Our Future, Up for Grabs

According to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the entire Western world is at a crossroads. Whether we notice it or not, the future is unfolding before our eyes and is still at least partially within our control—for now. In Gingrich’s view, one would be naïve to assume that this is simply another point in time where the world seems complex but will right itself naturally. Rather, the former history professor argues, we are at a junction comparable to the American Revolution, the Cold War, or another defining moment in our history. The US must recognize the tasks ahead and reform itself if is to preserve the very core of its civilization. Winning the Future is Gingrich’s contribution to making that reformation a reality. Focusing primarily on domestic issues, Gingrich tackles some of the greatest challenges facing the US today, laying out a practical, innovative, and convincing blueprint for America to adapt to the 21st Century.

Winning the Future does not read like typical political rhetoric. Instead of dancing around the issues, indulging in clichés, and offering bland, un-nuanced stances, Gingrich does not shy away from the various third-rails of American politics—and he analyzes them while actually prescribing a course of action. This may seem paradoxical, considering Gingrich’s role as a prominent politician, but, as he is fond of saying, “real change requires real change,” not just the maintenance of politics-as-usual. Indeed, this work reveals a side of Gingrich forgotten by much of the public. Here, we see the Gingrich that crafted the Contract with America, the one that led Congressional Republicans out of the wilderness—not merely by political shrewdness, but by ingenuity and resolve.

Gingrich addresses a number of topics with both detail and foresight. The author starts by addressing the present and evolving challenges to American security, making a case for a muscular foreign policy shaped by military build-up and reorganization, intelligence reform, and recognition of the importance of communication. Following this broad appraisal, Gingrich delves into the world of domestic policy, which dominates the rest of the book. Ambitiously beginning with Social Security reform, Gingrich explains the shortcomings of the current system and endorses a solution in the vein of the Ryan-Sununu proposal, backing a personal savings account plan.

Besides Social Security, Gingrich devotes chapters to topics like the role of God in America, immigration, balancing the budget, competition with Asia, the environment, and bureaucracy reform. But Gingrich especially distinguishes himself in the area of health care. As the founder of the Center for Health Transformation, one would expect Gingrich to demonstrate great expertise; he does not disappoint. Breaking down this complex issue, Gingrich offers a number of innovative steps we can take to improve health care, taking power away from Big Government and insurance companies and restoring it to the consumer. In the end, Gingrich offers us a view of a tech-savvy, individual-focused health system—one both cheaper and more efficient than the behemoth currently in place.

But for all Gingrich’s boldness, one must wonder how feasible all of this is. The author clearly demonstrates an intimate understanding of government and admirably advocates innovation and transformation. But could anyone possibly have the political capital to pull all this off? Both throughout his book and in his current endeavors—including his online “American Solutions” program—Gingrich has emphasized citizen’s action as an important catalyst for change. Indeed, to achieve these many goals, a strong grassroots effort would almost certainly be necessary. Whether or not this populist fervor actually materializes remains to be seen. One factor working in Gingrich’s favor, however, is the certainty that these challenges must be faced—and soon. This country can only ignore things like Social Security, health care, and competition with Asia at our own peril. The gravity of this situation may thus prove the impetus for such substantial, popular change.

But beyond the zeal of the general public, one must wonder who would lead the charge within the government—a question that obviously raises the specter of a Gingrich candidacy. Gingrich himself has said that he will not decide on his plans for 2008 until September. At the same time, The Politico reports, his American Solutions program just hired a pollster and fundraiser, possibly laying “the foundations of a campaign team.” Whether or not he has the personnel, he certainly has the platform in place. And a Gingrich candidacy would certainly shake up the ’08 election. Kim Strassel of the Wall Street Journal has gone so far as to say, “The eight-million pound gorilla—not yet in the room—is Newt Gingrich.” But regardless of whether we ever have a President Gingrich, Winning the Future has been a significant contribution in itself. When Democrats were asked what they stood for in 2004 and 2006, their collective answer was essentially “we’re not Bush.” They had no platform, no intellectual underpinnings, no originality. Gingrich, however, has given conservatism—and America—a bold, well-reasoned, and creative game plan for the 21st Century.

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