This letter, written by Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) to Budget Director David Stockman shortly before the election, articulates the differences within his Republican constituency that Ronald Reagan is going to have to address.
Thank you for meeting with us.
I remain puzzled and perplexed by the difficulty we seem to have in communicating. I remember working with you in 1979 and 1980 to develop new approaches and new ideas about the budget. I consider you a friend.
Frankly, you are one of the two most brilliant Republicans in Washington. Jack Kemp is the other. The two of you seem to have opposite qualities. Isaiah Berlin once described the Hedgehog and the Fox. The Fox, he said, knew many things. But the Hedgehog knew only one big thing. But it was a very, very big thing. In that sense, Jack Kemp knows one big thing, which is that the Republican Party will become a majority only through a peaceful revolution in the structure of government and the way we think about things.
You know many little things. But they have been increasingly at the service of propping up the Liberal Welfare State. Because of your brilliance, your past as a House member and your key position, you're becoming the greatest obstacle to a successful revolution from the Liberal Welfare State to an Opportunity Society.
You seek a grand compromise. Yet a grand compromise would smother a peaceful revolution. The liberal Democrats are, by definition, committed to their vision of the Liberal Welfare State and to their Liberal Welfare State allies. Any compromise they would accept, by definition, would allow the Liberal Welfare State and the Liberal Welfare State allies to survive.
Any grand compromise would also have to hurt our allies by raising their taxes, by weakening the military budget in a manner which maintains a Liberal Welfare State bureau and which maintains congressional micro-management. Any grand compromise has to blur the distinction between the revolutionary effort, the creative Opportunity Society and the Liberal Welfare State establishment.
Any grand compromise is anti-populist, by your own words, because it would have to hide the damage to the American people behind a shield of bipartisanship. You would solve the political and economic crisis of the Liberal Welfare State by going into a closed room with O'Neill and Wright and forging an alliance that can protect both them and you from the American people.
We want to go into an open room with the American people and forge an alliance that will force Democrats to vote because of grass-roots pressure and grass-roots understanding. In effect, you would lead Washington, and thus force the nation to follow. We would lead the nation, and thus force Washington to follow.
Finally, you argue for a slow transition from a Liberal Welfare State to an Opportunity Society. That is opposite to the nature of revolutions. Revolutions usually occur fast or not at all. Revolutions have to occur fast because they represent a fundamental break with the paradigm and power structure of the past. You have to focus the debate on your new ideas, new language, new programs and new allies and hold it there or you lose the effort to revolution.
If you try a slow transitional effort in the second term, you'll be smothered by the Liberal Welfare State just as the New Federalism gradually disappeared in 1982. Welfare State allies, Welfare State news media, Welfare State analysts drowned it and turned the campaign to their issues and their strategies. A revolutionary strategy could have kept the New Federalism, from the State of the Union speech, on the front page and made it a key issue in November 1982.
A gradualist strategy allowed the left to discredit Reagan's initiative so that by November it no longer existed, even though, by 31/2 to 1, the American people favored getting government closer to home. Our argument is between revolution and tradition, not between ideologues and realists. It is irritating and inaccurate to have you say, as you did yesterday, that someone has to be in charge of facts and be responsible; the theoretical and intellectual ideals are fine, but we have to deal in details.
You seem to be in a different business than we are. We are revolutionaries. We are in the tradition of the six successful American revolutions: the Founding Fathers, the Jeffersonian Democrats, Jacksonian Populism, the rise of the GOP, the McKinley campaign, and Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal.
By your standards, the Founding Fathers wrote abstract documents like the Declaration of Independence. They wrote obscure intellectual documents like the Federalist Papers, which were, in fact, a propaganda brochure to sell the Constitution. They spent their energies on abstract ideas like the Constitution.
Madison and Jefferson, having been defeated by the Federalists in Washington, promptly left the town to create the Democratic Party and seize power. By your standards, Jefferson and Madison were clearly theoretical visionaries, when, in fact, they were practical politicians building the Democratic Party to seize power.
Similarly, in the 1820s, the rise of Jacksonian Populism occurred outside of Washington against the popular wisdom and involved severe changes. We attempt to be practical men of politics like the founders of the Republican Party, men who brought together the ideas of abolition, free enterprise, free soil and high tariffs to create a coalition capable of governing.
We seek to build a grand political alliance with the business community and high technology, precisely in the 1896 tradition of Hannah and McKinley. We seek to build a majority around a new vision of government with many new ideas, precisely in the "Brains Trust" tradition of the New Deal. Giving you a language, FDR was clearly an intellectual dreamer and capable of dealing with reality because he thought he was in the business of changing reality, not maneuvering within it.
From your perspective at OMB, we don't deal in facts. From my perspective as a historian, you don't deal in the objective requirements of history. I've been telling you for three years: you cannot build a new majority by playing Washington, D.C., games. Ever since you put together the percent of GNP required for defense, entitlements and other government in the summer of 1981, it has been obvious that you had to do three things: 1) get growth to shrink the percent of GNP needed to pay for government; 2) get honest money to stop entitlement increases from going up through automatic COLAs without suicidal votes to cut COLAs; 3) shift the Liberal Welfare State "more or less" debate into an Opportunity Society debate on "better or worse," "future or past," and begin reshaping Medicare, education, military procurement, etc.
