Newt Gingrich, the former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, has emerged as a fierce critic of the Obama Administration in recent months, lambasting the Democrats in The Washington Post for turning America into a “secular socialist machine.”
The conservative champion describes the Democrats’ passing of the economic stimulus package and health care reform as “behavior worthy of the Chicago political machine.” According to Gingrich, most congressmen hadn’t actually read, let alone fully understood, the stimulus bill which amounted to a spending frenzy of $787 billion. On health care, he writes, the Democrats “rejected the will of the American people.”
“Socialist” measures include the creation of czar positions “to micromanage industry”; the proposed regulation of carbon outputs which would enable Washington to control all of the US economy; violating two hundred years of bankrupcy precedent “to take money from bondholders and investors in the auto industry to pay off union allies”; nationalizing student loans; and expanding government mortgage intervention to 90 percent of the housing market. “What is that if not socialism?”
Thirdly, the current administration is supposedly denying America’s religious heritage. “The United States,” writes Gingrich, “was founded as an intensely religious country that believes our rights come from God.” He is right to note that the Founding Fathers “forbade the establishment of a national religion to protect individual rights of conscience,” which directly contradicts his claim that they intended to set up an “intensely religious country.”
Gingrich complains that the president in April 2009 described the United States as “a secular country that is respectful of religious freedom, respectful of rule of law, respectful of freedom,” yet isn’t that the very premise of the constitution?
The separation of church and state is one of the monumental accomplishments of modern political thought; one that was pioneered by the American Founding Fathers. Many Americans may be deeply spiritual people but their rights are derived not from God but from nature. If it were otherwise, the United States would be a theocracy, not a republic.
Gingrich finds Obama “the most radical president in American history.” This is perhaps something of an exaggeration. In terms of “socialism,” one would be hard pressed to argue for instance that in little over sixteen months, Obama has done more than Franklin D. Roosevelt could accomplish in over a decade.
Nonetheless, the administration’s economic policy is a radical one that seems grounded in the assumption that regulated markets work best. The economy has been subject to government controls for many decades but the stimulus, the overhaul of health care and the proposed reform of the financial industry have exposed both the fiscal irresponsibility and the immorality of this situation.
It is primarily on the issues of civil liberties and individual responsibility that the right ought to campaign the coming years. If it adopts Gingrich’s fury over the “secular” character of Democratic government, the Republican Party risks a repetition of the Bush-Cheney years that so alienated independent and moderate voters after two presidential terms of Christian conservatism.