Why Newt Gingrich Could Be the GOP's Mr. Fix It
Business + Economy

Why Newt Gingrich Could Be the GOP's Mr. Fix It

REUTERS/Chris Keane

Newt Gingrich says he knows exactly what the Republican Party needs to do to start fixing itself: “You need inclusion, not outreach. Outreach is when five white guys have a meeting and call you. Inclusion is when you’re in the meeting.”

It would be a sea change, he told The Fiscal Times in an interview: “We have to think inclusively about the whole country. We have to drop the red vs. blue and instead think about 311 million people. We have to think about becoming a party that offers a better future rather than the anti-Obama party. If every conversation could begin with, ‘Here’s how we’d like to make life better,’ well that is a very different message than, ‘Here is what Obama is doing wrong.’”

With his unsuccessful campaign for the presidency behind him, Gingrich, 69, is focusing his considerable energies on writing and on the films and other projects he creates together with his wife, Callista, through Gingrich Productions. He remains a go-to force for generating out-of-the-box ideas on how to steer the GOP to a better place.

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In a recent paper Gingrich outlined more than two dozen actions the Republican Party needs to take, including embrace the 24/7 media culture and understand the uses of data science, as the Democrats did so well. But Gingrich is also developing a concept that’s “a contrast between pioneers of the future and prisoners of the past.” His favorite example: Sebastian Thrun, who helped build Google’s driverless car. Thrun also founded Udacity – a virtual university offering some of the best and brightest courses and professors from Stanford and other top schools – with a stated goal of “reducing tuition by 90 percent. He represents a future of offering parents and students a less expensive world of greater convenience.”

It’s all part of making a better America for everyone, says Gingrich. “We need to develop policies based on the emerging ideas of the future, not just fight over ideology. There is almost no capacity of the bureaucracy to innovate and change” – so private enterprise has to do it.

“That’s the direction I’m moving in and you see it all around you. Look at 3D printing as an example. Imagine applying that to military and logistics systems. Take Thrun’s example at Udacity of a 90-percent reduction in tuition, and take Google’s example of a driverless car, and apply it to reducing the cost of insurance. In place after place, there’s an exciting, vibrant future out there that’s almost completely ignored by the news media and therefore almost completely ignored by the politicians.”

Gingrich says Republicans have to listen up, for real: “Incumbents ought to spend one third of their time with Asian American, African American, Native American, and Latino American groups just listening. Don’t go out and assume you have a requirement to tell them things – go out and find out what they want to tell you. That’s a very important starting point.”

But what about implementation – where do you go from there?

“You find out at a practical level what people are concerned about. One of the surprises to Republicans, which should not have been, was that a lot of Latinos liked Obamacare because they didn’t have health insurance. Well, the answer to that was to have a Republican proposal for health insurance that Latinos thought met their needs better than Obamacare.”

As for understanding Big Data and its growing applications, Gingrich says, “it’s just a practical matter of learning. It actually requires you to confront in a pretty painful way changing exactly what you’re dealing with. That’s a cultural problem more than a technology problem.”

Who, specifically, can lead the Republican Party – Rubio? Christie? Gingrich dodges. “I don’t think there’s a singular answer. You’re going to see a continuous process of dialogue over the next year to two years and the possibility that somebody may emerge. But you’re going to have a very tough primary season, which is not a bad thing. People forget that Obama and [Hillary] Clinton fought all the way into June. So it’s not necessarily bad that people get involved in that kind of knock-down, drag-out fight. It tests the candidates.”

As for why the sequester stinks: “It may be the worst possible way to do it [get the budget under control] except not doing it at all. They don’t seem to be capable of doing it intelligently – so doing it stupidly is maybe the most we can hope for.”

How may it affect Obama’s second term? “Ultimately the president owns the economy. The president owns the government. And it’s very, very hard to figure out how he’s going to get out from under that responsibility. I think it’s a very long process. His entire second term is going to be just be a slow, steady meat grinder. The sequester will be a piece of it, but there’s fighting over the CR [continuing resolution], then writing appropriations bills, then writing next year’s bills – I mean, this will just go on and on.”

He, on the other hand, “would emphasize the future. I’d hold a lot of hearings. I’d find better ways to do things. We need to migrate the government toward dramatically better behaviors. There are lots of people out here doing great, brilliant things that could make a huge difference, and yet they have almost no resonance in the political process. And you see this with the sequester – it’s almost as though these guys practice being dumb. And so they find ways that are really truly incompetent to try to deal with controlling spending as opposed to trying to do it in the most intelligent way possible. Corporate America faces real competition and real recessions – and these guys don’t. And that’s what makes it so difficult.”