Newt’s Ideas

By whatever weak standards govern politicians, Newt Gingrich is supposedly an important thinker and source of new ideas. So it’s interesting to see his proposals for turning around the republican party. He’s worried that the party could return to permanent minority status, and thinks they need to unveil a new agenda within the next few months. Here are his ideas:

  1. Repeal the gas tax for the summer, and pay for the repeal by cutting domestic discretionary spending.
  2. Redirect the oil being put into the national petroleum reserve onto the open market.
  3. Introduce a “more energy at lower cost with less environmental damage and greater national security bill” as a replacement for the Warner-Lieberman “tax and trade” bill.
  4. Establish an earmark moratorium for one year and pledge to uphold the presidential veto of bills with earmarks through the end of 2009.
  5. Overhaul the census and cut its budget radically.
  6. Implement a space-based, GPS-style air traffic control system.
  7. Declare English the official language of government.
  8. Protect the workers’ right to a secret ballot
  9. Remind Americans that judges matter.

A few remarks. One is the biggest bandaid imaginable, and also the issue that prompted James Fallows to run a contest for the stupidest bipartisan idea ever. Worse, it appears that a majority of Americans have been convinced that it won’t help.

In the middle of the list you have a few ideas that might be interesting, but they’re incremental reforms that are unlikely to excite the public. The best they might do is help the republicans ameliorate their current reputation for gross incompetence. But that’s the sort of thing that takes time to accomplish.

The only item on the list that is really a big issue is #3, and absent any details, it’s meaningless.

If you compare this proposal to the Contract With America, it comes up quite short. Setting aside whether the contract featured good ideas, it at least had big ideas. Perhaps Newt didn’t think he was able to make bigger proposals without the agreement of other figures in the conservative movement. Regardless of why this proposal looks the way that it does, it’s hard to imagine a Republican seeing it and finding a real answer to their problems in the current election.

Followup: After posting, I saw that Ross Douthat had his own take on Newt’s ideas. He’s unimpressed, perhaps because he also has ideas about how to change the Republican party, ideas that I’m quite curious to read.

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