Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
“Movements are built from the bottom up, not the top down.” ~Harold Meyerson
Since using something like the Contract For American Renewal (C-FAR, pronounced see far) has never been tried before, certainly not on a national scale, there are bound to be apprehensions. What follows are replies to the legitimate concerns which we suspect candidates might understandably have. These are the most common questions that candidates ask when asked to sign a contract with voters and voters ask about the CFAR strategy before signing the pledge to only vote for CFAR or Green candidates in November.
Question one: Are the CFARs really binding in a court of law?
Answer one: Current case law does not support legal actions to force elected politicians to keep their campaign promises. However, due to the nature of the CFAR, we believe they have the ability in a class action lawsuit with the right lawyer(s) to successfully challenge standing law. 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?
A disingenuous candidate wanting to win support for his election signs the contract. He wins and goes to Congress. He then proceeds to ignore the commitments clearly stated in the contract, a document which he signed which 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.” In spite of that, he doesn’t honor the obligations on the issues. Then 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 tombstone over his inert body.
Question two: What if a candidate’s opponent also signs the contract?
Answer two: The candidate is no worse off than when s/he started. They haven’t lost any ground. No one has been checkmated. The candidate has just been checked. Frankly, if a CFAR candidate’s 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, etc. 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 a grassroots, end-run around the big spending and hot air campaigning, image politics and smoke-and-mirror rhetoric.
The consolation prize — and it is not a trivial one — is the moral victory. Candidate contracts forced a right wing lapdog to pay attention to a populist 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 eight to eleven things the American people would like to see get done. That’s quite an accomplishment in these days of gridlock, Tea Party, Koch brothers politicking.
Question three: I already support these issue positions. Why do I need to sign a contract?
Answer three: We’re not worried about your commitment 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 vilify 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.”
Question four: You say I should “beat up” my opponent. Isn’t this negative campaigning?
Answer four: Campaigns are about ideas and integrity. When an idea becomes popular, many unscrupulous candidates will “adopt” it. Giving the appearance of embracing it, they will work some Orwellian variation of it into their campaign rhetoric purely to get votes. They have no real intention of promoting the policy. They are intentionally fooling the voting public.
Now if we suspect an opponent is engaging in this type of disingenuous and manipulative behavior, it’s not negative campaigning to call them out on it. Being deceptive and manipulative is negative campaigning, not exposing the fraud. In fact, it would be a compromise of our own values and integrity to let such lies and hypocrisy get by. The C FAR 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 him or her a lying dirt bag is just telling the truth. The truth will set you free. And in this case it will get you elected.
Question five: Does this expose candidates, who get elected, to a law suit? Especially to frivolous lawsuits?
Answer five: You would have to violate the terms of the contract so thoroughly that the pitchforks would come out and your constituents go through the procedure calling for a referendum to initiate 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.
Theoretically, candidates could get sued. But only if they really really screw up. If a candidate signs a CFAR, then don’t do what they’ve agreed to, yes, he or she might get sued. But initiating the lawsuit requires a referendum in their district or state and a majority of voters would have to vote for initiating legal action. We assume CFAR candidates are left-leaning populists. The items in the contract are things populists should be fighting for with or without a contract. 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 contract, and to preclude frivolous legal action, litigious harassment, and related abuses: 1) Class action lawsuits can only be initiated by a clear majority in a referendum of constituent voters.” If you’re doing your job, no frivolous attack from the right or a bitter opponent out for revenge would garner any public support.
Question six: This has never been tried. Why should I try an untested strategy?
Answer six: 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, 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(s) is (are) trying to figure out how to gussy up his/her/their website(s) and campaign speeches, you’ll be waving a contract in his/her/their face(s) asking, “If you’re so serious about [fill in a 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 doesn’t need a contract, or doesn’t want to sign a contract, or why the 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 contract protecting Social Security and Medicare. I did.”
You get the picture? The contract will come completely out of left field. No one will see it coming (except you). We think it will make you look like the hero and your opponent a total jerk. CFARs could help make the 2018 midterms a wave election in response to the utter incompetence of congressional Republicans.
Question seven: If I previously took either the Bernie or bust or Jill or BUST pledge, do I need to sign the pledge again?
Answer seven: Not unless you unsubscribed from our newsletter and have since changed your mind. If that is the case, you need to use a different email address to become registered on our action letter list.
Question eight: What if a candidate’s opponent signs the contract, wins the election, then doesn’t do what the contract requires?
Answer eight: You mean, what should the candidate do after s/he breaks out a case of champagne with their campaign staff? Because one thing is certain. This joker won’t be around for the next election. After such blatant treachery, s/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 probably best to 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 as his/her electoral opponent to get involved might be viewed as vindictive.
That doesn’t mean you staffers or the candidate sits around. As the discredited incumbent’s defiance and underhandedness is becoming more and more obvious 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 s/he was a duplicitous scum bag. Are you ready now for an honest, hard-working candidate who will represent you and do the right thing?” Okay okay. It needs a little refinement. Play around with it.
Question nine: Isn’t this a Republican scheme, like Rep. Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America in 1994?
Answer nine: There are important differences between the Contract with America and our Contract for American Renewal. CFAR comes from the grassroots, not from members of Congress. CFAR is a list of demands by voters pledged to vote only for either CFAR-signers or Green Party candidates whereas the Contract with America was a list of platform planks Republicans planned to work on if they took control of Congress. CFARs are binding contracts in court of public opinion if not a court of law. Contract with America was a gimmick that worked! The two times anything like a candidate-voter contract has been tried, it worked! The Republicans took control of the House in the 1994 elections, and in that focused sense, we intend to make this like the 1994 Contract. Donald Trump also had a contract with his supporters he and they signed on his website. He has changed his mind on currency manipulation and violated that contract. If this is only a gimmick that does not successfully challenge standing law, it has a very successful record. Combine that gimmick with a voters’ pledge movement, and the synergy conveyed as See FAR or Green in 2018, could help forge another backlash election toward a specific set of popular proposals.
Question ten: Are electoral politics the only revolutionary activities Citizens Against Plutocracy be engaged in?
Answer ten: That is the only work CAP is currently undertaking, but we are exploring the related electoral processes as a relevant and related critical issue to address state by state if need be. Democratic order, as a top priority, must function using universal, hand-counted paper ballots.
Question eleven: How in a nutshell does leverage work?
Answer eleven: If a minority of a party’s voters pledge to only vote for either a contract-signing candidate on the ballot, a Green Party candidate or, in 43 states, a CFAR-signing, write-in candidate in the general election, then the CFAR candidate must become the party nominee or else enough of the party’s base will not vote for the party’s primary winner and the opposition party will be the victors. Leverage activists based in each congressional district will build the list of pledged, CFAR voters for that primary and general election.
Question twelve: Citizens Against Plutocracy is a PAC. Is it legal for candidates to sign an agreement with a PAC? Is it a form of illegal coordination?
Answer twelve: A CAP PAC committee member called the FEC and spoke with someone in the Office of General Council. She did not believe requesting a signature on a document before deciding to campaign for or against a candidate is considered to be unlawful coordination. We have asked for an advisory opinion on the matter and should know by late August if this would be illegal for members of our controlling CAP PAC committee. For other political activists and potential supporters around the country without a PAC asking candidates to sign a CFAR, it cannot possibly be illegal.