- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 9, 2006

For over three decades now, American history has been written on the right. The crossroads confronted by conservatives have been America’s crossroads, and the path forward charted by conservatives has consistently been the path of the nation. Today, America, and therefore conservatives too — stand at another crossroads, with another set of historic choices that will determine whether we leave our children and grandchildren a country as safe, prosperous and free as the country our parents and grandparents fought and worked to give us.

Throughout the 1970s, Ronald Reagan argued that the choice faced by Americans was not between left and right but between up and down — down toward “the totalitarianism of the ant heap” or up toward “that shining city on a hill.”

In the 1990s, conservatives again spoke to the hopes of a broad majority of Americans. The choice then, as we framed it, was between the arrogance and stagnation bred of 40 years of one-party congressional government or restoring the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives.

Today, the world has been freed of Soviet totalitarianism but faces a more committed fascist-like threat from the irreconcilable wing of Islam. At home, welfare reform has proved that even the poorest Americans can make their own futures, but other government programs continue to make people worse off the longer they stay in them. For example, children covered by Medicaid are nearly six times more likely to be treated for severe obesity than are children with private insurance.

As before, our choices aren’t necessarily easy, but they are simple. One path leads backward to decline and defeat. It is the path of government dependence at home and American surrender abroad. It is the path led by the rich and powerful who stood and applauded the president’s State of the Union admission that Congress failed to pass a plan to save Social Security. It is the path of those who put party politics above controlling our borders; who embrace the easy illusion of protectionism over the hard work of competition. The path of those who would surrender self-government to the rule of judges and exchange property rights for government confiscation, religious freedom for sterile secularism, and freedom of speech for supposed campaign finance reform.

The other path is the way forward, toward winning the future. What does it mean to “win the future”? It means to chart a course, as Ronald Reagan once said, that “will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth.” It is the path of limited, effective government at home and an unapologetic defense of American values abroad.

The way forward will be led by those who understand that the problem in Washington isn’t merely Jack Abramoff; it’s a government so powerful and bloated that a special-interest group would decide it is worth their while to spend $80 million to hire Jack Abramoff. It is the path of those who believe a balanced budget is not only a financial imperative, but is a moral imperative because massive government is inherently corrupting. And the way forward is the path of those who know that true compassion lies in not sacrificing the well-being of the poor for the well-being of the bureaucracy; of those who understand that there is something profoundly wrong when the federal government’s largest single health program makes poor children less, not more, healthy.

All of Western civilization joins America at this crossroads. Abroad, the path of defeat and decline is followed by those who would censor our civilization on behalf of the fascist tyrants of the irreconcilable wing of Islam. It is seen in the pathetic weakness of governments that accept lectures on tolerance from theocrats who oppress women and outlaw all religions but their own. It is the path of those who would prop up Hamas with financial contributions while Hamas remains committed to terrorism and the destruction of Israel; those who ignore Iran’s genocidal intentions, despite the clarity of its leader’s rhetoric; and those who would abandon the people of Iraq to butchers, bombers and beheaders.

There is a better way — a way forward toward a future that defends American values and preserves American civilization. The path toward winning America’s future abroad begins with a few simple but resolute steps. Formally protest the lack of freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia. Isolate Hamas until it renounces terrorism and the destruction of Israel. Demand complete onsite inspections of nuclear facilities in Iran. Support Iranian democrats. Force the Syrians to stop aiding terrorists in Iraq. Withdraw American troops from Iraq as victory permits, not as advocates of appeasement demand.

Twice before we’ve stood at the crossroads, and twice before conservatives have led the way forward to greater safety, prosperity and freedom for all Americans. Today, the stakes are higher than ever before. Our fellow Americans are once again looking to conservatives and asking this question: What are you doing to win the future?

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of “Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America.”

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