Promises of Prosperity: Newt Gingrich vs Van Jones

In order from Left to Right: Newt Gingrich // Tom Sutton // Van Jones

Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, and Political Commentator, Van Jones, descended on Berea, OH for a debate hosted by Baldwin Wallace University. However, this debate was much different than Trump v Hillary. The theme was “Promises of Prosperity” where both, Jones and Gingrich, spoke about the current state of American politics. Gingrich, a Trump supporter, and Jones, a Clinton supporter, debated for approximately 90 minutes, while BW Political Science Professor, Tom Sutton, moderated. I must add, he was much better than Lester Holt, but I digress. The tone of this debate was much, much more positive than anything we have seen from the current election. Between Trump’s doomsday outlook on America and Clinton’s rampant inequality outlook, America seems, as though, to have an extremely dark present (and future.) Unless of course, Trump can Make America Great Again. I hope you sense my sarcasm there. Regardless, here is my in-depth recap from the night:

First, I would like to set the stage of the event. Even though Baldwin Wallace (BW) is not considered a household name, we are quite respected in and around the country (and world.) Our polls have been cited nationally, our theater and music programs are top ranked, and our athletic programs are some of the best in Division III. In addition to all of that, we often host political rallies, watch parties, and speeches. Just to name a few people who have stumbled across our quiet town of Berea: Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, Bernie Sanders, John Kasich, and now Newt Gingrich and Van Jones. So anyways, we love to be involved in the political process and love to host events for both parties. The event was held in our main gym, the Lou Higgins Center. As I walked in, I was greeted by my classmates who invited me to submit questions for the debate. Just so you know, my question was this: “Given the current election, how do you feel the two-party system is serving the country?” Unfortunately, my exact question was not asked but the gist of it was. I’ll get to that later. After BW President, Bob Helmer, welcomed the crowd, Tom Sutton, the moderator, introduced both debaters. There were standing ovations for both Gingrich and Jones. Just to give you an idea of what the makeup of the crowd was, there was every kind of person there from both parties. However, we did not argue, protest, scream out, but rather, we sat and listened to what these men had to say. And boy, did they have a lot to say.

The debate began with a question that we all could have seen coming, at least, in some capacity. The debaters were asked: If you were an adviser to the current Presidential candidates, what would be your three goals for them? Speaker Gingrich responded first with a pretty profound statement. He explained that “red tape” was a much larger problem than taxation. Then, he went into his three goals which were not all that different from Jones’. His goals were: 1) Regulatory reform — This expanded his point about the red tape and bureaucracy epidemic that has plagued DC. 2) Simplify domestic and international tax code — He brought his up, in praise of Trump, because he pointed out that we are being robbed of money when we import and export with certain countries. And 3) Paying to fix issues by opening up domestic oil and energy production. Keep in mind, these two never once interrupted each other like the circus that we saw last Monday between Trump and Hillary. Van Jones was up next where he pointed out, first, that Newt Gingrich is a legend. This was actually sincere being that they have worked together a lot in the past. Then Jones’ said one of the most profound things that I have heard in this election cycle. He said, “We have three separate rebellions going on…the Sanders voters, Trump voters, and Black Lives Matter, all caused by bipartisan elite failures.” Mr. Jones, you are preaching to the choir here because that is the best composite sketch of our country that I have ever heard. He segwayed into his three goals, which were: 1) Paid family leave and pre-k — This is something that almost everyone in the country can agree on and Jones made sure to note that. 2) Infrastructure reform — this was the same as one of Gingrich’s goals but Jones plans to pay for it in other ways rather than just in energy. And 3) Education and Human Capital — This was his biggest goal being that he believes, and I do too, that we can educate our people and make our country better. This idea of human capital was a recurring theme throughout for both sides. Van also brought up the point, that we are always fighting about education, but never do anything to fix it. Speaker Gingrich concurred.

“We have three separate rebellions going on…the Sanders voters, Trump voters, and Black Lives Matter, all caused by bipartisan elite failures.

