Newt on his party:
Not since Watergate, Gingrich said, has the Republican Party been in such desperate shape. “Let me be clear: twenty-eight-per-cent approval of the President, losing every closely contested Senate seat except one, every one that involved an incumbent—that’s a collapse. I mean, look at the Northeast. You can’t be a governing national party and write off entire regions.” For this disarray he blames not only Iraq and Hurricane Katrina but also Karl Rove’s “maniacally dumb” strategy in 2004, which left Bush with no political capital. “All he proved was that the anti-Kerry vote was bigger than the anti-Bush vote,” Gingrich said. He continued, “The Bush people deliberately could not bring themselves to wage a campaign of choice”—of ideology, of suggesting that Kerry was “to the left of Ted Kennedy”—and chose instead to attack Kerry’s war record.
The only way to keep the White House in G.O.P. hands, Gingrich said, would be to nominate someone who, in essence, runs against Bush, in the style of Nicolas Sarkozy, the center-right cabinet minister who just won the French Presidency by making his own President, Jacques Chirac, his virtual opponent [...]
Gingrich has been criticized lately by some conservatives—most notably DeLay—for spending too much time reaching out to center-right voters; he advocates modernizing the government rather than making it smaller. (Gingrich and DeLay barely speak; their relationship came apart in the late nineteen-nineties, when Gingrich suspected DeLay of engineering an attempted coup.) It is true, Gingrich said, that he wants to bring the center into a coalition with the right, “because I want to give the right power. The right can have power only by being allied with the center.”
DeLay speaks of Gingrich with undisguised contempt. “He’s got this new shtick now—‘solutions,’ he calls it, like government is the new solution. Government isn’t the solution; it’s the problem.” DeLay smiled. “Did you see that he had a love match with John Kerry on global warming?” he said. “That’s not going to help him with the Presidential race.”
This is it -- the reason Republicans can never govern. You have an entire party based on an ideology that says government isn't a solution.
So if you take over, and you actually govern well, you have shown that government can be a solution. In short, you have completely discredited the ideology upon which your party is based.
In this piece (the Goldberg piece in the New Yorker I referenced in my previous post), Newt is portrayed as a fiery insurgent who failed in the majority because of the challenges of governing. The sense I get is that Newt learned a lesson from his failed speakership, as opposed to DeLay, who never learned his lesson.
Republican orthodoxy is a great way to get elected when in the minority. There's always plenty of government waste, inefficiency, and corruption to campaign against, to paint government as a drain on the taxpayer's wallet. The problem is, governing like a Republican just exacerbates those problems. If Republicans don't care about government, they have even less incentive to make sure that the money is well spent and that government programs work. So they become even more inefficient, more wasteful, and more corrupt. Heck, it's almost a moral imperative that they screw up. The past two decades have borne that out. (And what better examples than appointing a horse lawyer to run FEMA, or Bush's incompetent and unqualified appointments to head the World Bank?)
DeLay remains unapologetic for his mismanagement of the federal government, and promises more of the same. Sure, he's added some dollop about finding Jesus, but that's just pablum for his troops. His core remains heavily committed to destroying government and its ability to help regular people.
Gingrich, on the other hand, appears to sense that Americans are disgusted at Bush and GOP incompetence and expect government to work for them. Katrina and Iraq have driven that sentiment home.
Therefore, if his party is to remain relevant, it must recreate itself not as the party of smaller government, but the party of modernized government.
Of course, isn't that the Democratic schtick? Call it "smarter government", or "responsive government", or "modernized government", the results is still the same -- a realization that government can and should work for the benefit of its citizens. We can debate the extent of such government involvement (e.g. as a Libertarian Democrat, I think less is more), but at the bottom, there's a fundamental trust for government to do right by its people.
Gingrich isn't talking about a slight or subtle ideological shift here, he's talking about erasing the biggest fundamental difference between Republicans and Democrats, and doing so by adopting our position.
This will set up an interesting intra-GOP battle in fall, if Gingrich does decide to jump in. Right now, the only Republican presidential candidate trying to pull the "Sarkozy strategy" is Ron Paul, and he's safely enough in the fringe that his ability to influence their debate is minimal.
But that would change dramatically if someone of Gingrich's stature jumped in and didn't just eviscerate the Bush presidency (which he is fond of doing), but also the very philosophical underpinnings of the modern Republican Party.
And that would be quite a show.
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