Since using something like the Contract For American Renewal has never been tried before, certainly not on a national scale, there are bound to be apprehensions, maybe even confusion. What follows are replies to the legitimate concerns which we suspect candidates might understandably have. These are the most common questions that candidates ask us when we show them the CFAR contract strategy.
If any of you candidates or campaign staffers have other questions or comments, please send us an email and we’ll get back to you immediately. We want to see populist-progressive candidates win. Time is not on our side. Neither is money. Let’s work together for a new Congress, and an America that serves all Americans, not just the ruling elite.
Q. I’m already for the things in the CFAR. Why do I need to sign a contract?
A. We’re not worried about your commitment to populist-progressive causes, or whether you’ll do what you say you’re going to do when you go to Washington DC. To be blunt about it, the contract is there for you to beat up your opponent. To condemn him or her for not being on the side of the voters.
“My opponent says he’s for protecting Social Security and Medicare. Then why won’t he sign the contract? I did.”
“My opponent says we can think about raising the minimum wage. Well, time for thinking is over. It’s time to act. I am legally obligated by signing the Contract For American Renewal to fight for $15 per hour, and not later, but right now!”
My opponent says she’s for getting money out of politics. Yet, she voted against the Citizens United constitutional amendment. Fine, if she’s had a change of heart, then let’s see her signature on the CFAR. That’s mine right there at the bottom. And the CFAR calls for getting rid of the horrible Citizens United decision.”
“My opponent claims the military is wasting money. Talk is cheap. I signed the CFAR because I’m sick of the squandering of money on military junk that doesn’t work and fighting a war in Afghanistan we don’t need to fight. Until my opponent puts his commitment in writing, we can assume it’s just more empty campaign rhetoric.”
The contract draws a line in the sand. It unequivocally shows that you stand on one side, supporting the voters, addressing their needs, representing their interests. Your opponent who can’t and won’t sign the contract is on the other side. Voters will see in stark contrast who is the good guy and who is the bad guy. We hope to translate that into victory for YOU!
Q. You say I should “beat up” my opponent. Isn’t this negative campaigning?
A. Campaigns are about ideas and integrity. When an idea becomes popular, many unscrupulous candidates will jump on the bandwagon. To give the appearance of embracing it, they will work some Orwellian variation of it into their campaigning purely to get votes. They have no real intention of promoting the policy. They are intentionally fooling the voting public. This deception in the form of hollow lip-service should be called out. It’s not negative campaigning to tell the truth. It’s a public service!
In fact, being deceptive and manipulative is the essence of negative campaigning. Exposing the fraud is the opposite! A candidate’s lying and making promises that he or she won’t keep is about as negative as it gets. It raises false hopes, it creates empty expectations, ultimately it destroys faith in our system. In fact, wouldn’t it be compromising your own values and integrity to let such lies and hypocrisy get by? The CFAR draws a clear line in the sand. If an opponent claims to be for something specified in the contract, fine, let him certify his claim by signing the contract. If he refuses to sign it, it’s a sure sign that there’s a big pile of BS somewhere close by. Maybe “beating up” is a little hyperbolic, but then again, why pull punches here? If your opponent is a lying dirt bag, calling that person a lying dirt bag is just being honest. The truth will set you free. And in this case it will get you elected.
Q. Are these CFAR candidate contracts really “legally binding”?
A. We think they are. They look solid and meet the general requirements for legal instruments of a contractual nature. Whether in the final analysis they are legally binding is something that can only be determined in a court of law, and frankly, it’s doubtful that would ever happen. Remember, what really counts here in terms of the election is the “court of public opinion”. So let’s just imagine one of these contracts going to a legal court. How would that unfold?
Certainly it would not be the result of a true populist-progressive. He or she is signing the contract with every intention of honoring it to the letter, then going to Washington DC to get to work getting the job done. Understand that fulfilling the terms of the contract is not at all that difficult. It’s what any legislator does — or is supposed to do — when they get elected. It’s the basic job description of a congressman.
