Unity After Newt

by Joel Corbin

Sure, this election was painful. Sure, the Democrats gained a few seats in the House. Sure, the GOP lost a couple of Governorships. But maybe the worst part about this election was the talk surrounding Newt Gingrich's retirement from the Speakership and the House. The mere fact that he was leaving was disappointing, but almost more so was the tone of the surrounding discussion. I found it difficult to listen to fellow Republicans continue to blame him for the party's woes, both in the election and policy in general. At times the comments were as vicious as anything the opposition and the hostile press ever levied.

People love to blame others for failure. Whether it's sports, politics, or even a movie opening to less-than-expected box office receipts, somebody has to be blamed. But blaming others doesn't get things moving toward success. When was the last time you heard one of our football players blame another for a less-than-stellar game? Never. It doesn't happen because our team knows they have to hang together in order to succeed. Unity is prized by our basketball team, who don't even have individual names on their jerseys. The five National Championship banners hanging in Assembly Hall are a testament to teamwork. That's a lesson the Republicans need to learn.

Newt's retirement from Congress made me wonder if he was doing the right thing. He just published a book titled "Lessons Learned the Hard Way" and now it seemed as if he hadn't learned anything at all. How could he think his retirement would help the GOP? After a while I realized he was doing the right thing. He has been a lightning rod for Democrats and the press for a long time. There had been internal dissention in the House leadership before, and it was certain to blossom into a war for control of the next Congress. He would have trouble keeping the Speakership.

So he decided to retire. Being the Speaker is like being the President; you don't take a less-prestigious job when you're done. There was enough ill will in the House to take him out of the Speaker's chair, and it would have stayed if he had remained in Congress. He would be much less effective taking a lower position, and possibly the target of derision or jokes. The House Republicans need to be united in order to succeed, due to the narrow majority they now posses.

Newt may have been partially to blame for the results of this election, but so could any one of a dozen other factors. I don't intend to absolve him of all responsibility, but I believe conservatives who single him out are not looking at the big picture. There was no overriding theme among the candidates, no sense of national unity or teamwork as there was four years ago. This is not entirely Newt's fault, but it is true that he had lost his spark and his ability to innovate galvanizing concepts, such as the "Contract with America." But his retirement means the new leadership can use their own ideas and concepts. The GOP needs an active, energetic leadership in order to build on its current majority.

I like to call this idea the "Booster-Rocket Principle." When a rocket (such as those used in Apollo-era spaceflights) takes off, it uses multiple stages. When the initial stage's fuel is exhausted, it falls away and the next ignites to propel the rocket higher. The same holds true for a dynamic and vigorous political party. First, an idea or philosophy is formed that helps the party off the ground. When that is used to its fullest, the next takes over to take the party still higher. This is a good model for the Republican Party over the last two decades.

First, Ronald Reagan led the GOP to the Presidency and amazing support for conservative ideals. George Bush carried these ideas farther, but the public grew tired of the same old thing. A new concept was needed: Enter Mr. Newt and the Contract. The GOP gained majorities in Congress. Now, the unifying idea of the Contract is fading, and a new idea must be found. The search for a new idea means finding new people to design and implement it. Newt took our party as far as he could, and now he's letting someone else build on the success. Let's make sure that the new Speaker and leadership get our support. That's the way to build unity, and unity paves the road to electoral success.

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