The GOP is in trouble. Newt Gingrich gets that much.
The Republican loss in the special election for Louisiana’s Sixth Congressional District last Saturday should be a sharp wake up call for Republicans: Either Congressional Republicans are going to chart a bold course of real change or they are going to suffer decisive losses this November.
At first, he even seems to get that the same old tactics won’t work.
The Republican brand has been so badly damaged that if Republicans try to run an anti-Obama, anti- Reverend Wright, or (if Senator Clinton wins), anti-Clinton campaign, they are simply going to fail.
This model has already been tested with disastrous results.
In 2006, there were six incumbent Republican Senators who had plenty of money, the advantage of incumbency, and traditionally successful consultants.
But the voters in all six states had adopted a simple position: “Not you.” No matter what the GOP Senators attacked their opponents with, the voters shrugged off the attacks and returned to, “Not you.”
The danger for House and Senate Republicans in 2008 is that the voters will say, “Not the Republicans.”
But then, we get to his solutions. Gingrich wants the GOP to adopt an agenda of “real change” to galvanize their supporters and tap into the national wave that Barack Obama has so successfully tapped into. He offers 9 proposals that the GOP should advance in an attempt to steal Obama’s mojo. So what does he offer?
Repeal the gas tax for the summer, and pay for the repeal by cutting domestic discretionary spending so that the transportation infrastructure trust fund would not be hurt.
So, lets go for the same transparent pander that is universally opposed by economists and policy experts, continue to subsidize gasoline, buffering demand and increasing carbon emissions and making it harder to move towards renewable energy. Not to mention the fact that it wouldn’t even reduce the price at the pump. So, strike one for real change.
Redirect the oil being put into the national petroleum reserve onto the open market.
Another transparent pander. There is relatively little oil that actually goes into the SPR and redirecting it would do very little to reduce the price. This is a pander that has been proposed by Al Gore and John Kerry, but it really wouldn’t do anything. Change? Nope. More of the same. Strike two.
Introduce a “more energy at lower cost with less environmental damage and greater national security bill” as a replacement for the Warner-Lieberman “tax and trade” bill
I see. Ponies for everyone. There are no tradeoffs to be had here. We can have more energy, at less cost, for less environmental damage. If such an idea is out there please show it to me. No politician, anywhere, ever would oppose it. The Warner-Lieberman bill isn’t perfect. But it does implement a market based, cap and trade approach to carbon emissions, which is the best way to deal with the problem. (Also, given the way cap and trade works, it should be most compatible with Newt’s conservative ideology.) Real change? Nope. Strike three. But Newt’s not out yet.
Establish an earmark moratorium for one year and pledge to uphold the presidential veto of bills with earmarks through the end of 2009.
Huh. Real change is what the GOP is already proposing. I see. Yet they can’t even get their own caucus to agree to it (which makes sense, given that the explosion of earmarks came under their watch), and as John McCain has shown, earmarks are so easy to get rid of. Strike 4.
Overhaul the census and cut its budget radically
Ok. Not a bad idea. Its a little small bore for what the country is asking for, but given the recent failure to the Census Bureau to find a way to develop a computerized way to do the census I’d be ok with slashing the budget and encouraging the Census Bureau to innovate. This is Newt at his best. Pragmatic, technocratic and non-ideological. This makes a ton of sense and I’d love to see either party jump on this one. Thats 1 for 5 so far.
Implement a space-based, GPS-style air traffic control system.
Again, good idea. using GPS in airplanes makes a ton of sense and modernizing out air traffic control system would increase capacity and make the whole system run more smoothly. He’s up to 2-6.
Declare English the official language of government.
Yup. This one is real change. It’d make a huge difference in Americans’ lives. Not a symbolic pander to nativist sentiment at all. 2-7.
Protect the workers’ right to a secret ballot.
Ok. This one is a little more complicate. I can see the problems with the employee free choice act, which Gingrich is opposing here. Whereas the current system is plagued by employer intimidation and illegal firings, the EFCA would reverse the tables and open to door to intimidation by union organizers. Its not ideal. The system clearly needs reform. I’m not sure EFCA is the be all end all, but I’m generally ok with the pendulum swinging a bit too far towards workers as an antidote to the current problems. But I dont’ get worked up about it. However, in terms of real change, this is pretty thin gruel. You could sum it up as “stand with business interests to protect the status quo.” Real change indeed. We’re up to 2 out of 8.
Remind Americans that judges matter
Translated as: “Keep up warning Americans about those scary “activist judges” (read: judges we don’t agree with) who will make you marry your brother in law and force your wife to have an abortion.” Thats a real change in the Republican agenda, ain’t it?
So, 2 out of Gingrich’s 9 ideas might be good ones, but their pretty small potatoes in comparison to the change Americans are demanding. What’s striking is what isn’t on Gingrich’s list. Iraq, healthcare, foreign policy or the economy. Its a little difference that the GOP strategy of recent election, which was tax cuts, scary arabs, tax cuts, terrorists are going to eat your children, tax cuts and lies. But not much.
Good thing too. Democrats could actually have trouble if Republicans actually embraced an agenda of Real Change. Good thing Newt doesn’t know what one looks like.