In response, Gingrich said, ‘It’s not about college education. It’s about lifetime learning.” He then went on to rail against the current educational model that we have in place now. He is a huge opponent of the “testing” model where teachers are teaching to the test, and not to their students. This atmosphere of “Learning doesn’t matter, testing does” is what is leading to these educational breakdowns across the country. Then, acknowledging that he would be stepping on a lot of toes considering the event was at a University, he said, “Our schools are way too geared towards faculty.” He went on to cite the example of college students being forced to stay an entire year longer, just because one class was not offered the prior semester. Being a current student, this was incredibly real for me and exposed a flaw that I had not put much thought into, yet. Van Jones responded in accordance, but added another layer to the argument. He brought up the race issue in education, while simultaneously disagreeing with the “free college” idea proposed by Clinton, and most notably, Bernie Sanders. He said, “Young Sanders voters love this free, public education idea. But if you’re African American in a small, private, Historically Black College, then you’re forgotten.” This was profound because he showed that, even though free public education is tempting, it will also leave out a huge proportion of our students enrolled in private universities. Hammering the point of the price of college education, Jones went on to say that it is ridiculous that we do not let students refinance their debt so that they can pay it. Students borrow at almost 8%, a rate that is justifiable nowhere else in American society. True education reform will be achieved if these two could get into office.

“Young Sanders voters love this free, public education idea. But if you’re African American in a small, private, Historically Black College, then you’re forgotten.”

In the next segment, the debaters were asked about trade and its effects on Americans. Gingrich opened up with a pretty humble admission. He admitted that he was the Whip when NAFTA was passed and that he believed it was the right gamble to take at the time. He now sees that it has its problems and acknowledges it was a mistake. However, to his defense, hindsight is always 20/20. Gingrich also touched on the fact that the Chinese government was tough to deal with. In an anecdote, he spoke about how there was a man trying to open up a battery factory in China, but had to go through the minister first. At the negotiations, there was the Chinese minister, the man trying to open the factory, and both of their interpreters. The negotiations raged on for three years and finally came to an agreement. The minister never spoke a single word of English, so it was assumed he did not know it. As soon as a deal was struck, the Chinese minister began to speak perfect English. After the story was over, the crowd laughed but Newt drove him a point that the Chinese negotiate just to negotiate. Gingrich alluded to Trump’s opinions on NAFTA and the Chinese, in that, he agrees we need to rethink NAFTA and stop currency manipulation. With the exception of the Trump praise, Jones responded promptly with, “What he said.” and pointed at Gingrich. The crowd erupted in applause.

Van Jones took the spotlight next and brought up some extremely under talked about issues that most people are not even aware of. He brought up Silicon Valley and the technology boom that continues to grow. Jones believes that the Silicon Valley tech gurus are going to wipe out a billion jobs by creating apps, drones, and smartphones. Granted, the billion may be hyperbole, but the point is spot on. Then, he said, “You can do anything with an app, except get a job.” I found this to be interesting because the apps we use every day are the same ones that are beginning to take our own jobs. Then, touching on the jobs issue in respect to both parties, Jones said this, “If you’re a conservative and see someone without a job, your response is to say ‘go get a job.’ If you’re a liberal and see someone without a job, your response is ‘here’s a training program and a charity’ and it will be paid by someone else.” I loved that comment because he exploited flaws from both sides. Jones, with another zinger, went on to say that Silicon Valley is determining the future and Washington is helpless. The guys in Silicon Valley are moving much faster and efficient than anyone in DC. Then, to end his segment, Jones said, “The future is written in computer code in Silicon Valley, not in Washington.” All I have to say to that is, Boom.

Moving on with the theme of a broken Washington, Gingrich went on to say, “Republicans focus on the party of the winners. Democrats focus on the party of the losers. We need to focus on all Americans.” The audience received that comment extremely well and with thunderous applause. Van Jones supported Gingrich and said that he wishes our government was more functional, but he also noted that Americans are pushing through and making changes ourselves. Then, when asked what we can do to bring everyone together, Jones brought up that tax reform will be the table that brings everyone together, in order to move forward. Acknowledging the tensions in the country, he also went on to say, “We cannot let millions of Americans sit on a white-hot stove forever. The hurting start to holler and you can see that.” This was mostly in reference to the Black Lives Matter movement, and also the frustrated voters from both camps. Jones also believes that neither party is “strong enough on their own to do anything” and that the parties are “only strong enough to stop each other.” Once again, more incredible observations from these two men.

