Shortly after formally announcing his entry into the pool of Republicans running for president, Newt Gingrich appeared on "Meet the Press" to present his views, presumably for the purpose of motivating Americans to vote for him in 2012.
Mr. Gingrich, the former speaker of the House who led a conservative resurgence in the 1990's, said the Republican Medicare plan was "too big a jump" for Americans and compared it to the health care overhaul championed by President Obama.
"I'm against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change," Mr. Gingrich said . . . "I don't think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering," he said. "I don't think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate."
It would be hard to improve upon these few sentences in articulating a thoroughly middle-of-the-road position. In case there were any lingering thoughts that the "Gingrich Revolution" of 1994 signaled anything revolutionary about the man himself, Mr. Gingrich wishes to reassure us that he is fundamentally a compromising milquetoast--which is to say, he is a suitable Republican candidate.
The essence of Mr. Gingrich's position is that in the midst of rampant federal spending, meddling in the economy, and regulation of every aspect of citizens' lives--all of which has been increasing alarmingly for at least the last two presidential administrations--the proper position to take is: hold the line. The problem, according to Mr. Gingrich, is "radical change" itself, not whether changes are for good or ill.
The real evil of Mr. Gingrich's position can be found in the last words that I quoted: his reference to a "free society." The implication of Gingrich's statement is that anything "radical"--even the restoration of freedom and individual rights in America, which today is about as radical as anything I can imagine--would constitute an undesirable "imposition" upon citizens. I have made the point many times that Republicans are far worse than Democrats in that they ostensibly defend liberty, free markets, capitalism but then ultimately compromise the principles to which they give lip service. This is dreadfully destructive because it undermines liberty; it guarantees all the failures of the welfare state while ensuring that freedom gets the blame. At least Democrats have the honesty to be overt enemies of freedom.
The most alarming part of Newt Gringrich's remarks is that it makes me wonder if his calculations might be correct. He is surely a savvy politician so it is troubling that he has the confidence to present himself as a Washington compromiser in the face of a Tea Party movement that, though far from consistent, is the only bright spot in the political landscape. Can it really be true that so few Americans recognize the peril of the massive government intrusion--the precipitous withering of freedom--that has taken place under Bush-Obama? Can it be true that Republicans will rally around a message of compromise? I hope Mr. Gingrich has guessed badly.
I was encouraged by a recent Reuters special report (hat tip to HBL) that showed that conventional Republicans continue to be punished for plodding on with their compromising ways. The article hit the nail on the head: "The trouble is while compromise is a trademark of Washington politics, to many Tea Partiers it is a dirty word."
The Reuters article included a cute quip that actually revealed more than it may have intended. "'The Ohio state Republican Party would screw up a free lunch in a soup kitchen,' said Ralph King of the Cleveland Tea Party." Perhaps so. However, the real question is not why the Republicans would "screw up" a free lunch but why they are driven to offer a free lunch in the first place. A "free lunch" is a product and apt symbol of the "progressive" socialist policies that have plagued America off and on for more than a century. A "free lunch"--which constitutes the forced "redistribution" of property from those who have earned it to those who have not--is a symbol proudly held aloft by Democrats and (usually) rejected by Republicans. But to the continuing shame of Republicans, even as they decry the "free lunch" they give it moral sanction. Lip service aside, Republicans act at root upon the same principles of collectivism and sacrifice that underpin the Democrats: the idea that the needs of the poor, the elderly, the "underpriviledged," etc. trump the rights of individuals. Republicans routinely invoke the rights to life and liberty in their speeches but compromise at every turn, ultimately asking meekly for simply a little less sacrifice than their Democratic colleagues demand.
If the country is to be saved, it will not come about by simply taking the foot off the political accelerator pedal as we plunge toward a full-blown welfare state, which is what Republicans are currently offering. It will require a widespread cultural shift away from a morality that holds sacrifice as a virtue, either proudly or apologetically.
1. “Gingrich Calls G.O.P.’s Medicare Plan Too Radical,” The New York Times, 15 May 2011, “http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/16/us/politics/16gingrich.html?scp=1&sq=Medicare%20Plan%20Too%20Radical&st=cse”.
2. "Special report: Stuck between the Tea Party and a hard place," Reuters, 17 May 2011, "http://mobile.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE74G37C20110517?irpc=932".