Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Ben Domenech's column on Newt

Domenech, no Gingrich partisan, wrote a column in which he defends the idea Newt put out on Sunday that conservatives first have to convince the public a change in policy is needed, not simply shove it down their throats. He also called those who said Newt's campaign is effectively over "unserious observers of politics."

Some of the highlights:
Gingrich went on to describe his support for a plan where “people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options, not one where you suddenly impose” a policy solution on people. This was a key element of a proposal advanced last year by Bill Clinton’s former budget director, Alice Rivlin, and former Republican Senator Pete Domenici (N.M.). It’s the same policy position taken by former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a Gingrich rival for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Indeed, it’s a policy solution that Ryan himself has said he would be open to in the past, calling it a “fine idea worth considering.”

Yet such facts are too inconvenient for the alliance of critics and opponents who turned Gingrich’s remarks into a radioactive rejection of Ryan’s entire plan. In so forcefully rallying to defend their fresh young idea man in Ryan, and blasting foolishly at the warning of the older, battle-tested idea man in Gingrich, that ideas must not be imposed, but first sold to the public, these individuals may unintentionally set themselves on a path to become the real life imitation of Walker Percy’s Knothead Party.

On Tuesday, Gingrich reiterated to me that he still would’ve voted for Ryan’s plan as a “first step” along these lines—and that he favors Ryan’s premium support system—yet he considers an essential alteration of the plan to be “giving seniors the right to choose.”


Making the case that controversial ideas need to be first sold to the public, and that they need to set aside compulsory social engineering in favor of consumer choice, is not something that should be rejected as anathema to conservative principle or end anyone’s presidential campaign.


Gingrich’s warning this week is clearly borne in part out of the experience he gained in the 1990s, when he saw so many unexpected outcomes—both in politics and policy—as a result of what were thought of as pro-reform policies favored by the right’s base. Tea Partiers and other new elements involved in politics today can dismiss this wisdom if they wish, but assuming top-down imposition of a new system will not lead to unintended consequences, does not need to be sold to the American people, and can set aside consumer choice is a dangerous path, one more in keeping with flights of fancy than serious policymaking.


In the 1990s, Gingrich frequently found ways to win an argument while losing the audience. Today, as he advises his allies on the right to remember to win both, too many critics seem bound and determined not to learn from past mistakes, even if Gingrich has. The future of entitlement reform may well depend on if they are willing to reconsider.
As I said in my last post, one of the common criticisms of Newt is that it is hypocritical to both take issue with part of Ryan's plan and say he would vote for it. So I suppose it is also hypocritical for those who argued Ryan's budget should have cut more spending but still who voted for it. Same principle.

Domenech's last point is a very important one. If the goal of those on the right who are tearing apart Newt is to actually implement serious entitlement reform, they should learn how to sell it to the American people. It is not enough to just have the right policy, which many have yet to realize.

Newt shares the same goal of entitlement reform, but he wants it done with the American people on board. Why needlessly sacrifice a number of Republicans in Congress if the right policy could be adopted with just a tweak in it?

1 comment:

  1. I agree 100% The problem now is that the right media is ripping him apart. I have ALWAYS felt uncomfortable with Paul Ryan's plan. Not ALL republicans like it. A President represents ALL THE PEOPLE to unite this country. Right now it's the far right vs far left and nobody will solve problems. I'm still with Newt.


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