Newt Gingrich served as the Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. In 1995, Time magazine selected him as their Person of the Year for his role in leading the Republican Revolution in the House, ending a 40-year Democratic Party majority. A Ph.D. in Modern European History, he is the author of the non-fiction works "To Renew America" and "A Contract with the Earth," among others, as well as a variety of works of historical fiction. He is currently a senior fellow at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute—where he focuses on health care, information technology, the military, and politics—and the founder of the Center for Health Transformation. He lives in McLean, Virginia.
Question: How can Republicans succeed in the next election?
Newt Gingrich: I believe if we are the alternative party, not the opposition party, we have a chance to take the house in 2010 and win a sweeping, decisive election in 2012, and we will not win that election as the opposition party, but we could win it as the alternative party. And frankly, Obama is showing you the danger of running as an opposition party, not an alternative party because he pretended to be a centrist who would accommodate many broad values when he ran as a candidate, he has since proven to be part of a machine, and as a result the disillusionment is much deeper than it would have been if he had campaigned openly and accurately on what he intended to do.
Question: Can the Republican Party put forth a positive agenda?
Newt Gingrich: Well, in ’94, we clearly won because we had a positive agenda. We had the largest one-party turnout increase in American history for an off year. We gained 9 million additional votes. The Democrats lost about a million votes. That was not a function of being negative. In New Jersey and in Virginia in 2009, the winning Republican candidates for Governor were both positive. Chris Christie ran on lower taxes and Charter Schools, carried counties, urban counties that no Republican had carried for a generation. Bob McDonald campaigned on a very positive campaign of lower taxes, more economic growth, developing energy resources. He got 59% of the vote in a Virginia which had given Obama 53% the year before. That’s a swing of 12 percentage points in one year.
Question: What notions of a positive Republican agenda do you see forming?
Newt Gingrich: Actually I do see significant steps in the right direction by Congressman John Boehner, the Republican Leader of the House and Eric Cantor, the Republican Whip and by Mitch McConnell and John Kyle and Walt Alexander and others in the Senate. I also see it in Governorships. It’s important to remember that this fall there will be, I think 36 gubernatorial races. Three out of four states in the country will be engaged in Governor races. And many of them are going to be very important positive agenda-setting moments. And the Republican Governor Association has a very positive agenda for the future.
But I also believe in the House and Senate that you’re going to see something like a new contract, or let’s say a set of 10 goals that will be very positive; cutting out fraud, moving to a balanced budget, reducing taxes, helping small business, placing American lives above the legal rights of terrorists. There will be a number of steps I think where you could have a very positive agenda by republicans for the fall campaign that would unify and bring together 70% or 80% of the country.
Question: Should conservatives refrain from addressing social issues today?
Newt Gingrich: Well you know, Brown is for marriage being between a man and a woman. Brown is against partial birth abortion. Brown had his biggest single fight with the current Attorney General over the question of whether or not doctors, as a matter of conscience, and nurses as a matter of conscience, could be coerced by the state into performing abortions even if they regard it as an act of murder. Brown was on the side of conscience and against the state have that kind of secular power. So, Brown is, in that sense, much closer to a traditional social conservative then people might think based on the news media coverage. I think similarly, if you look at Chris Christie, if you look at Bob McDonald, they’re both more conservative than you would have expected given the news media interpretation of the last few years.
I think what you have to have is a very balanced campaign. At the national level, you want to have a social conservatism, but you also want to have economic opportunity and economic growth and jobs and you also want to have a strong national security and homeland security plan. Balancing all three so that people see clearly that you represent a broad solution to the country’s needs strikes me as the key to success for 2010, and 2012.