So there’s only one way the Contract For American Renewal will be tested in a court of law.
A disingenuous candidate wanting to win support for his election signs the CFAR. He wins and goes to Congress. He then proceeds to ignore the commitments clearly stated in the contract, a document which he signed that clearly states: “This agreement constitutes a legally-binding contract between myself and that class of citizens who will be my constituents, should I win the upcoming election.” And in the closing of paragraph: “I accept the terms of this document as legally-binding, and with a thorough and lucid understanding of its requirements and consequences.” But in spite of this unambiguous and clear commitment, he doesn’t honor the obligations stated in the CFAR. Moreover, he refuses to resign as required by the terms of the contract.
His constituents, who voted for him in large part because he signed the contract, are outraged!
At this point, this person’s career as a politician is over. Forever! He will have completely discredited himself, introducing a scandal by his own treachery which will follow him till they put a granite marker over his inert body.
If that weren’t bad enough, if there is sufficient rage among his constituents, his constituents will call for a referendum. If the majority voting in the referendum approve, at least one and possibly two class action lawsuits will be initiated for damages inflicted on the public as a result of the betrayal by the candidate. Through this whole referendum drama, the candidate’s reputation sinks lower into the mud, he is vilified and condemned for his gross manipulation and deceit. Then in a highly-visible court case, his name and reputation are dragged further through the mud.
Now ask yourself: Is anyone so stupid or suicidal to put themselves through this?
We don’t think so.
This is what we meant when we said it is the “court of public opinion” and not a court of law which is the real adjudicator with this contract.
Having said that, on the off-chance that the lawsuits proceeded, and the politician defended himself against having to pay an enormous class action settlement with his constituents by claiming that the contract was “not legally-binding”, think about how that would go down.
“I signed the contract because I wanted to get elected but I knew it wasn’t legally-binding. So I knew the voters could never win a lawsuit against me.”
Wow! Great defense!
Are you getting the picture?
We believe based on the research we’ve done that the contract is functionally legally binding. If there is anything flawed about the contract, we can’t see what it might be. Having said that, we honestly believe there will never be a final ruling citing legal technicalities and difficulties which compromise its essential worthiness — because we seriously doubt it will never make it into a court of law. Maybe the “legality” question is an interesting discussion, but it’s a purely academic one.Q. Does this expose me to a law suit? Especially to frivolous lawsuits?
A. Theoretically, you could get sued. But only if you really really screw up. If you sign the CFAR, then don’t do what you’ve agreed to, yes, you could get sued. But initiating the lawsuit requires a referendum in your district or state and a majority of voters would have to vote for initiating legal action. We assume you are a supporter of a populist-progressive agenda. If you are a true progressive — a “people’s candidate” — the items in the CFAR are things you should be fighting for with or without a contract. So what’s the risk? As to frivolous lawsuits, again a majority of voters in a referendum would have to approve any legal action. Please note the wording: “To reinforce the fundamentally democratic boundaries of this contracts, class action lawsuits can only be initiated by a majority vote in a referendum of constituent voters.” If you’re doing your job, no frivolous attack from either the right or left or by a bitter opponent out for revenge would garner any public support.
The short answer: You would have to violate the terms of the contract so thoroughly that the pitchforks would come out and your constituents run the gauntlet of calling for a referendum initiating a lawsuit. It seems inconceivable that you would sign this contract and then refuse to honor it, unless you’re a North Korean suicide bomber or from another planetary system and didn’t understand English.
Q. This has never been tried. Why should I try an untested strategy?
A. At some point in history, no one had mounted a large disc-shaped stone with a hole in the center on a rod. Then someone tried it and it spawned wheelbarrows, wagons, roller coasters, cars, trucks, buses, and now high-speed trains.
