Over a decade has elapsed since The Contract With America catapulted Newt Gingrich to the forefront of American political discussion and the Republican Party into control of both houses of Congress. No longer confined by the restraints of public office, the former Speaker of the House now seeks to update and expand on this set of ideas in Winning The Future: A 21st Century Contract With America.
Unlike the original Contract With America which dealt primarily with political and legislative issues, Winning The Future applies the outlook inspiring the book’s antecedent to a wider array of social and cultural concerns. Reflective of the personality of the author of both documents, Winning The Future is an eclectic synthesis of conservative commonsense, futuristic policy blather, and a reluctance to accept certain shortcomings inherent to human nature.
Winning The Future does a suburb job in examining the religious foundations of the United States. Gingrich uses his skill as an historian to trace recognition of this heritage from the Founding Fathers, through Abraham Lincoln, up to contemporary thinkers such as Samuel Huntington.
From there, Gingrich uses the issue of the role of religion in the United States as a springboard to discuss the need for judicial reform. Gingrich views the attack on religious freedom as evidence of how the judiciary has gotten out of control. Newt does this by pointing out a number of rulings from the infamous Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the activist legal philosophies of radical jurists such as Europhile Sandra Day O’Connor. He also offers suggestions on how the courts might be reigned in such as by impeaching judges going beyond the scope of the Constitution on the grounds of violating the Good Behavior Clause or by simply abolishing rogue judgeships all together.
While a number of the proposals contained within the pages of Winning The Future are steeped in conservative commonsense realism, some of those characterized by futuristic speculation are just plain goofy. For example, Gingrich is under the impression that centralizing and computerizing all health records will lead to some kind of twenty-first century medical Renaissance.
But doesn’t technology merely take on the characteristics and shortcomings of those employing it? A quack will always be a quack.
And this is to say nothing of the dangers and abuses that will result from further centralizing the most sensitive of information in a single place that will probably be administered by the government or as callous healthcare administrators. If my rights and well being are to be violated, those doing so should at least have to work to earn the opportunity.
Despite his many insights, at various points Gingrich exhibits a flawed understanding of human nature that will cause his well-intentioned proposals to flounder in a manner similar to the Great Society programs the former Congressman has spent much of his political career claiming to stand against. For example, Gingrich touts a program called Earning By Learning he established that paid to $2.00 to children in public housing for every book they read.
While the costs of the program initially came out of Gringrich’s own pocket, who’s going to pick up the tab should the program go nationwide? Furthermore, why should such an entitlement be for the so-called underprivileged who already have access to the same reading material as everyone else but simply refuse to avail themselves of it?
Spending much of his time hobnobbing in elite government and media circles, Dr. Gingrich is also as mistaken about the nature of the immigrant hordes sweeping across America. Mired by his training as an historian, Gingrich assumes a model of immigration more fitting for the nineteenth century than the twenty-first.
Gingrich writes, “Nor am I concerned that a substantial number of new Americans are Hispanic. America has a long history of absorbing and blending people of many languages and backgrounds.” But for the most part, the vast majority of immigrants at that time were already steeped in a common Northern European (primarily Protestant) culture upon which American institutions were based.
Even more importantly, immigrants of that period wanted to be Americans and not to merely suckle off the supple federal teat while expressing nothing but contempt for the host nation gracious enough to even allow them into our midsts. If Gingrich finds Hispanics so charming, maybe they can pile into the house next door to his like they have in many middle class neighborhoods where they cram thirty of their kinsman and associates into a single family dwelling and have no qualms about guzzling booze on the public sidewalk.
Regardless of one’s opinion of Newt Gingrich as either a conservative visionary seeking to plot America’s course to the future, an egotistical fraud concerned for nothing but his own fame and fortune, or someone between the two extremes, Winning The Future will most definitely spark thought and discussion of the issues that will impact the nation in the coming years.
Copyright 2005 by Frederick Meekins