Barry M. Goldwater, with his firm belief in limited government, individual liberty, and conservative principles, paved the way for Ronald Reagan’s election to the presidency.
Similarly, years later, it was Newt Gingrich, with his message of populist conservatism, distrust of elites and listening to the people, who would lay the groundwork for Donald Trump’s successful run for the American Presidency. And to his credit, President Trump has valued Gingrich’s counsel during the campaign and since winning the presidency.
We can learn much about Reagan and Trump by studying Goldwater and Gingrich. Goldwater and Gingrich were both visionaries and big thinkers espousing big ideas. Each reshaped the Republican Party into his own brand of Republicanism.
Goldwater, ever the arch conservative, made the case for true conservatism to the American people. Sixteen years after Goldwater’s 1964 failed presidential bid of his own, Reagan, using a Goldwater-esque message, would win a landslide victory becoming America’s first true conservative president since Calvin Coolidge.
Likewise, Gingrich, with his fiery message of conservative populism both as Speaker of the House and on the presidential campaign trail himself, laid the successful groundwork for the election of America’s first populist president since Andrew Jackson — Donald J. Trump.
Goldwater’s books, "The Conscience of a Conservative" and "Why Not Victory" helped recruit massive numbers to the conservative movement and thus, lay the foundation for the "Reagan Revolution." Gingrich’s books, "To Save America" and "A Nation Like No Other" would provide the intellectual heft for the Trump movement. Gingrich’s writings on a dysfunctional Department of Veterans Affairs, Obamacare, voter fraud and the elite media would connect with the electorate in 2016 through a new messenger — Donald Trump.
Gingrich worked for over a decade to implement a populist conservative revolution culminating in 1994 when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time since 1952. Gingrich’s famous "Contract With America" was a direct connection to the grass roots and the silent majority. It showed the "forgotten Americans" what could happen when their elected officials worked for the American people.
It gave them a glimpse of an America that enabled working class families to provide for a better way of life for their children and that adhered to Judeo-Christian values. The "Contract With America" resonated. The silent majority came out in record numbers. Yes, it worked until the GOP lost its way and gave into the elites and the usual establishment types.
Ever the happy warrior, Gingrich kept plugging. In 2010, he talked about the need for Republican candidates to make better use of social media, giving speeches across the country about something called Twitter as a way for conservatives to get their message out to the people — and around the traditional media.He launched his own grass roots populist bid for the 2012 Republican Presidential nomination.
After former House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter’s presidential run in 2008, Gingrich was one of the few major presidential contenders to talk about securing America’s border with real seriousness. In fact, he actually signed the pledge to secure America’s border and build Hunter’s secure double-fence along the U.S.-Mexican border if elected president.
Though Gingrich was underfunded, he waged a valiant effort and managed a strong showing against the well-heeled establishment. The success of his message and insurgent campaign in 2012 signaled that something was happening under the radar with working-class Americans who were fed up with the status quo.
In 2016, a billionaire adopted much of the Gingrich populist message of taking care of our veterans, securing the border, bringing back manufacturing jobs, rebuilding our military and going straight to the American people with his own version of a "Contract With America." He delivered during a speech at Gettysburg, Pa., calling it his "Contract With the American Voter."
It was vintage Gingrich. And, oh yes, he heard Gingrich’s message of years earlier about the need for Republicans to be better at social media and to master Twitter in order to connect directly with Americans.
Make no mistake, Newt Gingrich paved the way for Donald Trump’s presidency, just as Goldwater laid the foundation for Reagan’s. Both came along when the future of the GOP was not bright. Goldwater, the descendant of Jewish immigrants, and Gingrich, the descendant of Irish immigrants, were the pioneers the GOP needed at critical moments in our history to reconnect once again with the American people.
Van Hipp is chairman of American Defense International, Inc. (ADI), a Washington, D.C. consulting firm. He is former chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, and served on the Presidential Electoral College in 1988. He is the author of "The New Terrorism: How to Fight It and Defeat It." To read more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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