Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich has a message for conservatives if they want to succeed in changing the debate in Washington: conservatives must be a movement of “yes,” and they must stand for what they will do.
He delivered that message today at The Bloggers Briefing, a gathering of conservative bloggers from across the capital, held at The Heritage Foundation.
Gingrich also has a slogan for conservatives – “2 + 2 = 4” – which he describes as a way to slow down the political debate in America and serves as a reminder of what he says the left’s agenda is really about – an Orwellian government machine that tries to sell Americans on the notion that two-plus-two equals three, when in reality, it’s not.
And it is today’s political reality that is most disconcerting to Gingrich. He describes President Obama’s government as a “secular socialist machine” that is “destructive of our society.” Its hallmark? He says it’s a combination of the bad economics of the 1970s, the Welfare state of the 1950s, Springfield corruption, Chicago-style politics and Saul Alinsky’s rules for radicals.
To combat that machine, Gingrich calls on conservatives to “refute everything the machine says” and to employ the movement of “yes.” He pointed to history for examples of when the conservative movement capitalized on that strategy, including Ronald Reagan’s victory over President Jimmy Carter and, more personal to Gingrich, the conservative revolution of 1994.
We took on a liberal president, we stopped government in its tracks, we moved to the first balanced budget in a generation … and we got reelected for the first time since 1928,” Gingrich said.
And as for a roadmap for governing in the future, Gingrich says “yes” is key to success. He pointed to The Heritage Foundation’s 1980 study “Mandate for Leadership,” which made policy recommendations for the incoming Reagan Administration, as an example of conservatives successfully advancing a positive agenda and real ideas for governance. To illustrate his point about a message of “yes,” he noted, “We did not have a contract against Clinton,” referencing the “Contract With America.” Rather, conservatives stood for tax cuts, for balanced budgets and for Welfare reform.
You can always arouse a fair amount of conservative excitement by saying ‘no,’” Gingrich said, “But you can’t govern by saying no.”
There are four top issues that Gingrich says should be on the positive conservative agenda: jobs, including dramatically cutting taxes and regulations; balancing the federal budget, which he calls a moral and economic imperative; energy, so that new building booms occur “in St. Louis, instead of Dubai;” and education reform, which he says is vital to ensuring we can compete with China and India.
In Gingrich’s view, there is a stark difference between a conservative vision for America and the liberal message being sold to the country.
The Obama model for America, Gingrich says, is “We should be grateful that the level of misery we’ve gotten to is not nearly as bad as it could’ve been.” To counter that message of malaise, Gingrich says conservatives must offer a better set of solutions than liberals, not just an ideology.