(Newt Gingrich) – “Reclaiming Liberty” was the theme of the Institute for Policy Innovation event where I spoke last Thursday in Dallas, Texas. In the wake of the decisive GOP victories on November 2, 2010, the key message I shared with them – and today share with you – is that to reclaim liberty in America, the conservative movement must move from a rejection model of conservatism to a replacement model of conservatism.
The distinction between a rejection model and a replacement model of conservatism is enormously important.
Rejection and Replacement by the Founders
As an example of this distinction, think of the Declaration of Independence as an act of rejection. The American people concluded that we had rights, and the British were trampling on our rights. As such, we rejected British oppression and declared our independence. In order to be successful and independent, however, we had to undertake two enormous acts of replacement. First, in the winter of 1778 at Valley Forge, Washington realized he needed a large, professional Army to ensure that a free and secure United States of America could replace the British regime. Ten years later, the Founders came to understand that they needed a government strong enough to endure, so in a second act of replacement they convened the Constitutional Convention and replaced the weak Articles of Confederation with the United States Constitution.
The Left Can Ignore Popular Rejection and Therefore Must Be Replaced
On November 2nd, the Left was dealt a crushing rejection, just as it had suffered in 1972, 1980, 1984, and 1994. But this election rejection won’t reform the Left, just as it did not in these prior electoral rejections. The Left simply doesn’t notice these rejections, as Nancy Pelosi’s likely successful effort to remain her party’s minority leader in the House attests.
The Left doesn’t notice electoral rejections because the power of the Left doesn’t reside in popular elections. The power of the Left is in tenured academics. The power of the Left is in the news media. The power of the Left is in the bureaucracy. The power of the Left is in union leadership. The power of the Left is inside the judgeships. The power of the Left is in fact in the Hollywood literati. And so the Left just keeps going further to the Left.
Rejection of the Left is simply not an adequate, long-term strategy if you are serious about saving America because rejection doesn’t fix a center-Left coalition, which has been in power since 1932. And this reality requires conservatives to adopt a fundamentally new strategy of replacement. We have to look at every level of American society and every level of American government, and we have to decide that we are going to replace the Left, with policies, systems, and institutions that reflect the heart of the American tradition.
Replacement Begins With a Long Term Goal and a Citizen Movement
In this spirit, conservatives cannot just plan for the next two years. Today, our goal in replacing the Left is to create a majority that governs so decisively, with such positive results, that after ten years, in January 2021, we are swearing in the newest members of a majority team who understand why they are continuing a center-right majority, understand how to build a prosperous America, understand how to keep America safe, and understand why they are continuing the freest society in history.
Only if conservatives can think out to that level of achievement can we understand the challenge of the next two years in a country as enormously complex as ours.
There are more than 513,000 elected officials in the United States – school boards, city council, county commission, state legislatures, governors, judges and the like. This scale of self-government means that if we truly want a wave of change that ends the majority system of the Left, which has been around since 1932, then the wave can’t just be about winning the Oval Office. If we are to devolve power out of Washington and return the power back home, it means citizens have to be engaged. So if conservatives are to undertake successfully a replacement of the Left, it will require a citizen movement that will have local government, state government, and federal government implications.
Replacing the Left is a big undertaking. Thinking ten years out to a center right majority in 2021 is not about daydreaming; it is meant as a necessary exercise to inform what we do tomorrow morning, what we talk about next week, what happens in the lame duck session, what Republicans do the day they take over the House, and what the governor does with a new Legislature. Replacement is an immediate process, which has long-term implications.
Conservatives who champion replacement have to think about how deeply this replacement has to happen at all levels of government, and then we have to create very clear choices.
Organizing Principle of Replacement: Job Killing Policies Kill Jobs
A key organizing principle of the next ten years for replacing the Left consists of five words: job killing policies kill jobs.
The first step in replacing the Left is putting Americans back to work, and this can only be done by consistently identifying for the country job killing policies and ending or replacing them. If you go from 9.6% unemployment to 4% unemployment, you take 5.6% of the country off food stamps, off unemployment, off Medicaid, and you get them back to paying taxes.
There is no single step toward balancing the budget bigger than full employment. And that should be the number one Republican goal. Republicans should fight to eliminate job killing policies every single day so that more jobs can be created by the private sector. They should fight it out over litigation, regulation, education, energy, taxes, and healthcare.
If we take the model seriously of replacing job killing policies, then it is fair to say that the choice that we want to offer in 2012 is very clear. If you think your children ought to have food stamps, you have a party you ought to vote for. If you think your children ought to have a paycheck or own their own business, you have a party you ought to vote for.
This is a message that can be taken into every neighborhood of every ethnic background. We can ask “would you rather your children have food stamps or paychecks?” and by 80% or better in every neighborhood, they’re going to say, “You know, I really like that paycheck idea.” Now that’s the courage we have to have. We have to be clear about it, to be disciplined about it, to mean it, and then to go out and tell everybody we want them to have that kind of a future.
Five Goals for Replacement
There are five big goals for replacement over the next decade, which are set out briefly below but you can read more about in my speech.
1. Reasserting American Exceptionalism. The Founding Fathers believed in American Exceptionalism because we are the only country in history that recognizes that power comes from God to each citizen personally. The citizen is personally sovereign. The citizen then loans power to the state. The state does not loan power to the citizen. This is the opposite of Obamaism.
2. Competing with China and India. We must commit ourselves to undertaking the necessary reforms so that we can become the most productive, most creative, and most prosperous country in the world. These economic requirements are our basis for a national security system that enables us to be the safest and freest country worldwide. If we take seriously the importance of competing with China and India, we will be the dominant country on the planet for the next hundred years. However, if we do not have the courage to compete with China and India, we will rapidly cease to be safe and will rapidly cease to be free. Rather than complaining about how China and India have saved their money, maintained trade surpluses, and weathered the economic crisis well, as President Obama has done, we must focus on how we can reform ourselves dramatically.
3. Ending the Bubble of Government. Government is too big, too expensive, too in debt, and it is not going to want to change. Like the information technology bubble in 1999, the housing bubble in 2007, and the Wall Street bubble in 2008, the fourth bubble that is government threatens our economy. Government employee unions are the new elite, and we need a replacement model.
4. Telling the Truth About Radical Islamism. The Obama administration is living in a fantasy world; they won’t tell the truth about our enemies. We must have the courage to tell the truth about radical Islamists, and we must have the courage to act on that truth. We must identify our opponents, be honest about the scale of the threat, and undertake a grand strategy to defeat radical Islamism.
5. Empowering Every American to Pursue Happiness. Since we truly believe that every American is endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights – among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – then we must be determined to go into our country’s poorest communities, whether it is in the valley, the inner city, or poor, rural areas. We must change the culture; we must change the bureaucracy; we must change the tax code; we must do whatever it takes to ensure that every American is truly capable of pursuing happiness, as they have been endowed by their Creator with that right. When conservatives are truly serious about all American citizens having the right to pursue happiness, we will create a 75% majority, and we will be able to offer our children and grandchildren a vastly better future than the bureaucratic welfare state of dependency, coercion, and ineffectiveness we face today.
With a movement of citizens all across this land, we can replace the Left and bring America back to the country it should be.
(Newt Gingrich is a former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. This column originally appeared in Human Events on November 17)