By Newt Gingrich
Welcome to a special 2006 election edition of "Winning the Future."
The fall 2006 elections are now just two months away. Although the conventional wisdom is that Republicans will have a tough time this fall, I believe that we can still win -- but not without substantial changes.
In this edition of "Winning the Future," I outline 11 values-led policies that are both morally right and that enjoy (not coincidentally) the overwhelming support of the American people. These are the values and the policies that Republicans should embrace this fall.
Here's the key:
Republican victory in 2006 depends on a return to the American values that twice elected Ronald Reagan and returned the House to a Republican majority with the Contract with America.
Republicans in 2006 must return to the pattern that allowed the center-right majority to win decisive elections for President Reagan in 1980 and 1984 and win with the Contract with America in 1994.
President Ronald Reagan was successful because as governor, as a candidate and as President he spoke for and advocated the values of the overwhelming majority of Americans.
The Contract with America succeeded because its core solutions (standing on President Reagan's shoulders) reflected deeply held American values. It is vital that Republican leaders understand these were American values not Republican values.
* 92% of the American people favored welfare reform.
* 88% of the people on welfare favored welfare reform.
* 83% of the American people favored a balanced budget.
On issue after issue the Contract with America represented the values of the American people. The left was defeated in 1994 because it had lost touch with the American people.
The Reagan-Contract Rule: Change Starts With the People
For the last few years, Republicans in Washington have forgotten the Reagan-Contract rule that successful change starts with the American people. There is a real danger that Republicans will lose the House and the Senate this fall because they have strayed from this core principle of starting first with the concerns and values of the American people and then developing effective policies.
Consultants are working overtime to convince the American people to favor Republican policies. This is exactly backwards.
What really works is what happens when Republicans identify themselves with the American people and against the values of the left-wing establishment that dominates the media, the bureaucracies and the lobbying community.
11 Ways to Say: "We're Not Nancy Pelosi"
Republicans should spend the next two months focused on 11 straightforward, morally grounded issues about which the American people have clearly defined beliefs.
Some of these issues will make Republican elitists uncomfortable, but these were the same elitists who were uncomfortable with President Reagan and who scoffed at the Contract with America and rejected its bold proposals.
A Republican majority in the House that spent the next two months on these eleven issues would go a long way toward clarifying the choice between the San Francisco values of Nancy Pelosi and those of a GOP majority. This refreshing approach would reject the "incumbentitis" of relying on pork-barrel spending for reelection and return to the basic populist conservative values which gave us a majority in the first place.
These 11 issues are all clear and all doable.
1. Make English the Official Language of Government. The House should pass a bill making English the official language of government, abolishing multilingual ballots and reaffirming that new citizens should be required to pass a test on American history in English. The Rasmussen poll reported that support for English as the official language was 85%. The Zogby poll had it at 84%. Why do Republican leaders find it so hard to side with more than four out of every five Americans? How many liberal Democrats who currently assume they are unbeatable would suddenly have a hard time explaining a series of votes against English to their constituents? Remember, at 85%, there are no anti-English congressional districts no matter what the elite media says.
2. Control the Borders. The House should pass a narrowly focused bill to ensure that the United States can control the border. The current Senate bill is a disaster. It is impossible to pass a "comprehensive" immigration bill in the next two months. The American people overwhelmingly want the borders controlled and every act of terrorism reminds us that having the borders uncontrolled makes us more vulnerable to attack. The House should immediately pass a border-control bill and conservative Republican senators should move every day to bring it up in the Senate. Let Democrats and elitist Republicans block controlling the border and make that a referendum test for Election Day.
3. Keep God in the Pledge. Congress should take two steps to preserve the right to say "one nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, a right which is supported by 91% of all Americans. The American people feel deeply that our Declaration of Independence is correct in saying that each of us is endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights. Beginning with the Supreme Court's 1963 decision outlawing school prayer, the courts have waged a 43-year assault on the core values of American liberty. It is time to return to a balanced Constitutional system. There is no Constitutional case for five lawyers' on the court being a floating majority for a permanent Constitutional Convention.
The American people would rally to the elected branches' taking steps to rebalance the Constitution. First, the House should pass a bill suspending the recent federal district court decision in California outlawing the words "one nation under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance. Second, the House should pass a law blocking the Supreme Court from reviewing the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance (a power of the Congress expressly granted in the Constitution).
4. Require a Voter ID Card. The American people overwhelmingly support (85% in one poll) having a voter id card so we can be sure only legal citizens are voting. Passing a bill to require this in all federal elections would be a big step toward more honest elections.
