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Towards a 21st Century Governing Majority

I am giving a speech at the American Enterprise Institute this Friday that is so central to where America needs to go if we’re going to win the future for our children and grandchildren that I wanted to preview it for you today. I also want to urge you to find out more at the AEI website and to watch it at American Solutions, where you can sign up to get an e-mail reminder here.

We are still more than 500 days from the 2008 elections, but one thing is clear: There will be a future governing majority, and its three key principles can already be defined. What is not clear, however, is whether this next governing majority will be led by Republicans or Democrats.

First, New Deal Democrats, Then Reagan/Contract With America Republicans

From 1932 to 1980, the Democrats clearly led the governing coalition. Republican Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon and Ford all operated within the world created by the New Deal and FDR.

Then in 1980, President Reagan broke with that pattern and launched a substantial shift in the core principles of American public policy. Under Reagan, defeating the Soviet Union replaced containing it, cutting taxes replaced government redistribution, and pride in American civilization replaced the left’s hostility toward American values.

The 1994 Contract with America deepened and extended the Reagan initiative. The Contract expanded the Republican governing majority through welfare reform, the first tax cut in 16 years, a balanced budget for four consecutive years, paying off $405 billion in debt and enacting term limits for committee chairmen. Republicans controlled the House for more than two years for the first time since 1928, and Republican control of governorships and state legislatures was deepened.

And Then Came Six Years of Republicans’ Failing to Perform

The last six years, however, have been a different story. They have been too often punctuated with examples of performance failures that have effectively ended the current attempt at forging a Republican governing majority.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff encapsulated this inability to get the job done when he recently said that the disastrous new immigration bill “bows to reality.” In other words: It’s too hard, so why not concede defeat and give up securing the border and enforcing the law.

But we hire leaders to change reality to fit our values, not to change our values to fit their failures.

I don’t know what “reality” Secretary Chertoff lives in, but the reality of the vast majority of the American people is one of growing distrust of their leaders and growing disgust with the ways things are being done in Washington.

We value limited, effective government, but the reality we get is the failed response to Hurricane Katrina.

We value lower taxes and living within our means, but the reality we get is out-of-control spending on congressional pet projects.

We value enforcing our laws, but our reality is a Senate-sanctioned order to keep local police in the dark about the legal status of those they arrest.

We value protecting our homeland, but our reality is a federal bureaucracy that allows a man with multiple-drug-resistant tuberculosis to enter the country — after a U.S. border guard ignored a warning that he was so dangerous he had to be approached wearing bio-protective gear. And our reality is the discovery of three terrorists in New Jersey who had been in the U.S. illegally for 23 years and charged 75 times by the police without being identified as having no legal right to be in the United States in the first place.

The Principles of a New Governing Majority

It is quite clear that the next governing majority — a 21st Century governing majority — will be required to have the following three major characteristics to be a successful and lasting majority.

  1. Represent the Values of the People: It will represent the vast majority of the American people in their key values and beliefs (see below for some examples);
  2. Be Accountable to the Standards of the People: It will insist on a government that is metrics-based, constantly measuring results and changing strategies, policies, bureaucracies and personnel until it actually succeeds in meeting the values, expectations and demands of the American people. A 21st Century government will join the best of the private sector in offering more choices of higher quality at lower cost and with greater convenience; and
  3. Protect the Lives of the People: It will insist on protecting America and her allies from the threat of the irreconcilable wing of Islam as well as resurgent Russian aggressiveness and the challenge of Chinese economic and scientific development.

Which Party Will It Be?

While either party could become the next governing majority, each has some major hurdles to becoming that majority.

The Democrats are in a better tactical position, because they are the opposition party at a time of public disenchantment with the performance of the Republicans in government.

But the values of the Left, the interest groups of government and the grip of the 20th Century systems of bureaucracy make it nearly impossible for the Democrats to propose effective solutions to how we govern ourselves. It is a better-than-even possibility that Democrats can win the presidency in 2008 but a very limited possibility that they could propose the kind of change that would be necessary to form a governing majority.

Republicans Are in a Bad Tactical Spot, But a Good Strategic One

The Republicans have a bad tactical situation, but they are strategically in an easier place than Democrats. Once Republicans get out from under the current performance problems, they could more easily adopt the favored policies of the vast majority of Americans and advocate the transformation of government and the protection of the United States from a broad set of dangers.

It is unlikely that any new Republican attempts to create a natural governing majority could evolve rapidly enough to be offered as a compelling choice to the American people in the 2008 election. But the election of Sarkozy in France shows that it is possible to produce a decisive national decision in favoring of moving toward more conservative reform — in spite of the performance failures of the incumbent from the same party — when combined with an ideological failure on the left and an offering of bold solutions and bold leadership from a newly defined right.

