I rarely quote my dad, Newt Gingrich, but I do find his 1994 reflection published in “The Weekly Standard” regarding Ronald Reagan’s persona to be pertinent today. “Cheerfulness can get almost anything done. One of President Reagan's great strengths was his commitment to big ideas and his willingness to remain cheerful no matter what the difficulties were. It made him likable and approachable and easy to support. Despite being the son of an alcoholic father, entering the job market in the Great Depression, and watching his career in movies fade out, Reagan remained a steadfast optimist. That disposition was a tremendous, politically potent change from the angry pessimism of traditional conservatism.”
In many ways the Republicans have returned to the angry pessimism that Dad was referring to. This is neither helpful or smart.
History was made last week when Barack Obama was inaugurated president. Sixty percent of Americans watched it live. And according to Gallup, the inauguration made 62 percent of them more hopeful about the next four years. For those who believe in policies different from those of Obama, his current overwhelming popularity--an 83 percent approval rating in the transition is a fact, not a problem.
After Obama’s historic victory--winning on the theme of hope and change, rather than accomplishments, voting record or experience there are a few takeaways that should be learned. Language matters – hope and inspiration win over fear and desperation – especially in the long run. People want to be inspired to be better, to work together, to leave the world a better place due to their efforts. Inspiration drives positive activity and effort.
Again, Obama’s high approval rating is a fact not a problem. If you agree with him, either his public statements or his policy proposals, then agree with him publicly and loudly. It’s not anti-Republican or anti-conservative to agree with someone else regarding a proposed solution. Nor is it anti-conservative to be upbeat even about policy disagreements.
The Congress, on the other hand, is in a position different from that of Obama. Recent polls show that Congress has a 23 percent approval and 68 percent disapproval rating. What does this mean? The conservative focus should be on the Congress, the state and local political levels where the next races will be run. This year, local races; in two years, the U.S. House of Representatives and a third of the U.S. Senate will be involved in races.
Dad began to use the phrase “Cheerful Persistence” in an ongoing manner while building a Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in the early 1980’s.
“We coined the phrase, when we were first building a majority in the House in the 1980s, and we were very obedient. Remember,” Dad wrote in The Weekly Standard Article “ I thought we could be a majority. The Democrats didn't want us to be a majority, and most of the Republicans didn't want us to be a majority. We had a whole bunch of Republicans that said, ‘Hey, we're going along. We're getting along. I like my chairman. We go golfing together. We're good friends.’”
Republicans should not be confused by Obama’s high approval ratings, and should not try once again to “get along,” but instead they should keep in mind the nation’s view of the Congress – that it just isn’t working.
More than simple opposition is required. Solutions are needed. Big, bold, clearly articulated solutions that reflect the core values of the Republican Party: hard work, free enterprise, fiscal conservatism, personal responsibility and free speech.
As Dad mentioned this past week in a conference call, Republican’s have the opportunity to play Sam Rayburn and Lyndon Johnson—constructive congressional opposition-- to Obama’s Dwight Eisenhower.
The building process worked before, when the Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1994. Maybe it is time to begin again working on cheerful persistence.