (in Tompkins County) and Middlefield (in Otsego County) are allowed to ban fracking completely. The way they can do this is through […]

Ripon Profile of Mike Pence

From the September 2014 edition of The Ripon Forum, the Governor of Indiana and presumptive 2016 VP nominee discusses his record in the Hoosier State and the need for Republicans to offer a “positive alternative” to the failed policies of the Democrats.

In this edition

Twenty years ago this fall, 367 Republican candidates from all around the country gathered on the West Front steps of the U.S. Capitol and signed the Contract with America.  At the time, it was an historic moment because it helped give Republicans control of Congress for the first time in four decades.  

Today, it is a moment worth remembering because it was also a time when the GOP loudly and proudly proclaimed not what they stood against, but what they stood for.  We mark the anniversary of the Contract and its signing in this latest edition of The Ripon Forum with a series of essays that look at its impact on the 1994 mid-term elections, and its relevance to the mid-term elections this fall. 

Our authors include: former GOP Deputy Whip Bob Walker, who writes about the genesis of the Contract and how the ideas included in the document were developed in a series of weekly meetings that were held throughout the 1980s on Capitol Hill; Republican strategist David Winston, who writes about the fact that the Contract took Republicans down a radically different path in their campaigns, one that nationalized their election and presented them with a positive message to embrace; and, veteran Congressional and Presidential advisor Barry Jackson, who served as Executive Director of the Contract and writes about the model for campaigning – and governance – that it provided then and continues to provide for Republicans today.

This latest edition of the Forum also includes a Q&A interview with former Governor Haley Barbour, who as Chairman of the Republican National Committee, helped market and develop the ideas that were included in the Contract and, in doing so, helped the secure the GOP victory that year.  

To the extent that there are those who claim that Republicans don’t have a positive message to run on this fall and are simply the party of “no,” this edition of the Forum also provides an alternative narrative to that claim by putting forward “A Contract for Today” – that is, a realistic agenda for the GOP to campaign on and govern with that is largely based on votes Republicans have cast and bills they have introduced over the past several years. 

One of the issues that will likely be near the top of any Republican agenda is energy. This edition of the Forum looks at the issue in depth with essays that examine America’s emergence as an energy superpower, the Republican Party’s legacy on conservation, and how the GOP can reclaim its leadership on the issue in the coming years. 

And in the latest Ripon Profile, Mike Pence discusses his record as the Governor of Indiana. It is a record that has helped make the Hoosier State one of the top states for business in America, and one that has, in the eyes of many, helped make the Governor a possible Presidential contender in 2016.

As always, we hope you enjoy this edition of the Forum, and encourage you to contact us with any thoughts or comments you may have.

Lou Zickar