‘That Government of the People, by the People, and for the People Shall Not Perish From the Earth’

My speech Friday at the American Enterprise Institute will address this battle to create America’s next governing majority in the context of President Lincoln’s charge at Gettysburg:

“It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The speech will examine:

  • How government of the people is in danger of being replaced by an iron triangle of tax-funded incumbents, interest group lobbyists and powerful bureaucracies;
  • How government of the people and by the people is being threatened by the anti-free speech law of McCain-Feingold and other anti-citizen efforts to strangle public dissent; and
  • How government for the people is being replaced by government for the bureaucracies, government for the public-employee unions and government for the trial lawyers.

Restoring ‘Government of the People’: Making English the Official Language of the United States

The opposition in Congress to making English the official language of the United States is a near perfect example of the failure of the current leadership in Washington to adopt a deeply held value of the American people. Eighty-five percent of Americans want the federal government to join with 30 states in making English the official language of the United States, and yet our elites consider the adoption of this value as a distraction or worse.

Consider last night’s Democratic presidential debate. When asked for a show of hands, former Alaskan Sen. Mike Gravel was the only candidate to express support for English. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama said that the question “is designed precisely to divide us” and that “when we get distracted by those kinds of questions, I think we do a disservice to the American people.” If 85% of Americans support English as the official language of government, the only division is between Sen. Obama and the American people.

New York Sen. Hillary Clinton responded that she supported English as the “national” language but not the “official” language of the United States, since making English the official language would prevent the printing of foreign language ballots for U.S. elections.

It seems that only liberals can possibly see 85% support for a deeply held American value as divisive and only liberals think it is acceptable to express support for English as long as it does not actually have any meaning, such as ending the printing of foreign language ballots for U.S. elections.

Only a Mass Movement Can Break the Power of the Entrenched Special Interests

The power of the entrenched special interests in Washington, in many state capitals, and in city and county government is such that only a mass movement comparable to the Jeffersonians, the Jacksonians, and the Lincoln Republicans and Progressives could break the hold of the entrenched power structure.

Three are three reasons to believe this mass movement is growing:

First, the gap between the values of the elite on the left and the values of the vast majority of Americans is growing wider. Ninety-one percent of all Americans favor the right to say “One Nation under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance. Eighty-nine percent believe American workers should have the right to a secret ballot election before being forced to join a union. Ninety-three percent believe Americans should know the price and quality of healthcare before making a decision about it. Eighty-five percent believe English should be the official language of government. The list goes on and on. Certainly, any 21st Century governing majority will be center-right in its values and policies.

Second, the gap between the world that works (largely but not entirely private sector) and the world that fails (largely but not entirely government bureaucracy) is growing wider and wider. In the 21st Century private sector, we routinely expect MORE choices of LOWER cost with HIGHER quality and GREATER convenience. But in government we continue to be told about higher taxes, slower implementation, greater error rates and “hard choices.” A 21st Century governing majority will be allied with the American people in insisting on the delivery standard of the world that works being applied to the government systems that currently fail.

Third, as the world visibly grows more dangerous, the natural desire of the American people to be protected will reassert itself. The implementation failures in Iraq combined with the Bush Administration’s inarticulateness have led to a temporary resurgence of the “Peace at Any Price” Left. But this will rapidly disintegrate as the problems of the modern world persist. Cyber attacks on Estonia, Chinese activities in space, Russian assertiveness against Lithuania and Poland, Iranian seizure of American hostages, the six terrorists in New Jersey and the four terrorists who were planning to blow up the jet fuel at JFK airport in New York are early indicators that any future governing majority will have a very strong national and homeland security component.

I will explore all these ideas in my speech at AEI on Friday, June 8. I hope you’ll join me. And then, all these concepts will be expanded into practical, workable solutions in the American Solutions “Solutions Day” workshops on September 27 and 29. It’s going to be the start of a great and meaningful adventure. I hope you’ll choose to be a part of it.


Newt Gingrich

P.S. — Our effort to make this Wednesday, June 6 — the anniversary of D-Day — a national day of prayer and rededication to our men and women in uniform is gathering momentum across the nation. Get details and tools at newt.org/ddayprayer.

P.P.S. — The launch of my new novel, Pearl Harbor, has been a resounding success. We’re at number seven on the New York Times fiction bestseller list. For pictures of some of your fellow Americans who came out to our book signings, go to newt.org/pacificwarseries. And don’t forget, Father’s Day is just around the corner and a signed copy of Pearl Harbor makes a great gift!

P.P.P.S.The Center for Health Transformation has just published a new book Paper Kills: Transforming Health and Healthcare with Information Technology. This new book addresses the most pressing issues in the drive to modernize and improve healthcare through health information technology. Pre-order your copy here.

Written By

Mr. Gingrich is the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and author of To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine, Real Change: From the World That Fails to the World That Works and Winning the Future (published by Regnery, a HUMAN EVENTS sister company).

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