“We cannot let millions of Americans sit on a white-hot stove forever. The hurting start to holler and you can see that.”

Almost as an echo to Trump, Gingrich continued to say that the system needs to be broken up and then touched on an incredibly inept idea. In reference to the book, Coming Apart, Gingrich explains that the author thinks we have the first real emergence of a real aristocracy. Newt also agrees with that and continues on to say that the political elite are insulated from reality and do not have to deal with the consequences of the laws they implement. Citing another author, Gingrich railed against the political elite even further by calling them “intellectual, yet idiot.” The crowd absolutely loved this comment and responded with laughter and applause.

Van Jones began his segment with a statement that really hit me hard. He said, “I’m a ninth generation American but the first born in my family with all of my rights recognized by the government.” This comment drew huge applause, as it should. It showed me just how young and fresh our country truly is. He gave his entire life story and focused on how hard his father worked to put his entire family through school, including Van. Jones, who went to Yale Law school was shocked at the amount of elite and arrogant people there. He believes it has only gotten worse. He thinks that this revolving door of elite, after elite needs to stop and that real, ordinary people need a chance to “be heard, lead, and challenge.” Jones also mentioned that the people he meets at colleges and at events are “infinitely smarter than the ones we deal with in DC.” This comment hit right on with the audience and deserved the round of applause that it received. Gingrich, following the theme of political elite, spoke about how he is not a big fan of imposed sacrifice. His defense was “because it’s usually imposed by people who don’t sacrifice.” Another huge round of applause.

“I’m a ninth generation American but the first born in my family with all of my rights recognized by the government.”

Speaker Gingrich now continued to point out some utterly disappointing issues going on in Washington every single day. First, he touched on the fraudulent activity that has plagued the Medicare/Medicaid system. His first mind-blowing statistic was this: “American Express has 0.3% fraud rate, In New York State, the [Medicare] fraud is close to 10%.” That is something that is absolutely despicable in my mind. He also estimates that we would save close to $10 billion if we had American Express’ models for Medicare and Medicaid. Then, a more somber statistic about the VA that is just too powerful to throw in this sentence:

1/3 of the VA suicide calls roll over to voicemail.”

No further comment is needed there. We all know the effect that has on our society. The crowd responded to that statistic with a unanimous “whoa.”

As the debate wound down, Van Jones got the final word and had some pretty great things to say. First, he acknowledged that Gingrich is incredibly gifted at identifying “Dumb stuff the government does.” Then he even admitted this, “Liberals take too much time defending that [dumb] stuff.” Jones then touched on the “empathy gap” that exists in America. He specifically brought up Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter. He does not think that we need to pick a side. He sees young people with “more rituals for funerals than graduations.” He sees these kids know exactly what to do at a funeral, yet look lost at graduation. Then, capturing America in a nutshell, Jones said, “We’re turning funerals into football games. Like you can only cry for one side or the other.” Another round of applause. Jones then said, what I believe to be something that no one yet understands. He said, “On the Wednesday after the election, we are all still going to be here. Black Lives Matter, Cops, Trump voters…” Wow. That is a sobering thought that, I am willing to bet, no one has thought of.

After watching Trump v Hillary and then Gingrich v Jones, I must say to America, how did we let these two become our nominees? That is on all of us. Whether you voted Trump, Clinton, Sanders, Kasich, Rubio, etc., we all need to take responsibility for this debacle. People like Van Jones and Newt Gingrich need to be on that stage. As a conservative, I would vote for Van Jones in a heartbeat. If I was old enough to vote when Newt ran, I would’ve voted for him. We do not need more of the political elite status quo in Washington. We need people who are going to spark real conversation and come up with real solutions, not more red tape and excuses. Americans are fed up and that is a fact. Just look at any Trump, Bernie, or Johnson voter and you will see that. Combine those three groups and you will see a group that dwarfs the backing of the status quo. America, we need change. From the top-down. We need more people like Van Jones. We need more people like Newt Gingrich. We need more people like John Kasich. These are the ones that understand how to govern, how to lead, how to succeed. Follow in their footsteps and challenge the status quo. Get out and get your voice heard (peacefully) and most of all, do what is right. Because if we vote people into office who are going to do what is right no matter the situation, we will be alright.

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