For three years you've avoided the real challenge of building an Opportunity Society program to carry to the people. Yesterday's dialogue was more of the same. For example, when you told us federal government policy on interest on the debt was bounded by the desires of 38 brokerage houses, my first goal as a Jacksonian Populist revolutionary was to break out of that paradigm. You literally can't find a solution if you let a series of elites dominate your options on each topic. Furthermore, you can prove that every revolutionary idea will fail if you start with the Liberal Welfare State framework and let Liberal Welfare State establishment figures into the room to approve or disapprove what's going on. You can also fail if you pick tactically foolish targets and insist on charging the political equivalent of machine guns.
For example, National Public Radio has sufficient supporters and a sufficient market in the country that, while we may want to seize control of it, we probably don't gain as much economically trying to cut its budget as we lose politically. This may sound like an ideological viewpoint, but, in fact, I'm trying to write about practical politics.
I think the track record of the COS group during this year and a half has been fairly impressive. We began with the nuclear freeze. Remember when the nuclear freeze was clearly going to soar through, when there was no way to stop it, when it was going to pass and had enormous momentum? Led by Mark Siljander, we fought for six different days over a period of six weeks. Ultimately we had a number of national newspapers writing negative articles attacking the nuclear freeze on the grounds that we had raised enough questions about it.
Remember when the speaker was going to outmaneuver us on ERA and embarrass Republicans with an anti-ERA vote? We reacted quickly enough, in less than 12 hours, so that both The Washington Post and The New York Times ended up attacking the speaker. And it was the liberals who had a black eye for playing games rather than the conservatives.
Remember when the liberals were going to take military reform and seize it as their issue and we co-founded with them the Military Reform Caucus and insisted that Bill Whitehurst, conservative Republican, be chairman and then had Jim Courter, conservative Republican, as chairman. Recently, Time magazine wrote an article on cheap hawks. Everyone of them was a Republican.
We passed the Equal Access Bill when it wasn't possible. We forced a vote on the floor on school prayer in the House when it wasn't possible. We forged an alliance with traditional values, Christians and Jews, strong enough so that in some states now, the white Christians have outregistered the black Christians, and we are gaining momentum from our allies' having a feeling that they have a right to participate in politics. And we may well have saved both Jepsen's and Helms's seats through our coalition.
On immigration, when it clearly could never be voted against, six months of hammering on O'Neill led to editorial after editorial across the country. And, finally, the bill was brought to the floor. On crime, every Republican knew that Nixon had proven in 1970 you could not campaign on crime, that crime was not a federal issue. Last month, after a year of our work, crime was the No. 1 issue in America, the first time since 1977 that a non-economic issue was the No. 1 concern of the American people. And we had so shaped the news media's opinion that Congressional Quarterly in effect wrote our article on the cover story on Peter Rodino, which I have attached for you to look at.
On the platform fight, there is a general feeling that we dominated the media or at least held our own. We communicated our values, and we further sank Walter Mondale. On foreign policy, by having Frank Gregorsky write a paper analyzing Democratic foreign policy over the last 14 years, we established the framework which led directly to Jeane Kirkpatrick's speech on "Blame America First." This has done a great deal to shape races such as Tom Downey's.
On Grenada, Duncan Hunter is organizing a nationwide teach-in using Biznet for four hours with 120 some American students from Grenada coming back home and going out to different campuses. And we have worked with the State Department to maximize publicity for a new 600-page book of documents from the Grenadian Communist archives. And we are beginning to reshape that debate.
We have an outreach to every Republican House candidate in the country. On space we have founded one political action committee, one independent foundation, and one caucus in the Congress. And recently, when Lloyd Doggett attacked Phil Gramm, he was able to trump Doggett on space by citing the award our PAC had given him.
On C-SPAN, we reach 250,000p people on a daily basis, and we have begun to create a national movement. We are just beginning, but we believe we are creating a revolutionary movement to favor a shift from the Liberal Welfare State to the Conservative Opportunity Society. Frankly, I think that, historically, we are at least as good in the facts of politics as you are in the facts of budgeting.
The problem is you use your facts of budgeting to obstruct the ability for us to work together on the joint effort to create a revolutionary alternative. You described yesterday a grand compromise which would be antithetical to our revolution. We would spend Reagan's popularity and victory to shape a populist tidal wave to win two or three giant votes in a way people understood and rallied to. You seem committed to spend Reagan's popularity and victory wooing and threatening Democrats to achieve an insider's grand compromise in D.C.
Your strategy will split the GOP by Easter and mark Reagan as the William Howard Taft of the late 20th century. You would force the anti-tax, pro-military reform, pro-Opportunity Society, new idea, Great Opportunity Party elements to follow the fall of the Progressives in the 1910 rebellion.
You suggested another path in which we would genuinely work together. I am very interested in pursuing this path. BUT, I will not role play the ideologue, intellectual theorist to your fact-oriented, tough-minded practical budget director. I am willing to immerse myself in the practical problems of shifting the Liberal Welfare State government to an Opportunity Society government IF -- I repeat, IF -- you are willing to immerse yourself in the practical problems of shaping a national revolutionary political movement.
Your suggestion that we must meet and discuss specific ideas for longer periods of time makes eminent sense. Since time is running short, some of our meetings should be conference calls with preparation in advance and follow-up. As experiments, we could look at 1) interest on the debt, 2) health care, 3) education, 4) reform of military procurement. These are very high value large items that might both solve problems and create an Opportunity Society budget and model.
If we could work on these four over the next month and a half, we might progress toward genuinely shaping an alternative in which you get a revolutionary budget, we get a revolutionary political movement, and the country and the party are much healthier.
I look forward to hearing from you.