Last week, Newt Gingrich spoke at the Winter Meeting of the Republican National Committee. He shared his thoughts on what the party needs to do to hold both chambers of Congress in the 2018 mid-term elections. Gingrich knows a little about winning elections, given the miracle of 1994. These are the three keys to victory – in his own words.
First, go home and take on everyone.
Contend for every seat. Every Democrat idiotically voted no on the largest tax cut in your lifetime, and they have to go home and explain that. Rep. Joe Kennedy offered the Democratic response to the State of the Union. But you can go to the Ways and Means Committee website for your district. In Kennedy’s district a median-income family of four got a $5,800 tax cut. Now we should be all over him. How can he vote to take away $5,800 from a family of four in his district and send it back to Washington bureaucrats?
Every single one of the Democratic members of the Black caucus voted against the tax cut for their own people and could not applaud the lowest Black unemployment in history. We have to have the nerve to go nose-to-nose with every Democrat in every district.
Second, don’t complain about the news media.
The news media is a fact. The news media is the offensive wing of the other team. They are not the problem. What we do about them is the problem. So, we have to design a campaign plan, and we have to train our candidates assuming the worst about the news media. Whenever you interact with the news media you should assume you’re going into a war zone. You should plan to take the host on and challenge their assumptions.
You would be amazed how many of our folks are too slow, too untrained, and don’t know what they’re talking about. So, they walk in as though George Stephanopoulos is neutral. I mean not only was he the Clinton press secretary, he gave $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation. And we allowed him to chair a presidential debate in 2012. Now, you at least have a minimum rule. Nobody who’s completely on the Left is going to get to chair anything for this party’s good future.
Third, we have to have the courage to fight.
You have to be prepared. When someone gets up, the junior senator from New York, and says, “You know, if you talk about chain migration, it’s racist,” we need to say, “You must be losing this debate on the facts so badly that you’re now reduced to scream ‘racism,’ which is, by the way, what you scream about virtually everything, unless of course that’s homophobia or something else.” The Left has no arguments left except to yell nasty names.
If you’re a left-wing Democrat and totally for open borders, you can’t actually go up and say, “Well, I think it’s okay for a few hundred MS-13 folks to come in.” You just can’t. So, then you get furious at Trump because he’s found the angle of attack you can’t defend.
The most useful book I have read to better understand this year is Karl Rove’s book, The Triumph of William McKinley. That 1896 campaign may sound obscure, but it relates directly to our challenge.
McKinley was faced with the great charismatic Democratic leader, the youngest major party nominee in history at 36 years old, William Jennings Bryan. Bryan is such a great passionate articulator of demagogic populism and was so influential in the Democratic Party for two generations (nominated three times for president) that Elizabeth Warren is his direct emotional descendant.
He literally – and I mean this as a tribute to Bryan – he imprinted the Democratic Party with a negative, anti-elite, anti-city, anti-modernity kind of populism, a populism of anger. He talks about mankind being crucified on a cross of gold. He says at one point that he wants grass to grow on the streets of the cities. McKinley realizes he’s going to lose the election unless he breaks the heart of Bryan’s argument. McKinley understood in 1896 what Margaret Thatcher said in the 1970s when she warned, “First you win the argument. Then you win the election.” And so, McKinley created the most thorough educational campaign in American history.
They printed 18 brochures for every American. That’s a scale of organization that’s unimaginable. And Karl, who’s a great professional, really walks you through it. And that’s what we need today – a response to the Democratic Party that goes right at the philosophical basis for what they believe.
So, when reporters and analysts say, “Well, it’s the first term off-year election. The average losses are X.” My first thought is, “How do you think President Clinton is doing?”
The truth is we are led by somebody who breaks the records. We ought to join in this fall to break the record, and next year if we have won control of the House altogether – if we’ve picked up six or eight Senate seats – President Trump and the Republicans will be able to say, as Ronald Reagan used to say, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”