5. Repeal the Death Tax, for Good. The American people have consistently supported the total repeal of the death tax and the House should simply pass it once a week and attach it to various Senate bills to force the Senate to deal with it again and again. Let liberals explain why they oppose something that more than 70% of the country favors.
6. Restore Property Rights. The American people are deeply opposed to local politicians' being able to seize a citizen's home or business. The Supreme Court's Kelo decision on eminent domain is one of the most unpopular in recent years and is also one of the most dangerous. Anyone who knows the history of local government corruption in America knows it will not be long before some corrupt developers engage some corrupt politicians and this power is exploited at the cost of most Americans. Members of the Black Caucus have been among the most vocal in pointing out that it is poor people who will be the most victimized so rich developers and greedy politicians can make the money off their homes and businesses. The House should pass a powerful bill returning the constitutional law to the pre-Kelo rules and blocking the Supreme Court from reviewing it.
7. Achieve Sustainable Energy Independence. The country is eager for a straightforward new energy strategy for national security, environmental and economic reasons. The combination of $3 gasoline, watching Iran, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Russia get more of our money, and concerns about the environment come together to require real change. The House should meet that need. Starting with Rep. Jim Nussle's (R-Iowa) bill on renewable fuels, adding to it clean nuclear power using new technologies that are safe and produce little waste, developing more clean coal solutions, investing in a conversion to a hydrogen economy, incentivizing conservation, providing tax credits so the auto industry can invest in the new technology and new manufacturing equipment needed to produce revolutionary new vehicles, creating the tax incentives to build the distribution system for biofuels, hybrids, and hydrogen, providing deeper tax incentives for radically better cars (imagine a substantial tax credit for cars exceeding 200 miles to the gallon of petroleum through a combination of E-85 or biodiesel, hybrid use of electricity and hydrogen), and a bill to create state flexibility in exploring off shore with a 50% split in revenue so state legislatures and governors would have an incentive to develop environmentally sound methods of exploration and production.
8. Control Spending and Balance the Budget. The House should pass new budget legislation to control spending, leading to a balanced budget in seven years (the length of time we gave ourselves in the Contract with America and which led to the first four balanced budgets since the 1920s), with special focus on programs liberals will fight to increase spending. Let the country see who is really committed to smaller government with lower taxes and who is committed to bigger government with higher taxes.
9. Tie Education Funding to Teacher Accountability. A major result of the No Child Left Behind legislation has been the clear revelation that a number of schools systems are crippling and destroying children. When the Detroit school system only graduates 21% of entering freshman on time, it is clear the children are being cheated. The American people strongly support reforms designed to save the children. The first step would be to insist that federal funds only go to school systems which require teacher competency and accountability. A clear choice between those who want to save the children and those who want to save the bureaucrats would mobilize the country in favor of dramatic education reform.
10. Defend America From the Irreconcilable Wing of Islam. Terrorism is a real threat. Congress should hold hearings on the recent terrorist activities in Canada, the U.K. and Morocco. The House should move bills that strengthen our security from terrorists with increased powers for surveillance, an overruling of the disastrous Hamdan decision and a series of other steps.
11. Focus on Iran and North Korea. The American people are very prepared to believe we face extraordinary threats from a nuclear North Korea and an Iranian regime actively seeking to develop nuclear weapons. Any actions in Iraq need to be recast in terms of their impact on Iran. A weak America in Iraq will be unable to stop Iran. Stopping Iran is potentially literally a matter of life and death. Congress should hold hearings on the scale of the Iranian and North Korean threat, the statements of their key leaders and the requirements for action to replace these dictatorships before they succeed in killing millions of Americans. The Santorum Iranian democracy bill should be forced out of the Senate in the context of these threats. Everything about Iraq should be debated within this larger and much more dangerous context.
These eleven steps focus on the House because Republicans have practical control of the House and can move legislation in the House in a timely manner.
The Senate is so hard to manage and the confusion in the Senate is so great that it is impossible to imagine a clear message coming from the Senate.
The House of Representatives, however, has the opportunity to set the agenda for the fall and to define the issues in terms which will have overwhelming support from the American people.
House Republicans have two months to change history. They can go one of two ways.
They can continue to ignore the lessons of history, and forget the fact that real change must begin with the American people, not the media or Washington elite.
Or House Republicans can learn from history. They can listen to the American people and return to the center-right populist majority which President Reagan and the Contract with America gave them. The choice is theirs -- and ours.