Political Hay

A Newt Vision to Save America

There's Gingrich having these wild ideas!

By 11.17.10

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Last week, I attended the Annual Dinner of the Institute for Policy Innovation in Dallas, Texas, featuring former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Gingrich is the only political leader in America today who, after you hear him speak, leaves you feeling like you learned something new, or, maybe even that a whole new perspective or vision has been opened for you. In fact, his speech at this dinner is this generation's modern equivalent of Reagan's famous CPAC speech of 1975,

Gingrich has been on the cutting edge of American politics for at least 25 years now. It was as early as March of 2009 that Gingrich said if the Democrats continued to move to the left, and if their budget vote is as bad as their stimulus vote, that the Republicans would take back the House majority. Think back to how crazy, and far sighted, that had to be at the time, when Barack Obama was still in the process of beatification by the national, party controlled press.

And Newt was called out on that craziness. Stuart Rothenberg, long-time top analyst of congressional political trends, wrote in response, "[Gingrich's] idea is lunacy and ought to be put to rest immediately." It took more than 18 months for Rothenberg to catch up to Gingrich.

Gingrich provided insight into his roots at IPI, and where he is coming from: "My Dad was a career soldier and on Veterans Day I feel in particular the 27 years he spent serving in the United States Army, and the depth of his belief that defending America was a moral cause." Gingrich explained the specific effect this had in his youth:

When my Dad was stationed in Orleans, France in 1957-58, the French Fourth Republic was dying. It was fighting a war in Algeria it was losing. It was suffering 100% inflation. There was still World War II and World War I battle damage…. And we went to stay at a friend of my father's at Verdun. My father's friend had been drafted in 1941, sent to the Philippines, served in the Bataan Death March, and spent three and a half years in a Japanese prison camp…. We spent several days touring the largest battlefield of the Western Front in Verdun in which some 600,000 men were killed in a nine month period. We spent every evening talking about his experiences having been defeated and trying to survive in the Japanese prison camp.

The lesson Gingrich took was this: 

I came out of it convinced that countries die. And that the quality of civilian leadership is central to their survival…. I concluded that my job was to try to understand three things: what is it we have to do to survive as a country, how would you explain it with such clarity that the American people would give you permission to do it, and how would you then implement it in such a way that it both worked and they would give you permission to continue. I've literally now, for 52 years, been trying to understand this.

The result that Gingrich now offers us after 52 years of this process: "I think we have to move from a rejection model of conservatism to a replacement model of conservatism." Gingrich explained that in the Declaration of Independence, we declared that we were rejecting the British monarchy, and that we were now independent. "However, that didn't make us independent. We declared our opinion. In order to be successful and independent, there had to be two enormous acts of replacement. The first occurred in the winter of 1778 at Valley Forge, when George Washington, after two long painful years of defeat, came to the conclusion that only by having a first class Army, capable in a disciplined way of fighting in the field, could we defeat the British."

So Washington spent the winter at Valley Forge training and disciplining that American Army, with the help of the young French nobleman Lafayette, and the German military veteran Von Steuben. The result was "an American Army that in the spring of 1778 defeated head-on a first class British Army in a shocking moment in which all of a sudden the British were forced to realize the Americans probably were not going to ever be defeated. But it was the replacement of British military power with American military power which made the difference." [Emphasis added.)

The second enormous act of replacement to create America was the replacement of the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution of the United States. "It wasn't just the Articles of Confederation aren't adequate. It was here is an alternative."

Gingrich went on to apply this analysis to the politics of today. The American people rejected the Left in 1972, "George McGovern was annihilated for all practical purposes." The American people rejected the Left again in 1980, "People forget, Jimmy Carter carried exactly the same number of states as Herbert Hoover." The American people rejected the Left even more decisively in 1984, "Walter Mondale was repudiated carrying one state, his home state, only because Reagan didn't go and campaign there. If Reagan had campaigned in Minnesota the last weekend, he would have carried 50 states. He thought it was somehow ungentlemanly."

The American people rejected the Left yet again in 1994, "and for the first time in 40 years, the Republicans got control of the House, and we kept it for twelve years." Gingrich concluded, "And last Tuesday, the left was once again repudiated." That repudiation included the largest gain of House seats by either party since 1932, plus 682 state legislative seats switching from Democrat to Republican, restoring Republicans in the states to their high water mark in the 1920s.

