For African-Americans and other minority citizens, it is “totally authentic to be angry,” declared Newt Gingrich, a former Republican House speaker. The “horrible institution” of segregation ruined the lives and crippled the future of African-Americans, not to mention Native Americans, he added.
In an hour-long address at the American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Gingrich touched on a few points brought up by Senator Barack Obama during his wide-ranging speech last week on the state of race in America.
I do think there’s an authenticity and legitimacy to anger by many groups in America. Senator Obama said in his speech, quote: “That anger may not get expressed in public in front of white co-workers or white friends, but it does find voice in the barber shop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition.”
I think that that’s right. And I think it’s important to recognize that anger can be a source of energy to create a better future, in which case it’s a good thing. But if anger is a self-inflicted wound that limits us, it is a very bad and a very dangerous thing. And we have to be very careful about the role that anger plays in our culture.
But then Mr. Gingrich took a sharp right turn from Mr. Obama’s train of thought.
“Tragically what has happened is that cultural and political leaders have used anger as an excuse to avoid reality, as an excuse to avoid change, as an excuse to avoid accountability. Because everything that is wrong is somehow somebody else’s fault,” Mr. Gingrich said.
Mr. Obama needs to embrace solutions that are usually scorned by the left wing, Mr. Gingrich said. To balance out ethnic gaps, educational bureaucracy needs to be eliminated. Inner city high school students should be offered the chance to graduate in fewer than four years to avoid being bored. Teachers should push the “drum beat for entrepreneurship,” because historically, ethnic groups have risen by starting their own businesses.
Mr. Gingrich sent out a reminder to his liberal friends to not forget the lessons of Detroit, where a big bureaucracy and little incentives for business have created a exodus from the city. He proposed offering new businesses that move into Detroit the go-ahead to operate tax-free for 10 years. Look at Ireland or South Korea, he said, as examples of success stories where the economies were turned around by lower taxes.
Mr. Gingrich said his comments were not meant to be an “answer” to Mr. Obama’s speech, just the beginning of a “serious conversation on our country’s future.” The former speaker told The Caucus that he “of course” hopes that also will include Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain.
“But Senator Obama’s the one who had the courage to start the dialogue, and that’s why I was responding to him — because I thought he had made a very thoughtful and very serious speech,” Mr. Gingrich said. “But I would hope that Senator McCain and Senator Clinton would in fact engage at the same level.”