When asked to describe his goal as president, Ronald Reagan said: “I want to be remembered as the president who made the American people believe in themselves again.” He succeeded magnificently.
Our 40th president reminded us that the American Dream is not one of making government bigger, but of keeping faith with the mighty spirit of free people under God. In Reagan’s voice, we heard echoes from the Founders. In his program, we saw the most concerted effort in half a century to reverse the encroachment of big government and to revive America’s greatness by restoring power to the people: by slowing the growth of government spending, reducing regulations, slaying inflation through sound money and dramatically lowering tax rates on every taxpayer and enterprise to ignite growth, jobs and prosperity.
Newt Gingrich was an early foot-soldier for Ronald Reagan. He was inspired by Reagan’s charisma, convictions and leadership. He supported Reagan in 1976 and witnessed the attacks by the Ford campaign to tar Ronald Reagan, the conservative, as unstable and dangerous. Sound familiar? Newt was also among the small band of conservatives, led by Jack Kemp in the late 1970s, who saw the tremendous potential for growth in Art Laffer’s supply-side economics. When President Reagan embraced the Kemp-Roth tax cut, Newt Gingrich was on the frontlines working to pass the legislation. Then he helped to lead the Reagan Revolution forward in three meaningful ways.
First, Newt led the drive to build the Republican Party into the majority party. As Jack Kemp became the champion of supply-side and took the gospel of growth to the world, Newt Gingrich set out to build a Republican majority around the supply-side vision of a Conservative Opportunity Society — one that he knew could radically change the debate and balance of power. He admonished Republicans to get off defense and go on offense; to cease being tax collectors for the liberal welfare state and start creating opportunities for everyone, from every walk of life, to rise as high as their God-given talents could take them. Do this and Republicans could transform the Grand Old Party into the Grand New Party of growth, jobs and opportunity.
Second, Newt Gingrich helped Reagan prevail during the most difficult days of his presidency. When unemployment rose above 10% in 1982, and when The New York Times, CBS and the big guns in the national media began sneering their contempt of “Reaganomics,” many in the party began to go wobbly. “I’m sorry, Mr. President, but your spending cuts are just too deep. Your tax cuts are too big.” To his everlasting credit, the president stayed the course, demonstrating that leaders rise to greatness in the fires of adversity, not when times are easy, but when they are hard. However, the president needed every bit of support he could muster from his allies on Capitol Hill. Some may have forgotten, but Kemp and Gingrich never wavered, never flinched. They rallied our troops in Congress, while repeatedly admonishing the White House that success would only be won if we held firm and stood together.
Third, as we know, in 1994, Newt engineered the first Republican takeover of Congress since 1952. The victories he helped to win through the Contract for America for balanced budgets, welfare reform and the largest capital gains tax cut in history produced an economy that permitted President Clinton to bask in the glow of success. His contributions were never acknowledged by the Democratic Party. His efforts won no backing from today’s Republican front-runner. No matter. These were historic milestones that led to better futures for millions of Americans. They could not have happened without Newt Gingrich’s bipartisan leadership.