Much as he did with his “Contract with America” in 1994, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich hopes to provide 2012 Republican legislative and executive candidates with a common purpose, a platform that appeals to the American people. He thinks the topic of Tenth Amendment enforcement could be that rallying point, the issue that touches all others and informs elected officials’ approach to governance.
That’s why, today, he launched “Team 10,” “a crowd-sourced, participatory effort to listen, learn and work with the American people, both online and in person, to develop ideas for enforcing the 10th Amendment and returning power back home.” Essentially, Gingrich wants to utilize social media, conference calls and in-person events to survey American opinion about ways to ensure a balance of power between the federal and state governments. The effort is, of course, linked to his campaign, but, on some level, it also transcends his campaign, as it taps into widespread sentiment among voters, regardless of whom those voters plan to support in the presidential election.
“When I talk about enforcing the Tenth Amendment, it’s not just Tea Parties, but there’s a broad understanding that there’s too much power in Washington, too much bureaucracy and we need to take a different approach,” Gingrich said today on a conference call.
The end product of Team 10 will be actual legislation, Gingrich said. But that a need even exists for additional legislation to enforce the Constitution says something about the state of the government and society today. (Incidentally, that’s an objection some folks make to the push for a Balanced Budget Amendment — if the president and Congress don’t abide by the Constitution as it is, who’s to say whether they’d abide by a new amendment?)
“Since the mid-1930s, the president and Congress have steadily ignored the Tenth Amendment and grown the government to an unbelievable degree,” Gingrich explained. “Prior to that … most of life was lived in your local neighborhood. Then, all of a sudden, partly as a response to the Great Depression and partly because liberals saw it as their moment to grow government, there was this huge, huge increase in government followed by Lyndon Johnson seeing the chance to create what he called a Great Society and what I would call a bureaucratic socialist state. Now, we have a third wave of that with Obama, with this extraordinary increase in the power of the government bureaucracy. What that has meant is a decline in local government, local community — and, in businesses, a decline in the freedom to direct their business as they see fit.”
A Tenth Amendment enforcement act would return some of that power to the states. This isn’t the first effort by a politician to spotlight the Tenth Amendment. The Tenth Amendment Task Force
, a project of the Republican Study Committee, has as its mission to “disperse power from Washington and restore the Constitutional balance of power through liberty-enhancing federalism.”
But what’s refreshing about Team 10 is that it gives anyone paying attention a chance to have input. Of course, given the trouble his campaign has faced, much of Gingrich’s succes will depend on the buy-in he gets from other candidates and the attention this effort receives from the grassroots. But Gingrich seems to recognize that.
“Working with Tea Party activists across the country, we want to get every candidate and politician to endorse a Tenth Amendment enforcement act,” he said. “I hope that we can get such momentum for Team 10 that House and Senate candidates will say, ‘Yes, I want to get behind this.’ … This has to have lots and lots of grassroots people.”
Hopefully he’s serious enough about this effort that he will see it through to completion — that is, to the drafting of actual legislation — regardless of how his campaign fares, which, incidentally, Gingrich still doesn’t think is faring too badly.
Even though he flat-out didn’t have the funds to participate in the Ames straw poll this weekend, the former House Speaker still sounds hopeful, citing a recent success at the Johnson County picnic in Iowa, after which reporters of all stripes declared him to have outperformed former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.