Thirteen years ago, then-Rep. Newt Gingrich stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to unveil the Contract with America, a document that crystallized conservative principles and led Republicans to a remarkable triumph on Election Day. Gingrich was at the top of his game and the country was following closely behind.
Of course, times have changed drastically since then. Gingrich was driven from elective office and along the way Republicans lost their way -- and control of Congress to boot.
For a moment last week, however, Gingrich was once again the great conservative hope. On the very anniversary, Sept. 27, of the day Republicans unveiled their Contract with America, and at the very place, the Cobb Galleria, where Gingrich celebrated the GOP's return to the majority on Election Day in 1994, he made a passionate case for solving America's greatest problems with common-sense solutions.
"American Solutions is my best effort to launch a movement that understands that you have to have real change, that the real change has to be at every level of government, [and] that science and technology are going to be great drivers over the next 40 years," he told me and Ed Morrissey of Captain's Quarters in an interview last week. "If you take three things -- science and technology, the principles that worked historically (such as the free market, entrepreneurship and the work ethic), and the core values of American civilization, which have made us the freest, wealthiest and most integrated society in American history -- and reapply them again and again, you begin to see specific solutions to the mess we're currently in."
That mess has driven trust in government to all-time lows not seen since the darkest days of Watergate, according to a new Gallup Poll. Will Gingrich lead America out of that mess?
Gingrich said that's a question for another day. Right now the former House speaker is devoting his energy to finding solutions rather than pursuing the presidency. Last week's event was the kick off for Solutions Day, an event that continued on Saturday with 35 workshops taking place across the country. Anyone from any party, ideology or belief was invited to share ideas -- and solutions -- for problems facing America.
Gingrich's goal isn't to fix all of America's problems in sixth months. But he does hope American Solutions, complete with a Solutions Lab, can bring people together to share common goals toward reasonable solutions.
"I'll give you an example," he said. "Sen. [Hillary] Clinton issued a 10-page outline of a health plan. Large parts of that I don't agree with because it's big government, it's high taxes, it's red tape. But surely out of 10 pages there are six or seven things you could say, 'You know, that's a pretty good idea. Could we do that?' And try to find common ways to talk together about the world you want to create rather than seek out how to fight each other all the time."
Gingrich cited three areas where an overwhelming percentage of Americans are in agreement:
- Eighty-five percent of the American people want English to be the official language of government;
- Ninety-one percent want the right to say "one nation, under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance; and
- Eighty-nine percent believe American workers should have the right to a secret-ballot vote as to whether or not to unionize.
"What's red vs. blue when you're at 85 percent?" Gingrich said. "The truth is you have a liberal minority that dominates The New York Times, the academic world and Hollywood. Then you have this huge, massive 70-, 80-, 90-percent majority. And the combination of Republican incompetence and Democratic cleverness makes it look like it is a narrowly divided country, when in fact the country's not divided, the politicians are. I want to reunify the country around values that are absolute massive majorities."
It would seem logical that in order to achieve his goals, Gingrich would want to seek the presidency. But when asked repeatedly if he's going to run, Gingrich played coy. Given the fact he's having so much fun in his current role, it seems hard to imagine him doing anything else.
Robert B. Bluey is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation and maintains a blog at RobertBluey.com
First appeared in Townhall.com