The Case for Newt Gingrich
Even with the future of the Republic at risk, the institutional Republican Party has not responded well.
The current class of presidential aspirants is light. Michelle Bachmann’s only government experience is limited to service in the U.S. House of Representatives. Herman Cain has no government experience. Ron Paul is a gadfly with some good ideas and a willingness to share all his bad ideas with anyone who asks. Mitt Romney is a liberal Republican and former Governor of Massachusetts where he compelled every Massachusetts citizen to purchase health insurance and, apparently, inspired a clearly unconstitutional aspect of President Obama’s healthcare “reform” legislation. Former Sen. Rick Santorum is more experienced than most of the others but never built a national constituency. In a year when the economy is the dominant issue, Santorum is focused on social issues. Gov. Rick Perry apparently did not begin to think about running for the GOP nomination until recently and simply hasn’t done his homework. Nobody I know would put the Republic at risk to a Perry candidacy. And what Jon Huntsman is doing in this race, is a mystery.
That brings us to former Speaker of the House, Dr. Newt Gingrich.
In making the case for nomination of Speaker Gingrich I must admit that I have a personal dislike to this former History professor. He began as a Rockefeller Republican at the moment the tide turned to conservative Republicans. He earned a Ph.D. in History but wrote on a topic peripheral to most of the major issues that distinguished his public career. I must also admit that I do not judge politicians on the basis of their personal life, so my brief for Newt gives no thought to that subject.
However, I do have some knowledge of the actual workings of American government as an observer and a participant, and I have spent many years in classrooms teaching that subject and wrote a book that has been called “the best historical Introduction to and short study of Conservatism.”
In my judgment, this moment in American history requires someone of experience to take charge; a person who adheres to the philosophy of limited government of the Founding Fathers, who understands what generates economic growth and the relation of taxation to economic growth, who has an understanding of the weakened international position of the United States, and who is not inclined to go to war at the drop of a hat.
In other words, the American presidency requires a mature man—something we haven’t had since the Presidency of Ronald Reagan.
Today, that person is Newt Gingrich.
In many ways, Ronald Reagan was a product of his generation—the “greatest generation” celebrated for winning World War II. That generation had a long gestation period and endured hardships that today’s young people are only beginning to experience.
That generation was also large in number and was followed by Newt Gingrich’s generation that was much smaller.
Unfortunately for American life, after enduring the hardships of the Great Depression and World War II, when the WW II generation married they had fewer children. That generation also learned from the WW II war effort that collective action “works.” Thus they were disposed to accept intellectual currents celebrated by our educated classes (what George Wallace would call “pointy headed intellectuals) with respect to international law and organizations, control of the economy by government, and welfare programs like Social Security. Medicare and subsidized federal student loans were introduced by a Great Depression and World War generation leader, Lyndon B. Johnson.
Because the World War II generation came from large families, lived longer thanks to the miracle of modern science, and refused to give up power or position they had to be cleaned out before persons from the post-WW II generation, like Newt Gingrich, had the space they needed to show that they had better ideas. That was the critical meaning of the election of William Jefferson Clinton. President George Herbert Walker Bush was the last member of the World War II to win the Presidency.
Like Ronald Reagan, however, Newt Gingrich learned that the big government policies of Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon were not sufficient to the needs of America in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Newt used that knowledge to win election to the U.S. House of Representatives and in 1994 to engineer the greatest revolution in American politics by taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Until 1994, Republicans in Congress went along to get along. Republican leaders in the House of Representatives had a hostage mentality that made them respectful of their opponents and thankful of the crumbs they were given. Newt Gingrich changed all that by developing an idea based program of policies made transparent in a publicly announced “contract.”
So much for the good.
But, the Republican revolution of 1994 was seventeen years ago and in the interim Newt has been on the periphery of American government. During that time he did not develop an organization to finance and administer a run for President. In 2004 he announced that he would run for the nomination if others would pledge $32 million in campaign financing. Needless to say, the “cargo cult” represented in that kind of thinking came to nothing.
This election cycle, Newt decided to run for real—at least in the reality of his mind—and put together a team that promptly resigned in frustration, and Newt continued his campaign—without a campaign organization, and without policy consultants and policy papers. Maybe that’s how Newt likes it; everything is dependent on him and him alone. But a run for the American presidency is not a run for Speaker of the House, the presidency of a college or a professional association. A presidential race requires that a candidate move people and attract around him a core group of supporters who believe in the candidate.
To my knowledge, Newt has the ability to move the electorate with his brilliant arguments, but he is lacking in the ability to attract persons of substance willing to support him financially or work for his election.
That personal failure, not his private life, is of concern to those of us who think Newt Gingrich should be on the 2012 ticket. Recently, Mitt Romney announced formation of a team of foreign policy professionals. The list was disturbing in that it represented a large organization effort that yielded mostly technicians. From that list no clear foreign policy philosophy was visible. It was just an organization man’s attempt to fill a gap in the organization. Newt can do better, but he hasn’t even tried.
In addition, there is the problem of all those Republican Congressmen from the class of 1994 and 1996 who say that Newt is a disaster as a leader—disorganized, prideful, forgetful from one day to next what he said the day before. Not all of them can be wrong. Newt just isn’t an administrator of an organization. He flies by the seat of his pants, relies on ideas alone as if giving a speech will change reality, and, ultimately, is either disdainful of the American people—or as is probably the case—deep down, Newt is filled with loathing of himself.
All the same, I must conclude that if the Republican Party is to win the Presidency in 2012, New Gingrich has to be on the ticket. But, in what capacity? Should he be the GOP’s candidate for President or the candidate for Vice President?
That will be decided by Republican primary voters.