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Contract from America: 'tea party' crafts its election manifesto

Taking a cue from the GOP's success in 1994, the 'tea party' movement is putting together a Contract from America – a platform for the 2010 elections culled from thousands of suggestions.

By Staff writer / February 2, 2010

Protesters cheer outside the US Capitol during the Americans for Prosperity and Patients First healthcare rally on Capitol Hill in Washington on December 15, 2009.

Madeline Marshall/UPI/Newscom/FILE

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Atlanta

So far, the “tea party” phenomenon has ridden waves of witty protest signs – “Don’t tax me, bro” – to surprise and buck the Democratic establishment in Washington on issues from healthcare reform to the federal deficit.

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But protest only goes so far. All legitimate movements need a manifesto. So now at least one group of tea partyers is turning directly to “we the people” by using technology in an unprecedented way: build a party platform from the bottom up.

Taking cues from the “Contract with America” that led to the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994, a group known as Tea Party Patriots used a website to gather ideas for what they're calling the Contract from America.

Thousands of ideas

Among the thousands of ideas submitted by more than 100,000 people so far are “Drill Here, Drill Now,” “Abolish the Department of Education,” and “Congress shall not exempt themselves.” The group will ask Americans this month to start winnowing 20 ideas down to a 10- or 12-point platform. The contract will be unveiled on Tax Day, April 15.

“This is a way of taking this protest movement and turning it into a very strong reform movement,” says Ryan Hecker, a Tea Party Patriots spokesman and activist in Houston, Texas. “And I think, at the end of the day, this document will offer the biggest tent possible and … will be very broad, very bold, but yet also viable.”

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the architect of the first contract, told a conservative conference in New Hampshire this weekend: “The idea is to go out to the whole country and say, ‘What would you have in a contract with America to politicians?’ It’s a very interesting idea.”

After playing a role in Republican victories in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, the tea party movement still presents a challenge for incumbent Republicans as much as it does for Democrats.

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