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College Republicans host Newt Gingrich

| Thursday, April 16, 2015

Officers of Notre Dame's College Republican club host Newt Gingrich for dinner in South Dining Hall on Wednesday.Annmarie Soller | The Observer

Officers of Notre Dame’s College Republican club host Newt Gingrich for dinner in South Dining Hall on Wednesday.

Former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich spoke at the Notre Dame College Republicans’ annual Lincoln Day speech Wednesday evening, focusing on the 2016 election and the future of American government as a whole.

Gingrich spoke to an audience of both adults and college students, but said he hoped to specifically address the undergraduates in the crowd throughout his speech.

“I’m going to talk some about where [American government is] and what we’re doing,” Gingrich said. “And I do so with particular focus on the younger audience here, because I think that this generation has the potential for being the most creative generation since the founding fathers. The reason this is happening is because the world is changing so dramatically, and the U.S. needs to profoundly rethink what our policies are, what our institutions are, and how we work.”

As the world changes, some move forward while others continue to hold to the past, Gingrich said.

“There are people out there who, for a variety of reasons, are pioneers,” he said. “They’re pioneers in science, they’re pioneers in the arts, they’re pioneers in business. They just have this instinct. And then there are people who are prison guards of the past. And they think their job is to stop the pioneers.”

Gingrich said the U.S. government has been acting in a “prison guard” role — using outdated methods and ascribing to outdated ways of thinking. As an example, Gingrich discussed the different ethnic groups in Afghanistan — one of which is the Pashtun. This group is important to U.S. foreign policy but is never considered on its own by the State Department since it cannot be defined by clear state borders, Gingrich said.

“We don’t think about what’s our Pashtun policy because that would cross across the nation state boundary and the State Department thinks about states,” he said. “But if you think about states, that can be profoundly misleading. So it turns out that the recent killings of Christian students in northern Kenya by Al-Shabaab was not done by the Somali branch of Al-Shabaab, it was done by the Kenyan branch of Al-Shabaab.”

As society moves forward and technology advances, the U.S. government needs to reform itself to be more efficient, Gingrich said. As an example of U.S. governmental incompetence, Gingrich compared the speed of an overseas ATM to the inefficiencies of simple government tasks.

“It takes 177 days to move a record from the Defense Department to Veterans Affairs. … We’re getting to a point where you can’t defend systems that are this incompetent,” he said.

Gingrich also defended recent Republican struggles to capture minority voters. He said the party is beginning to have more success in capturing Latinos and Asian Americans. Gingrich said he hopes the Republican Party will put diverse candidates like Marco Rubio in the spotlight in 2016.

“In Colorado this year in the U.S. Senate [race], the Republican candidate tied with the incumbent,” Gingrich said. “In Texas, the incumbent carried the Latino vote; the Republican candidate, though, carried male Latinos and barely lost female Latinas. The fact is, for the first time since 1992, we carried Asian Americans this year, and there’s a practical reason if the economy’s bad … and you don’t trust where we’re going, you make [decisions] that you’re not going to fit into any of the demographic models that political science studies say you’re supposed to fit.”

Gingrich said Republican candidates have begun to win these groups because they care enough to “show up” — to be involved in their communities.

“A Republican party that has the guts to show up is going to carry groups, and we’re going to win groups,” he said.

Ultimately, to win the 2016 election the Republican Party will have to focus its own platform of change and reform rather than simply criticizing its opponent’s, Gingrich said.

“The Republican party needs to spend two-thirds of its time being positive, and one-third of its time describing its opponent,” he said. “But if we become a party that spends all its time describing its opponent, we put this election at a real risk because people do not want a completely negative party that has no ideas.”

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