But Gingrich asks, do you think the Left even noticed this now long history of rejection. He answers:

The Left didn't notice it because the power of the Left isn't in popular elections. The power of the Left is in tenured academics. The power of the Left is the news media. The power of the Left is the bureaucracy. The power of the Left is union leadership. The power of the Left is inside the judgeships. The power of the Left is in the Hollywood literati. And so the Left just kept going further Left.

Gingrich concludes:

The fact is rejection is an inadequate, long term strategy if you are serious about saving America, because rejection doesn't fix a center left coalition, which has been in power since 1932. And that requires us to adopt, I believe, a fundamentally new strategy: a strategy of replacement. We have to look at every level of American society, and every level of American government, and we have to decide that we are going to replace the Left, with policies, systems, and institutions that reflect the heart of the American tradition.

Gingrich explains the long term goal and vision:

And where we have to go is a goal to create a majority that's governed so decisively, with such positive results, that in January, 2021, we are inaugurating a team which understands why it is continuing a center-right majority, understands why it is continuing a prosperous America, understands why it's continuing a safe America, and understands why it is continuing the most free society in history. And only if you think out to that achievement, can you understand the challenge of the next two years, because this is an enormously complex country. [Emphasis added.]

Notice the emphasis on the word continuing, which I am explaining as a President Palin or Jindal being inaugurated after eight enormously successful years of a President Gingrich, similar to the eight enormously successful years of President Reagan. That is the magnitude of the long-term roadmap to victory for the conservative movement that Gingrich spells out in this speech.

Consider the accomplished practical record and standing that Gingrich has in setting this long term goal for the conservative movement:

Now some people will tell you, there's Gingrich having these wild ideas. I think it is fair to say, if you look at my career, from helping create the Georgia Republican Party, which now occupies every statewide elected position, and controls both houses of the State Legislature, and the majority of state Congressional seats, to creating the first [Republican Congressional] majority in forty years, and the first re-elected [Republican Congressional] majority since 1928, to four balanced budgets in a row, paying off $405 billion dollars of national debt, on occasion, I can actually be practical."

Gingrich analogized the magnitude of this long-term goal to Reagan's long term battle with Soviet Communism. After encountering Stalinist revolutionaries in Hollywood, Reagan in 1947 decided on a long-term goal of defeating communism, "and he set out on what would be a 44 year venture." Gingrich reminds us, "In 1979-1980, every member of the elite understood the Soviet Union was permanent, it was unchallengeable, we had to find entente, which was a fancy French word for understanding, we had to deal with the Soviets with great respect. Reagan's asked by a reporter, 'What's your vision of the Cold War?' And he says four words that change history, 'We win, they lose.'"

Similarly, in regard to today's battle with the Left in America, Gingrich explains his vision again as "we win, they lose." To accomplish this, Gingrich goes on to explain 5 goals for the thorough replacement of the Left's Ruling Class in governing America.

The first goal is to reassert and reestablish American Exceptionalism. Gingrich notes President Obama's confused and uninformed response last year to the question, "What do you think of American exceptionalism?" Obama responded that he thinks America is exceptional just as he supposed that the British think Britain is exceptional and Greeks think Greece is exceptional. In other words, America is just another country, just like Greece.

Which just exposes a deficiency in Obama's Ivy League education. For as Gingrich explains, Obama's response was "nonsense! American exceptionalism is a specific reference to a fact, like two plus two equals four. Not a theory, but a fact." The concept of American exceptionalism is not that America is the richest, or most powerful, or even empirically the freest country in the world, though this last gets close. The concept goes back to the Founders and the Declaration of Independence, which established for the first time in the world that in America it is not the government but the people who are sovereign. Power flows from the people, who grant their consent of the governed to certain limited powers of the government, not from the government to the people granting them certain limited spheres of liberty.

That is why the Declaration says that we are endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. As Gingrich explains, America is "the only country in history that says, 'Power comes from God, to each one of you, personally.' You are personally sovereign. You loan power to the state. The state does not loan power to you, it's the opposite of Obama-ism." So true. That is why when Obama quotes this passage from the Declaration, he leaves out "endowed by our creator." That is not an educational oversight. That is a direct threat to the foundations of your liberty. For when you are endowed by your creator with certain inalienable rights, "that means no judge, no lawyer, no bureaucrat, no politician can alienate you from your power," as Gingrich says. Obama's failure to understand American exceptionalism and the foundations of American liberty illustrates how "Obama-ism is a fundamental, radical break from all of American history, and represents some weird combination of academic theory and European secular socialism," in Gingrich's words.

