WASHINGTON—As former President Donald Trump flirts with announcing a run to retake the White House, his loyalists gathered in Washington for the America First Policy Summit, where a key speech suggested that Trump was part of something larger than himself.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich traced Trump’s policies to those of the 1994 Contract With America which he led after the Republicans seized the House for the first time in four decades. He then traces the America First policies further back to Ronald Reagan’s presidency and the agenda Reagan advocated as early as 1965.
“We were standing on Reagan’s shoulders,” he said of the 1994 policy platform.
Gingrich spoke Monday to the 1,200 attendees at the America First Policy Institute, a group set up in 2021 to continue the work on the Trump agenda. The AFPI summit features more than 150 leading conservative voices, including present and former members of Congress and high-ranking administration officials. Trump will deliver Tuesday’s keynote speech.
As Republicans try to win back Congress, Gingrich called on them to run “a big campaign, not a small one.” The former speaker said the campaign should be based on the serious questions facing Americans, such as rising food and energy costs, a crime wave aggravated by progressive prosecutors, foreign policy weakness, and schools disregarding parents’ wishes about what their children are taught.
And they should ignore Democrat distractions, like Raphael Warnock’s attack ads on Herschel Walker in Georgia’s Senate campaign or the Jan. 6 investigation, which he called “a Stalinist show trial disguised as a Congressional hearing.”
Americans are tuning out the latter, he said. They want the larger questions of the day addressed. Republicans can win when they do that, take a united stance on them and commit themselves publicly, he added.
It worked in 1994, and it worked earlier when Reagan not only swept into office in 1980 but showed coattails long enough for Republicans to take the Senate for the first time in 26 years.
Reagan had gathered all the Republican candidates on the Capitol steps before the election to commit to the platform, and it worked. At his first Cabinet meeting, Reagan plunked down a thousand-page document from the Heritage Foundation and said, “This is the policy of my administration.”
“And they hired most of the 250 (experts) who had written the report to actually go execute the report,” Gingrich said.
The AFPI’s agenda lists basic principles reminiscent of the Contract With America. They include items like “make America energy independent,” “provide safe and secure communities so all Americans can live their lives in peace,” and “deliver peace through strength and American leadership.”
Gingrich said these goals come less from Republicans than from what the public wants. The principles poll well, often with around 80 percent approval.
The first time Gingrich ran for Congress in 1974, he learned a fundamental rule from Reagan. “Find that 80 percent issue, stand next to it, and smile.” Broadly popular principles can’t be eroded by media opposition.
The crowd responded well to it.
“I’m a big believer in having a vision,” Chuck Williams, former Assistant Secretary of the Navy under Trump, told The Epoch Times during a break. “That was the whole concept of the Contract With America. It means a lot to me.”
Sticking to that kind of vision might convince disillusioned Democrats to side with it, he said. “This is not just about an individual.”
The policy initiative seems to offer Republicans a way out of post-Trump divisions within the party, appealing to the party’s establishment and MAGA factions alike, and giving Republicans a place to go whether or not Trump decides to run.
Speaker after speaker, though, reminded the crowd of Trump’s work on these policies and what the nation looked like under a leader who delivered prosperity at home and strength abroad.
Former national security adviser Keith Kellogg, a retired lieutenant general, emphasized that America First is not isolationist. Instead, it supports projecting strength abroad while demanding that foreign policy first be shown to benefit Americans.