Gingrich Preparing New Contract With America

Newt Gingrich has promised a new Contract with America to be revealed next week in Iowa.  Newt seeks to turn around his fortunes after stellar debate performances have failed to spark a surge in the polls.  While most will acknowledge that Gingrich is one of the smartest, if not the smartest person in any political room he enters, many are turned off by his low charisma, history with regards to the Clinton impeachment, and perceptions about a floundering 2012 primary campaign.

I wrote last week that there is a disconnect surrounding Newt’s campaign.  So here are my questions for the readers:  Will Newt’s new Contract with America help his campaign?  Do you like Newt?  Why or why not?  And this is an entirely different question: would you vote for Newt?  Consider this post a research project.

Will Social Conservatives Have Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen?

Bookmark and Share Although it is far too early to define the still emerging Republican field of potential 2012 presidential candidates, it is safe to say that at this point in time, it is a much more broadly conservative field than we saw in 2008. Right now, while names like Daniels, Romney Gingrich and Barbour are top tier candidates who have records that, whether social conservatives realize it or not, have great merit and should have great appeal to them, an endless slate of names which come directly out of the social conservative movement is producing an extremely crowded field of political battle. Currently such perspective names in this area include Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Jim DeMint. A second tier in this category includes Buddy Roemer, Bob Riley, Herman Cain, and most recently, former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, the judge who was thrown off the bench because he refused to uphold an appellate ruling that ordered him to remove a statue of the ten commandments from the Alabama Supreme Court building.

Now while it is almost certain that not all of these names will make it to the starting line and even fewer will make it much further past the starting blocks, it is more than obvious that this field of potential Republican presidential candidates is much further to the right than we saw in 2008. That is a good thing, or at least it should be. Especially if the catalyst that moves it to the right is based on fiscal conservatism. But even on social issues, a lurch to the right is a good thing. Part of social conservatism should be support for the values of individualism as opposed to federalism, independence as opposed to bureaucratic tyranny, responsibility rather than dependence, defense of religion instead of offense against religion. All of these beliefs are a part of social conservatism, or at least they should be. So for that reason, I believe that both economic and movement conservatism is a great thing.

But with the endless amount of religious fundamentalists entering into exploratory presidential committees and thinking about entering into such ventures, I cant help but recall that even Noah did not stock his ark with only one breed of any animal. Noah knew that the future of the animal kingdom and of life as we knew it, relied on including all breeds, all types and strains of animal life. Yet right now, in the ark of Republican presidential candidates, we are finding our stalls filled with predominantly religious right, social conservatives. And to compound that point, a specific genus of social conservatives has begun to stock the stalls.. Southern conservatives. The latest count is at eight.

Now before anyone starts writing in and accusing me of being a liberal with prejudices against Southerners, think again. One of my top tier choices happens to be Haley Barbour and correct me if I am wrong, but I dont think you can get much more Southern than Haley and you will be hard pressed to find a more conservative Republican than him. In addition to that, as someone who goes by the online pseudo name of Kempite, I am a self-described, bleeding-heart, Jack Kemp conservative. Have been all of my life, or at least since my political passions were sparked by the campaign and presidency of Ronald Reagan at the age of 12.

So I am not knocking conservatives and I am not belittling the potential candidacy of any conservative aspiring to run for President. But what I am questioning is the potential that exists for splintering the social conservative base and diluting the movements influence over who the Republican presidential nominee is.

From a strategic point, social conservatives are not helping themselves with a field of fourteen zealots who can divide support among the base and along regional and state lines. I mean right now, with the emergence of Roy Moore, even Alabama has the chance to see its primary divided between two favorite sons.. Moore and Bob Riley. And dont think for a moment that Haley Barbour and or Mike Huckabee cant get a few votes from both of them.

The proliferation of social conservative and Southern social conservative presidential candidates in 2012 is something which the religious right and movement conservatives across the nation need to think about before the primaries and caucuses begin. If this segment of the G.O.P. hopes to have any significant influence in choosing the 2012 Republican nominee, they are going to need to rally around a specific name or two rather than divide themselves among a dozen or two names. If they fail to do so, they will be providing a perfect opportunity for a candidate like Jon Huntsman, Jr. or even a Rudy Giuliani, to walk up the middle and become the G.O.P.s next John McCain.

I personally dont mind this split. Again, not because I am anything but conservative fundamentalist, but because I believe the religious right in our Party is marginalizing themselves by shunning people like Mitt Romney and Mitch Daniels, and even Newt Gingrich. It is my belief that social conservatives have great friends in all these men. Yet because of what are somewhat superficial reasons, they object to these names. Romney is a Mormon, Mitch Daniels wants to concentrate on the fiscal crisis, Newt Gingrich is divorced. But for me, the more Huckabees, Bachmanns, Cains, Roemers, Moores, Santorums, and Rileys, they divide their support among the social conservatives, the better chance that their less favored Daniels, Romneys, Gingrichs and even Haley Barbours have at winning the nomination. So I dont mind. But they might.

But even if the records of Romney, Daniels, Barbour or Gingrich, fail to inspire social conservatives and they continue to divide their support among a dozen other religious, or defense of marriage or Right-to-Life agents, we still run the risk of losing both the opportunity to nominate a social conservative for President and to elect such a President. The inordinate amount of movement conservatives running, is going to cause many candidates to portray themselves as more conservative than the next. Each one will try to go further to the right of the other. And at some point it will be hard for the winner to not be believably portrayed as an extremist and to avoid being painted as too radical in the general election.

This is not to say that our ultimate nominee shouldnt be a true conservative of both social and fiscal values. But it does suggest that with such a large number of social conservatives competing, the rhetoric used in the campaign must be carefully parsed. Conservatism is one thing, but extremism is another. President Obama has delivered extremism and it has not exactly increased his popularity. So while Barry Goldwaters words about extremism in the defense of liberty not being a vice, and moderation in the pursuit of justice not being a virtue, are true, radicalism in the name of elections is certain defeat.

So there are two things for us as Republicans to think about here. How many candidates are we willing to divide the delicate marriage between social and fiscal conservatives by? Then we must ask ourselves how far we are willing to go before we become the type of radical extremists that we claim President Obama and the Democrat Party leadership and apparatus to be? To answer that question, the candidates in the race must allow ideological fervor to be tempered by constitutional legitimacy. They must allow the United States Constitution to interpret their ideological positions into a practical application of government that allows for constitutionally limited government. We can go as far to the right as we want, so long as the Constitution prevents us from turning religion into legislation and so long as it protects the rights of all, without discriminating against the rights of some. Moving to the right will not be a problem at all, so long as we remember that while our ideology is important, the Constitution is what must shape how it is applied to federal governance and how far it can be taken into the lives of every American. That is a message that the TEA Party movement sent in 2010 and you can expect them to echo that same sentiment in 2012.

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