"The second goal," Gingrich continues, "has to be to commit ourselves to benchmarking China and India, and undertaking the reforms necessary to be the most productive, most creative, and most prosperous country in the world, because that is the base to have a national security system that enables us to be the safest and freest country." To achieve that, "all you have to do is reform 7 areas: litigation, regulation, taxation, education, health, energy, and infrastructure." For full details, see his spring, 2010 book, To Save America.

"The third goal has to be to recognize that government has been the fourth bubble after information technology in 1999, housing in 2007, and Wall Street in 2008. The government has to become dramatically smaller, dramatically less expensive, much more decentralized out of Washington…." Again, full details are in To Save America.

The fourth goal is "we have to have the courage to tell the truth about radical Islamists, and we have to have the courage to act on that truth." Gingrich explains, "We are in a war which is fully as dangerous as the Cold War. If our enemies get nuclear weapons, we will lose cities. If our enemies learn how to be more sophisticated, we will suffer horrendous casualties…. We are living in a fool's paradise with an elite that is hiding, I mean, it makes ostriches look like wise owls. They live in a fantasy world." Gingrich speaks on this issue with a deep background on national defense as the longest serving senior military instructor, working with the Army's Training and Doctrine command since 1979, and long service on the Defense Policy Board.

The fifth goal is as important to the ultimate victory of the conservative movement over the Left as any other. Gingrich explains:

[W]e have to be prepared to say, with the deepest of meaning, that…we are determined to go into the poorest of communities, of every part of America, from the valleys, to the inner cities, to poor rural areas, and we are going to change the culture, we are going to change the bureaucracy, we are going to change the tax code, we are going to do whatever it takes, so that every American is truly capable of pursuing happiness as they have been endowed by their creator. And I believe, the morning all Americans believe that we, as conservatives, are serious about them having the right to pursue happiness, we will create a 70% to 75% majority that will be staggering in the scale of it, and the reach of it, in the neighborhoods we never thought we could carry, simply for a practical reason. We can offer their children and grandchildren a vastly better future than the bureaucratic welfare state of dependency, coercion, and ineffectiveness.

This is where my own contribution will soon come in. For I am now completing a book to be published by next spring by Harper Collins -- America's Coming Bankruptcy: Replacing Entitlement Debt and Dependency with Prosperity Independence -- that will present a specific, detailed vision for a new, completely modernized, market-based, safety net system for America. Relying on modern capital and labor markets to perform the central functions of today's outdated, late 19th century entitlements, with thorough market incentives that reinforce rather than detract from economic growth and prosperity, that new safety net would serve the poor and all of the social goals of today's entitlements far better, while costing the taxpayers only a fraction of the cost of the current programs. Explaining as well the policies necessary to achieve another 25 year, generation long, economic boom, as Reagan and the supply-siders did in the 1980s, these reforms together will consequently save America from its impending bankruptcy, and restore traditional American prosperity.

It was Gingrich, do not forget, who led conservatives in the fight against Bush 41's disastrous 1990 budget deal, which is what catapulted him to the top of the House Republican leadership. He demonstrated his prime-time leadership abilities in engineering the historic Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. Most importantly, Speaker Gingrich successfully implemented conservative policies once in power. He slashed total federal spending by one-eighth relative to GDP, more even than Reagan did in the 1980s, though Reagan was rightly distracted by the defense buildup that won the Cold War without firing a shot. Gingrich led adoption of the enormously successful 1996 welfare reforms ending the entitlement status of the old, New Deal, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, sending it back to the states as long sought by Reagan and his welfare guru Robert Carleson. He also led adoption of Freedom to Farm, which began phasing out farm subsidies, until later overturned under Speaker Hastert. These are the policies that not only balanced the budget without tax increases, but achieved large surpluses with tax cuts that fueled the continuation of the Reagan boom through the 1990s.

With Reagan's glorious victory over Soviet Communism, Gingrich now offers the leadership to win the full and final victory over the Left in the next logical step: vanquishing the Left within America itself.

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About the Author
Peter Ferrara is Director of Entitlement and Budget Policy at the Heartland Institute, General Counsel of the American Civil Rights Union, Senior Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, and Senior Policy Advisor on Entitlements and Budget Policy at the National Tax Limitation Foundation. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States under President George H.W. Bush.