By Newt Gingrich
President Barack Obama has recently experienced two very rough one-year anniversaries. Last November, at the one-year anniversary of his election victory, Obama saw decisive Republican gubernatorial victories in two states he had carried.
On Tuesday, the anniversary of his inauguration, he saw a Republican election victory in Massachusetts effectively derail his health care plans, the initiative on which the president has spent the most time, energy and political capital.
As Obama looks out to the two-year anniversary of his election in 2010, the landscape looks bleak.
Analysts like Charlie Cook are warning that 2010 could become a catastrophic year for Democrats. At best, it is going to be a bad year. Cook’s recent National Journal article made the stunning point that since World War II there have been only 12 months in even-numbered (election) years in which unemployment was above 8 percent. All 12 months were in 1982. I was in Congress then, and we lost 26 seats. This year, America will almost certainly have 9 percent-plus unemployment for the entire year. That alone bodes badly for the Democrats.
Next week, Obama will give his first State of the Union address. Between now and then, he needs to stop, rethink, recalibrate, and learn some painful lessons.
He needs to accept that the country was not voting for a left-wing agenda in 2008. Instead, it was voting out a Republican leadership it deemed unable to govern effectively.
The person the American people thought they were voting for in 2008 was a moderate who wanted to bring transparency to government and work with leaders of both parties on common-sense reform.
However, upon taking office, the president turned over massive power to Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who wrote legislation in such a stunningly partisan way that they received almost no Republican votes on any major piece of legislation.
Furthermore, the bills were often written in secret, passed without giving the American people or even Congress a chance to read them, and included special deals for big-business interests, political supporters and key senators as a way to get their support.
This clearly was not change America could believe in.
It is a mystery why Obama thought he could govern as a different person from the one he campaigned as, but he now has a chance to reset his presidency around the principles he espoused during the campaign.
No more secret deals.
No more Pelosi-Reid machine votes.
No more left-wing, Democrats-only strategies.
Republicans would be very smart to approach Obama with a series of reform proposals in health care, national security, deficit reduction and economic growth. Obama would be even smarter to figure out which of these he and the moderates in the Democratic caucus can get behind, and score an easy series of legislative victories that would help both his political fortunes and the country.
They should be small, narrowly focused bills and written in a transparent way. A good starting point would be aggressive steps to fight fraud in Medicare and Medicaid, which Jim Frogue at the Center for Health Transformation estimates costs taxpayers as much as $120 billion a year.
The left-wing leadership in the House and Senate would hate and fight such a change in course. However, moderate Democrats (and most Americans) would breathe a sigh of relief.
A year of President Obama that was more like candidate Obama could make the two-year anniversary of his election much more pleasant than his first.
Newt Gingrich is general chairman of American Solutions and a former speaker of the House.