Notes on a Speech: Message and leadership examples for Illinois

This is the last of a series. I’m re-posting this set of articles because four years have passed and I’d argue our side has made little-to-no progress on any of the important items discussed by Newt in this speech. Of course, if Newt had made better campaign decisions he could have carried these issues into the 2012 general election, but he didn’t, so the rest of us have to pick up the slack.

Part of my goal with this website is to feature examples of leadership that need to be emulated in Illinois. In the past few days I’ve shown again how Republicans in Alaska are attempting to clean house in their state party, and in this series we’ve highlighted sections from one particularly good speech by Newt Gingrich.

We’ll never see reforms enacted until Illinois Republicans develop a compelling message.

Last week former Speaker Newt Gingrich said that Senator Barack Obama’s analysis about wealth and income gaps between blacks and whites is factually false. For my purposes, let’s remove the discussion about race all together and focus just on income and wealth gaps in general. In the speech, Gingrich used the city of Detroit to illustrate the principles involved.

  • “The collapse of Detroit, from 1950 to 2008, which I think should be the centerpiece of the fall campaign, because it is the case study in bad culture and bad government. Detroit in 1950 had 1,800,000 people. Last year, it dropped below 900,000. Less than half the housing stock is needed. It is the first American city in history to drop below a million.
  • The numbers are actually worse than that in the last three years: Detroit had three times the out-migration rate of any other city in the United States. Twenty-seven thousand additional people fled Detroit.
  • It dropped from being the number one per capita income city in the United States to ranking number sixty-second.”

The problems go beyond the auto industry and state government’s destructive policies, and won’t be solved unless we can –

“…have an honest conversation about how big a disaster Detroit is. [Without that] we sure can’t have an honest conversation about poverty in America, and we sure can’t have a conversation about what needs to change.

It’s that simple and that direct. And I think virtually no one on the Left is prepared today to talk candidly about Detroit because it is their institutions and their culture which has caused the collapse of one of America’s great cities.”

Gingrich outlined seven areas, and they not only apply to big city poverty problems.

  • Stopping crime and ensuring public safety;
  • Replacing the destructive culture of adolescence with the return to young adulthood;
  • Creating a new dynamic of jobs, health, and wealth creation for all Americans;
  • Using modern technology and modern science to turn disabilities into capabilities;
  • Replacing cities of poverty with cities of prosperity;
  • Ensuring true happiness and a true citizenship with a real right to pursue happiness for all Native Americans; and
  • Creating a twenty-first-century system of law enforcement and appropriate punishment with a decisively new model of prisons.

Gingrich went on to outline the seven areas by citing examples where success has been demonstrated.

For example, the city of Los Angeles is finding success by implementing the crime-fighting techniques used during the 1990s in New York City. Gingrich says it’s “a definable, practical system of running government,” but that it does “upset the bureaucrats.”

“[P]ublic safety is the heart of which everything else grows. If you are not going to be safe, then you are not going to invest, you are not going to create jobs, you are not going to increase property values, and so safety really matters, and it is at the heart of a healthy society…

This is a systematic, manageable approach, which is the model that says: The right policies, the right culture, the right leadership, the world changes. The wrong policies, the wrong signals, the wrong leadership, the world changes in the wrong direction.

And you have to have an honest, national conversation. You want more poverty? You want to make the whole country resemble Detroit? We can.

Or do we want to make the whole country prosperous, safe, and provide an opportunity to everyone to have the highest quality of life–fundamentally different issues.”

For Gingrich, the way to –

“create a new dynamic of jobs with health, wealth creation for all Americans is not complicated. It’s just unacceptable for the Left. The fact is that everywhere on the planet where people have low tax, limited regulation, limited litigation models, jobs spring up.”

The rhetoric of the political left seeks to –

“move us closest to Detroit as a model for the country. It will raise taxes, drive out businesses, dry out jobs, slow up entrepreneurship, and convince brilliant foreigners not to come to the U.S. because this won’t be the best place to create jobs and wealth.”

While Gingrich’s scope is national, the subjects apply directly to Illinois. What are the positive solutions being offered by Illinois Republicans? Again this year we occasionally hear some good rhetoric when it comes to opposition to tax increases, but you can bet a tax increase bill in Springfield will receive Republican votes.

We hear again about a massive expansion of gambling, which is as damaging to the Republican brand name and as foolish economically as increasing taxes.

To paraphrase Gingrich, do GOP General Assembly members ever think about what if would take to apply the economic lessons that can be learned from around the nation and the world?

If any of them are plotting a course to re-invigorate the Illinois economy and bring true reform to public education we haven’t heard it yet.

In the meantime, we hope anyone aspiring to finally lead in this state would take the time to read or watch Gingrich’s speech. Better yet, they should buy, read, and learn from his book “Real Change.”

Originally posted April 5, 2008.