In an NPR piece the other day on the return of Newt Gingrich, reporter Lynn Neary noted that some Republicans are attempting to lure the former House speaker back into the party leadership as the head of the Republican National Committee. Newt says the chances of that happening are pretty much zero, as he’s focusing all his time and energy on two things: the Center for Health Transformation and American Solutions.
The latter group is the one that brought you the “drill here, drill now, pay less” canard. They’re also pushing for a repeal of Sarbanes-Oxley (the corporate accountability law passed in the wake of the Enron, WorldCom, Qwest, Adelphia, and Tyco debacles) and are agitating for a zero capital gains tax rate and a “12% corporate income tax rate strategy for economic growth.”
Their “Solutions Lab” section is a veritable parade of innovative thinking, and gives you a decent idea of where the whole operation is coming from. The Recent Solutions Submitted section includes “HOW TO STOP THE FAIRNESS DOCTRINE;” “Immigration Fraud Control;” and a quick and easy solution to the housing crisis (which involves giving some of the bailout money to the companies holding bad mortgages – in other words, let’s continue the privatize the gain and socialize the loss strategery that has served us so well in the past). The Top Rated section is headed by “Rebuilding the American Dream: The best way to finance government in the history of mankind” and “Drilling Offshore, Absolutely – Also, Fusion Is Here!” The Most Viewed solutions begin with “The Optional Flat Tax (‘Tax Choice’)” – of course, and then continues on to the “Right to say ‘One Nation Under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance” and “Phase Out State Income Taxes.”
The CHT is equally inventive in its thinking. Its site serves up an appetizing dose of cleverly crafted rhetoric, leaning heavily on universally appealing concepts like “transformational health solutions,” “better health and more choices at lower cost,” and “transformation training, publications and education.” And who could possibly be against transformation and education and more for less? In a nation gone mad over “change we can believe in,” the Center for Health Transformation sounds like a dream come true.
Unless, of course, you’re the sort who’s uneasy around a lot of codespeak. The first two bullets here ought to sound familiarish: “Individual-Centered” and “Values Driven.” The “100% Coverage” goal is nice, but wander around the site for awhile and it’s more than clear that this is same-old same-old, market-driven, corporatist, and as good as it all sounds, there really haven’t been any barriers to getting it done before now, have there? Pay attention to the bright shiny thing in my left hand, says the guy who brought us the Contract on America, and I’ll cover 100% of the people by not covering 100% of the people.
Gingrich pays lip service to the idea that the GOP needs new ideas, new leaders, new direction, yadda yadda yadda, and feels that it’s imperative that the party “represent everyone, everywhere.” Anybody who knows Newt’s history is probably giggling at this, but there is a measure of truth in it when he argues that the party has to expand its emphasis. “I think a base-focused plan, a base-mobilization plan is inherently a strategy for self-destruction,” he says, and that at least demonstrates a solid measure of 20/20 hindsight.
As for his role in cultivating a “new” GOP, though, he believes “we need new ideas, much more dramatically and much more deeply than we need organizational leadership at the RNC,” so he’s going to focus on his idea factories and let others handle the less important work of running the party. Besides, he says, the party is overrun with rising “stars,” like governors Palin, Jindal, Crist, Barbour, Sanford and Perry.
I more than agree with Newt that the GOP needs new ideas – I just don’t see any. If I might sum up the high spots of his current work, he seems to be offering us the following solutions:
- lower capital gains taxes (excuse me, I mean no capital gains taxes)
- lower corporate taxes, period (based on the trickle-down philosophy that whatever is good for big business is automatically good for the rest of us)
- more corporate control of health care and coverage
- more oil drilling (and hence the ceding of more public land to the oil companies)
- less regulation of the corporate processes that produced the worst fraud in recent memory
- despite his sense that the party can’t win by pandering to the base, he sees the most egregious base-pander in American political history, Sarah Palin, as one of the party’s future stars
Do you see anything new here?
When we have a run of success, and then things go wrong, it’s only natural to reflect on the good times and to try recapturing whatever it was that led to success in the first place. In our personal lives, this is what causes people to get back together with old boyfriends and girlfriends, no matter how toxic the breakup may have been in the first place. We tell our friends that no, no no no, he/she has changed, I’ve changed, it will be different this time. You’ll see.
The old boyfriend/girlfriend that Newt and so many other GOPpers can’t seem to get over is Ronald Reagan and the glorious “government is not the solution to our problems, government is the problem” supply-side nothings he whispered in our ears all those years ago when we were virgins and maybe had some small excuse for our blithering ignorance.
For my own part, I learned a long time ago that you can’t find your future by looking in your past. Yes, the Republicans need new ideas – lots of them – because on November 4th American voters sent a message that they’d had about enough of the same-old same-old.
So the GOP now has a choice: cultivate genuinely new ideas, or re-gift discredited old ideas by wrapping them in shiny new rhetoric.
If the latter approach wins the heart of the party in the coming months, it’s going to be the best thing that’s happened to the Democrats in eons – in the short term, anyway. In the long term, though, the Dems are more likely to benefit from a strong opponent who pushes them to innovate and grow new and better solutions of their own. Without that, they will likely grow stale, as the GOP has.
And stale parties with no ideas are bad for America, short term and long…