A Conversation with Newt Gingrich: Respecting the Other Side

Illustration by Ben Murphy
Illustration by Ben Murphy

Last week, I read Trump’s contract with the American voter while preparing for my interview with former Speaker of the House and potential future Secretary of State, Newt Gingrich. I feverishly researched to find questions that would not exhibit any sort of bias. With my long hair and Colorado College education, I didn’t want Gingrich to immediately write me off, and I also did not think it would be fair to my listeners to lean towards one side or the other.

The more I researched our newest president, the more I was appalled. I wanted to ask Gingrich questions about Trump’s promises in his Contract with the American Voter that would destroy the environment. Trump claims he will “lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas, and clean coal,” lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward, and finally, “cancel billions in payments to UN climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.” These measures would effectively put us in an irreversible path to damage our planet past the point of no return. How could Gingrich vote for a man who disregards scientific consensus with such hubris?

Other gems in the contract will certainly lead to international fall out and great economic volatility. Trump “will announce [his] intention to renegotiate NAFTA or withdraw from the deal under Article 2205. [He] will announce our withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. [He] will direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator.” Does Gingrich, who could soon be negotiating these deals, really not see great international backlash and potential fallout with China by taking these aggressive stances?

The questions seemed too incredulous; Trump’s contract was filled with many more of these vague promises that don’t seem realistic to carry out in the first 100 days of his presidency. Given Trump’s complicated relationship with honesty, I doubted whether people would believe he would deliver. I was confident that the American voter would not elect a man who thinks it’s wise to encourage countries such as Saudi Arabia and Japan to develop their own nuclear weapons. One who denigrates and brags about sexually assaulting women. A man who bankrupted his own business four times and was the first presidential candidate in the last 40 years to refuse to release his tax returns.

I listened to Gingrich reference the Icelandic, Austrian, and Filipino elections, explaining how populist campaigns were bucking the political establishment. Still, I was skeptical. These were elections on a smaller scale. Iceland doesn’t even have half a million people. Plus, Gingrich peppered the audience with his humor and sharp wit, but also with scare tactics and exaggerations to defend his conservative point of view. He deflected major threats to our country like climate change by spouting off the ludicrous idea that there was a legitimate chance an ISIS suicide bomber would trigger a nuclear bomb in the middle of New York City. He thinks this threat is greater than the millions of Americans and billions of global citizens that will be affected by global climate change. The problem Gingrich refused to admit was that climate change was already causing both national and international turmoil.

On Wednesday, I walked into a somber class. As a college-educated American, a demographic of which the majority opposed Trump in this election, I believed the majority of America would see through his fear-mongering, separatist rhetoric. I trusted the media, some sources so confident (I’m talking to you, Huffington Post, with your 98.7 percent chance of Hillary Clinton winning the presidency) that their blatantly lazy and bandwagon journalism was headachingly appalling once my post-election hangover finally struck. I lost confidence in a lot of publications I’ve read since I first learned how to read. The New York Times predicted a Clinton victory since the beginning of the general election. Clearly their reporting was flawed and biased. Besides their formal endorsement, they added fuel to the Trump propaganda machine by continually putting out hit piece after hit piece that only added to ‘the media is against me’ narrative his campaign mastered quite early.

As Gingrich said, Trump was held to a different standard than his opponents and people continually forgave transgression after transgression.

Regardless of the patent absurdities in Trump’s contract to the American voter, he is our president. He does in fact have the support of the Senate and the House, the first time since 1928. He will elect a new Supreme Court justice. The people have chosen to believe short-term relief, mainly fueled by hatred, racism, and misogyny, will lead to long-term prosperity. Impulsively voting on ones insecurities—what could go wrong?

We need to remember and respond to the injustices the Democratic Party levied on Bernie Sanders. We need to rid Washington of the corruption that was unearthed via WikiLeaks. We need to educate all Americans on the struggles people of color, those in the LGBTQIA+ community, and all marginalized communities face as Americans. And most importantly, we need to listen to the other side without judgment. We can’t label 50 million people in our country as racist bigots. We need to hear the needs of those who are disenfranchised and angry, and try to educate those who are bigoted. We must try to understand the experiences that have fueled their anger, so that the Trumps of the future can be thwarted. Trump spoke to a part of America that we in the CC community do not often identify with. We need to reconcile and compromise, to bring back partisanship on a local level first before it ever reaches the White House, rather than ostracizing one another.

Going back to my interview with former Speaker Gingrich, I ended up picking questions that I thought my audience would want to hear but also that he would legitimately answer. Although I disagree with him, I treated him with respect so that our time would be as productive as possible. I respect Gingrich’s scrutiny, his tenacity, and the fact that he enjoyed and appreciated specifically speaking at a liberal school like CC. I disagree with his view on the world, American politics, and especially social politics, but I still enjoyed my time interviewing him. And if Gingrich reads this article, although he would disagree with much of what I’m saying, I think he would respect my right to write it. I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience besides my own as a cis, white male. If I was an immigrant, a minority, or a Muslim, I would be absolutely incensed and utterly afraid. As a proud feminist and a Jew, I can empathize. Trump’s last ditch ad that pandered to the neo-Nazis of this country was directed at me and embraced by Rocky Sufrayda, the president of the American Nazi Party. The only way to quell said fear in the long-term is to embrace dialogue and debate, respect one another, and show the other side that we are all humans, we are all Americans with an equal say in who we elect, and most of us have compassion and empathy in our hearts.

Zach Zuckerman

Zach Zuckerman

Zach Zuckerman is an English major on the film track and a Journalism minor. His journalism career began when he covered the Mets during the 2015 World Series as an independent study. An avid listener of podcasts, Zuckerman launched the radio journalism section of the Catalyst in the spring of 2016.

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