Clever rejoinders aside, maybe next election cycle candidate contracts will be a known quantity. But for this current one, your opponents will not see this coming. It will totally blindside them. BECAUSE IT’S NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE. The element of surprise will be overwhelming. While your opponent is trying to figure out how to gussy up his website and campaign speeches, you’ll be waving a contract in his face asking, “If you’re so serious about [fill in a critical wedge issue here], why don’t you sign a legally-binding contract with the voters?” If this is handled properly, your opponent will have no effective defense. He or she will be totally ON THE DEFENSIVE! Your opponent will be scrambling trying to explain why he or she doesn’t need a contract, or doesn’t want to sign a contract, or why such contracts are silly. And you will — like a good boxer — keep on punching: “You say you think old people deserve a decent life. The why won’t you sign the CFAR, which protects Social Security and Medicare. I did.”
You get the picture? The contract will come completely out of left field. No one in your congressional contest will see it coming (except you). We think it will make you look like the hero and your opponent a total jerk.
Q. What if my opponent signs the contract?
A. Well, not to sound flippant, but you’re no worse off than when you started. You haven’t lost any ground. You haven’t been checkmated. You’ve just been checked. Frankly, if your opponent has truckloads of money to advertise his new “enlightened” platform, we all know how that will play out. It will come down to who can create the best vibes — who most effectively makes the voters “feel good” — who has the best looking pom pom girls with the shortest skirts. Okay . . . we’re sounding cynical. But so much of campaigning has been turned into infotainment that it’s hard not to be grim sometimes. The whole point of the Contract For American Renewal is to create an end-run around big spending, hot air campaigning, image politics, and smoke-and-mirrors rhetoric.
The consolation prize — and it is not a trivial one — is the moral victory. You and your CFAR forced a right wing lapdog or a faux-progressive neoliberal to pay attention to a progressive agenda. He or she will be forced to go into office and at least go through the motions — actually a lot of motions — to promote at least the eleven things in the CFAR the American public would like to see get done.
That’s quite an accomplishment in these days of gridlock, Tea Party, Koch brothers, Citizens United, and Donald Trump.
Q. What if my opponent signs the contract, wins the election, then doesn’t do what the contract requires?
A. You mean, what should you do after you break out a case of champagne with your campaign staff? Because one thing is certain. This joker won’t be around for the next election. After such blatant treachery, he won’t get elected to the PTA annual hot dog eating contest steering committee.
In terms of his violation of the terms of the contract, it’s best to just let the voters take care of him. If they are sufficiently angry, there will be a cry for a referendum to sue the creep. Law suit or not, it’s likely voters will be demanding that he resign. But for you to get involved might be viewed as vindictive.
That doesn’t mean you sit around. As his defiance and underhandedness becomes more and more apparent to the public, you should be getting ready for the next election. Elocution exercises. Blowing up balloons. Designing campaign posters. Maybe they could say: “See? I told you he was a duplicitous scum bag. Are you ready now for a truly honest, hard-working candidate who will represent you and do the right thing?” Okay okay. It needs a little fine tuning. Play around with it.
Q. Can the contract be altered or is it written in stone?
A. It can and should be adapted to the circumstances of your particular campaign. We encourage it. But always keep in mind that the eleven bullet items resulted from enormously popular positions reflected in national issue polls. Included are only items which have enormous consensuses across America, even across party and ideological lines.
Having said that, there obviously is some variation from district to district and state to state. If your district includes a major university and therefore the voting population has a large segment of young students, free college tuition and minimum wage should probably go at the head of the list. Or perhaps there is something which should be left out of the contract because of a certain demographic or other factor. Correspondingly, you may wish to include a populist-progressive item which enjoys great popularity peculiar to your constituents. We are not policing this. We expect you to use your own judgment and knowledge of your voters. However, since the CFAR as presented builds off the clearly stated will of the majority of American citizens, we would expect anything that is incorporated would be fully compatible with a populist-progressive reform agenda.
The important thing here is that we use this device to get good, honest legislators elected, replacing what we have now — which is a pay-for-play Congress resulting in government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich. It’s time for the voice of the people to be heard again. We are riding the tide of awareness and enthusiasm producing a vision for America which is resonating loudly across the land. The CFAR is a direct product of that democratic reawakening. Why mess with success?