Time for Another Contract With America

On Tuesday morning, well before Barack Obama cleaned Hillary's clock in the late night vote counting, Newt Gingrich issued a prescient warning to his party which was largely overlooked in all the excitement about election day turnout. In it, the former House speaker described the current atmosphere among the electorate as "a catastrophic collapse of trust in Republicans."

Gingrich based his dire conclusion on recent special elections in which Democrats won in districts that had been safe for Republicans for decades and polling which proved to him that Republicans face disaster in November. The voters, he wrote, were saying "Not you" to Republicans.

Gingrich's theory goes a long way to explain why Obama beat Clinton going away after a month in which he had been body checked, tripped up, ambushed and beaten with nail-studded clubs. "The Republican brand has been so badly damaged that if Republicans try to run an anti-Obama, anti-Reverend Wright, or (if Senator Clinton wins), anti-Clinton campaign, they are simply going to fail," Gingrich wrote. The column appeared election morning and by the time the polls closed it was clear Gingrich was absolutely correct… again.

The former House speaker said the Republican leadership in Congress must immediately call a closed door meeting of GOP members of Congress and agree to follow his plan ("real change") to pull the party out of its nosedive. Gingrich's nine-point plan includes three promises that tackle the mounting dread of $5 per gallon gasoline, two proposals aimed at voters' sense that lawmakers are corrupt, and four more that cover judges, English as the official language of government, safer air travel and the right to a secret ballot on union representation.

In other words, it's time for another "Contract with America."

What was striking about Gingrich's column was just how dire he believes the situation is and how the North Carolina and Indiana results seemed to confirm his judgment. Mainly Gingrich was talking about the disaster facing Republican members of Congress, but he also thinks Sen. McCain faces the same voter rejection of people and ideas considered traditionally Republican.

So maybe that explains why Sen. McCain announced on election day that he would attend the La Raza convention in July to reach out to Hispanic voters (a move that will send anti-illegal immigration conservatives around the bend) and at the same time tried to calm those conservatives with a showy promise to appoint judges in the mold of Roberts and Alito.

And it may explain why McCain will campaign not as a longtime Republican, but as a man who has spent a career quarreling with his own party and carving out a reputation as a maverick.

Good enough for him, but what about all the party regulars who now hold seats in Congress and whose reputations are thoroughly Republican? Gingrich's ominous warning is that if they don't follow his plan, or devise a better one on their own, they will be packing for the long trip home shortly after November 4th.

That's My Word.

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