This time around, the GOP is crowd-sourcing its contract. House Republicans want your help "develop[ing] a new governing agenda," according to a statement announcing a new effort to elicit public input on the GOP policy agenda.
"To return power to the American people and begin to restore the broken bonds of trust between Americans and their elected leaders, House Republicans are asking all Americans to be part of an unprecedented new initiative that will, in time, lead to a new policy agenda," reads the release, announcing the new initiative, "America Speaking Out," which launches Tuesday.
The Republican initiative comes after the Tea Party movement put forward its own version of the GOP's 1994 Contract with America, which they call the "Contract from America."
Some elected Republicans have been slow to sign on to the Tea Party contract and the "America Speaking Out" initiative gives them something to rally behind, while retaining a grassroots feel.
"We've been talking to them throughout the process, but that wasn't the impetus of this," said Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is heading up the initiative. "We hope they'll make those ideas a part of this process."
The outreach also raises questions about where the GOP stands. A major critique of the Republican Party that comes from its conservative base is that it lost its way over the last decade and that it no longer stands on principle. Asking for help in crafting a governing agenda does little to discourage that criticism. Democrats have been happy to repeat the charge, accusing the GOP of lacking new ideas and relying on a simple strategy of opposition to whatever the Democrats propose.
"This sounds like the sequel to a really bad movie. The same old characters whose failed leadership, mismanagement, and ethical shortcomings created a huge mess are now attempting a drastic makeover with a slick marketing effort in hopes the public will somehow forget that the GOP was responsible," Doug Thornell, an aide to Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) told HuffPost in a statement. "Republicans ran everything for years and we know how that turned out -- huge deficits, debt, millions of jobs lost, putting the special interests first. The American people just can't afford another Republican dud."
Republicans also risk losing control of the process, although they could follow the example of President Obama and largely ignore dominant themes that emerge in online policy discussions. When Obama asked voters to submit questions to him early in his administration, more than a dozen of the top 50 were related to ending the drug war or legalizing marijuana. Obama did address one of the questions, but laughed it off.
"It's not 'American Idol', where whatever gets the most votes automatically wins. We have our principles," said Buck, telling HuffPost that the results of the online public discussion will influence the crafting of the agenda, but only insofar as they jibe with the party's underlying principles.
The new initiative dovetails with Eric Cantor's crowd-sourcing of deficit control he dubbed "YouCut," where viewers were asked to vote on what government program they wanted slashed.
The GOP has created a Web site, Buck said, that will allow all users, regardless of party or political orientation, to submit ideas and weigh in on others. The site will go live Tuesday morning and the address will be posted here when it does.