“That is simply factually false,” Gingrich declared. “The Detroit schools are the third or fourth most expensive schools in America. They’re a disaster.” Washington, D.C., schools — perhaps the most expensive in the country — don’t languish because of racism, Gingrich explained. They’re bad because D.C. “has an incompetent bureaucracy, a failed model of education, a unionized tenured system. It is utterly resistant to improvement. That has nothing to do with racism.”
He noted that when Newsweek asked Oprah Winfrey why she went to South Africa — and not south Chicago — to open a girl’s school, she responded: “I became so frustrated with visiting inner-city schools that I just stopped going. The sense that you need to learn just isn’t there. If you ask the kids what they want or need, they will say an iPod or some sneakers. In South Africa, they don’t ask for money or toys, they ask for uniforms so they can go to school.”
Gingrich probably agrees with the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan more than any other leading conservative. “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society,” Moynihan observed. “The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.” Yet, a constant theme of Gingrich’s career is a desire to use government to fix the culture. Indeed, there’s no Republican in the field with a more robust faith in the power of government.
That’s the irony of the Gingrich surge. All of these GOP voters and Tea Party activists who once supported Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain and are now flocking to Gingrich seem not to have noticed Gingrich’s progressive bent.
The primary season began with a race to see how much of the government we could send back to the states. We’re now in the phase where the GOP front-runner is proposing janitorial reform in the schools.
— Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You can reach him by e-mail at [email protected], or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2011 Tribune Media Services, Inc.