Warming up to Newt Gingrich

I definitely didn’t think I would be seriously thinking about supporting Newt Gingrich when he jumped into the Republican presidential nomination race. Despite his accomplishments as Speaker of the House, he came into the race with some baggage. He struck me as a guy that had his shot and washed out. Like many conservatives, I was also ready to dismiss Gingrich completely after his comments on the Ryan Plan for reforming entitlements. He seemed to have handled the situation horribly at the time, and his attempts at damage control made him seem like a weasel.

Based on his record as governor, Rick Perry was my first choice when he got into the race. Although it’s hard to know without further research how much credit to give Perry for the Texas success story, I figure it’s a safe bet to give him some of that credit based on the length of his tenure. In light of Perry’s meltdown in the debates after joining the race, I’ve been looking at the other options while still keeping Perry as my top pick. I have to say, I am starting to come around to Newt. I first started to take Gingrich seriously after his string of good debate performances. I am quite impressed with his decision to go back to the strategy that catapulted him to Speaker of the House. His new contract with America is just the type of thing that could put a Republican in the White House with a strong mandate for real change and large majorities in the House and Senate riding in on the coattails of the contract. Combined with the momentum from the Tea Party, this new contract gives me a new optimism for our nation’s future in these dark times. The new contract is quite bold in charting a new direction for America with a renewed focus on prosperity and liberty.

After seeing the Cain-Gingrich debate on entitlements, I think I might now be sold on Gingrich. I had to go back to his interview on Meet the Press to be sure though. Politicians don’t have a good reputation for being trustworthy, and I do my homework so I’m not fooled by some slick sales pitch by a RINO that is going to govern like a liberal once in office. That’s one of the reasons why I will never get on the Romney bandwagon until he walks back his past positions and builds a new track record in public office to prove his conservative credentials, preferably not in the White House and not in my state. After familiarizing myself with the new 21st Century Contract with America and his plan for reforming entitlements, I find myself in agreement with the comments that Gingrich made on Meet the Press about the Ryan Plan. The key insight from the Gingrich contract is that we have to propose solutions that don’t just fix the problems, but are so much better than the status quo that people will willingly opt-in to a system that is also fiscally sound. An opt-in model is our chance to demonstrate that the free market can do things better and cheaper. I think hyperbole is what got Gingrich into trouble. He could have staked out his position and disagreed without appearing to demagogue the Ryan Plan. Paul Ryan had a lot of courage to put forth a real solution for reforming entitlements, and he deserves the support of conservatives for going out on a limb despite the political risks to start an adult conversation about entitlements. The Cain-Gingrich debate is evidence that Paul Ryan succeeded in getting the conversation started.

If conservative solutions to our nations problems are not just fiscally responsible, but better, Americans will willingly choose the conservative option when given the choice. After seeing the Cain-Gingrich debate on entitlements, I’m starting to believe that entitlements can actually be reformed without some of our most vulnerable citizens getting the shaft or being coerced into a more fiscally sound system. Giving Americans a choice also makes it much more difficult for liberals to demagogue much-needed reforms (although we know that it still won’t stop them from trying). Many of the important reforms to entitlements and taxes in the new Contract with America allow people to opt-out. And unlike Obama’s hollow promises that people could keep what they have now with Obamacare, these opt-out provisions aren’t undermined by other policy provisions to drive one of those options out of business. This kind of option model might also be a really good idea for practical reasons rather than just politics. It forces the politicians to come up with ideas that are good enough for people to willingly opt-in.

Given my new perspective on his criticism of the Ryan Plan, I’m going to have take a second look at some of the baggage that Gingrich had coming into the race. Some of this baggage may not be as bad as it is portrayed. But even if it is, Gingrich seems like the only candidate with a comprehensive plan to turn America around and the ability to explain that plan clearly and persuasively.

As I’ve said before, I don’t think it’s enough for a candidate to have the right values or good ideas. In normal times, I could accept a nominee lacking a firm grasp of the problem, a clear solution, or political acumen. Good conservative values are probably enough in good times to keep us on the right path. Unfortunately, our nation is not experiencing good times. This country desperately needs a real leader to replace the empty suit that currently resides in the Oval Office. We need a president that can communicate conservative values and policies clearly and persuasively. Even if Republicans keep the House and take control of the Senate, that doesn’t guarantee a majority in support of a conservative agenda. I think we are close to the point of no return on the road to socialism and fiscal ruin. It will take a lot of work to turn things around, and we don’t have much time. We need a conservative president that can put pressure on the legislature by making the case directly to the people. We need a president with the right solutions and enough political acumen to make it happen. We need someone who can fight for conservative principles in the face of a hostile media and uninformed public. I’m starting to think that Newt Gingrich might be the one candidate that is up to the task.


Cross-posted at The Right Stuff