Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Will Gingrich Regret his Endorsement?

I like Newt Gingrich. He is smart, optimistic, and brings a credible perspective to issues that the left has a difficult time dismissing. However, Gingrich's best days may be behind him and the type of politician that believes political success (getting Republicans elected) is more important than policy, simply does not resonate with the growing number of Republicans who are not going to be satisfied with a candidate simply because he or she is in the GOP. There was a time that Gingrich was a rebel. I remember back in the 1980s and early 1990s, when Republicans were largely an inconsequential minority in the US House (like they are today) and he stormed the floor of the US House with other unhappy members, when the Congress was not in session and performed "special orders," which is the giving of speeches to an empty House. These messages informed voters via C-Span about what the Congress was doing and went against the "get along" decorum that politicians were so noted for.

Gingrich created a group of political insurgents that he called COS -- the Conservative Optimistic Society. These members, largely of the neoconservative variety, chipped away at the status quo and by 1994 became a big enough player to get the US House into the GOP's hands for the first time in decades.

When the COS got started in the 1980s, I was working for a US Senator and, later, with Washington think tanks. Although I was impressed with Gingrich's ability to get dissent of Democrat policies noticed, I was never comfortable was his fundamental approach to governing. Gingrich, who was one of the only members of Congress with a PhD in history (in his case, from Tulane) is an excellent debater. The problem is, the former Speaker rarely fought against the growth of government, but the pace of which government grew. Gingrich has never been opposed to more government, but the speed of the expansion. This has been reflected in his role as leader of the GOP in the House; the way he addresses policy issues in general, and is even demonstrated in his values when he made an endorsement in an up coming Congressional race.

The Wall Street Journal sets the stage: "You might have heard about the unusual election next week in New York's 23rd Congressional District. It's unusual for several reasons: It's taking place in an odd-numbered year, there was no primary, and there are three candidates." This is due to the President choosing the sitting Congressman (Rep. John McHugh) to be Army Secretary. The Journal goes on to lay out the landscape of the race, "Local GOP bosses nominated a state legislator, Dede Scozzafava, who is so liberal that she also received the endorsement of the Acornite Working Families Party. (Under New York's unusual 'fusion; system, several minor parties have spots on the ballot, and a candidate may receive multiple party nominations.) Doug Hoffman, who had been passed over for the GOP nod, won the Conservative Party nomination. Establishment Republicans like Newt Gingrich lined up behind Scozzafava, while conservatives like Sarah Palin endorsed Hoffman. This threatened or promised, depending on your point of view, to split the Republican vote to the benefit of Democrat Bill Owens."

If Owens wins, Gingrich and other Republicans who put party above ideas will blame people like Palin who places philosophy above party. Like many of us, Palin believes the party is only a vehicle and the GOP is one that is broke. The reality is, if Owens wins, it will be because establishment conservatives doing the expedient thing, rather than the right one. If Republican Scozzafava wins, the GOP will be the biggest loser of all as that brand continues to stand for nothing. If Owens wins, it will be because of a lack of courage among those who should do the right thing.

Kevin Price is Host of the Price of Business, the longest running show on AM 650 (M-F at 11 am) in Houston, Texas and on AOL Radio. His articles often appear in Chicago Sun Times, Reuters, USA Today, and other national media. Steve Moore of the Wall Street Journal calls Price the “best business talk show host in the country.” Find out why and visit his blog at www.BizPlusBlog.com and his show site at www.PriceofBusiness.com. You can also find Price on Strategy Room at FoxNews.com.

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