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New Media, New Activism, and a New GOP: Newt and the NCPA

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

President Obama's sustained push to radically rework American medicine has triggered an enormous backlash among Americans who have come to understand that despite his repeated promises to the contrary, the president's scheme will cause many millions to lose the health insurance they have and see it replaced by the so-called "government option/public plan."

At the same time there is a spreading recognition that the massive "stimulus" package not only didn't work, it worsened the jobs situation in the country by signaling businesses small and large that fiscal irresponsibility on a scale never before imaginable had arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and that the years ahead would be rough. Payrolls have been trimmed drastically as a result, and now the Federal Reserve is predicting sustained and high unemployment. The president's talk of "saving or creating millions of jobs" is just that --talk. The jobs crisis is real and continuing and the Obama Administration has no plan to surge employment.

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This double Democratic whammy on the country's sense of security has launched two grassroots initiatives, the success of which signals that the GOP's grassroots are growing again.

First, the National Center for Policy Analysis launched a petition to stop Obamacare which soared past 700,000 signatures this week, on the way to a million and a huge impact on the United States Senate. (You can and should add your name here, and encourage all your friends and family to do the same if you and they want to keep your health insurance.) On Thursday's radio show I asked Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona --the GOP's #2 in the upper chamber-- about the effectiveness of such petitions. His response:

HH: All right, let’s talk politics. We’ve been helping the National Center for Policy Analysis get their petition up to a million. Right now, we’re about 667,000 signatures.

JK: That’s incredible. It’s great.

HH: Does that matter? As a Senator…

JK: Absolutely!

HH: Does that matter?

JK: It matters. You bet it matters. In fact, it’s the whole ballgame here. You know, inside baseball, oh, the Obama health care deal is a done deal. And they bludgeoned all kinds of the doctors and the hospitals and the drug companies and the insurances companies, this is going to be a done deal, so you might as well come to the table and get the scraps that we’re willing to give you in exchange for going along with what we’re going to do here. And a lot of folks thought that that was the case. But little by little, as soon as it has seen the light of day, folks have realized what’s in these bills, and have said no way. We do not want our, first of all, a huge, probably at least $2 trillion dollar spending bill on top of what we’ve done already, we don’t want to go into that much debt, and especially if it’s going to effect our own insurance coverage. On Medicare, by the way, you know, Medicare is unsustainable. The administration has said that. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to try to save some money in Medicare, meaning provide fewer services to seniors, and are we going to then make Medicare healthy? No. We’re going to take that “savings” and use it to cover more Americans. So there are a lot of features here that the American people don’t like, and they’re very anxious about. And the longer it hangs out, the more they see that. That then has an impact on members of Congress, whereas I think members thought at one point this was a done deal, now you see Democrats and Republicans saying not so fast, we don’t think so, because of what their constituents are telling them. So petitions, e-mails, telephone calls, letters, visits with members of Congress over the August recess, all of these things are critical to folks expressing their point of view. You have a right to do it, you need to do it, and if you do it right, I think we can stop this legislation, and reform health care in a sensible way.

Elected officials pay attention to ten letters or a dozen calls. A million electronic signatures stops them in their tracks. It is a warning that the vote on Obamacare will be one that brings with it consequences at the voting booth. Finally the conservative grassroots are finding a way to communicate with D.C. via the new media.

On the jobs front, a familiar and powerful voice has harnessed the new technology to help rebuild a conservative agenda on jobs.

There were two press conferences in D.C. on Wednesday. The president had his disastrous, fumbling and bumbling hour in prime time, and Newt Gingrich delivered a focused and persuasive push for a jobs policy at the National Press Club. The former Speaker who is now the General Chairman of American Solutions unveiled a concise, four part proposal to ignite job creation along with the brilliant summary point: America can't work if Americans aren't working. He's right of course. Unemployment above 5% drains energy and hope from the economy. The White House is pushing a job killing carbon tax and an employment-killing array of taxes to pay for socialized medicine even as unemployment nationally creeps to California and Michigan levels. Newt's four-part agenda would unleash incentives to hire and expand, and you can read about it in detail and sign on to it at

The centerpiece of Newt's plan is a two-year, 50 percent reduction in payroll taxes, which would give an enormous and immediate boost to employers and employees alike, providing not only a huge jolt to consumer spending but also an opportunity for businesses to add the employees they are presently fearful about bringing on because of looming increased marginal costs of employment and general fears about Obama economic policy. A payroll tax cut is an economic defibrillator of sorts, which would sail through the Congress on a bipartisan basis if the president adopted it. Yes, he'd get some political credit out of a jobs recovery, but that's a price the GOP should of course be willing to pay to get the country working again. is running a text poll on just the 50 percent payroll tax cut proposal. Use the shortcode number 77569 and enter "Y" for yes to the payroll tax cut or "N" to vote against the idea. Text polls have surged in popularity within the media as a means of measuring saliency of an issue for a given audience though of course the results cannot be extrapolated to the country as a whole. That's not the point. The point is to gauge activist interest and support, and participation in such efforts helps build the agenda for 2010. If Newt's policy instincts are right --and they have been time and again over two decades-- the "Y"s will far outnumber the "N"s, and the volume of text messages to 77569 will be significant. Take a minute and send your text and thus expand the grassroots.

It has been a long six months for center-right activists as the greatly diminished ranks of Republicans on the Hill and the dispirited activists in the states have struggled to gear up for what in sports is universally called "a rebuilding year." Very few expected 2009 to be other than a series of decisive defeats on Congress as a new president with huge majorities and a supine MSM easily brought forward big bill after big bill.

Now, suddenly, the president's and Nancy Pelosi's incredible overreach combined with the demonstrable disasters that have attended the stimulus and which would follow cap-and-tax-and-tax-and-tax and the radical plans for American medicine have revived and energized the Republican grassroots. The recognition that the stakes are too high to shuffle through an entire cycle has spread quickly, and key organizations like the National Center for Policy Analysis and have stepped up to provide vehicles through which that energy can be effectively channeled.

Take five minutes and sign on to two polls and text one message. From such small efforts, multiplied by hundreds of thousands of individuals committed to stopping the leftward lurch of the country, will come the rebalancing of D.C. so desperately needed in 2010.

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