Gingrich earned a B.A. in history from Emory University in 1965, and a Ph.D. in modern European history from Tulane University in 1971 (where his dissertation focused on Belgian colonial education policy in the Congo). He taught history, geography, and environmental studies at the University of West Georgia before winning his first U.S. House race in 1978 in Georgia's 6th Congressional District, which he would continue to represent until his retirement in 1999.
House Speakership, Contract with America, and Conflicts with Bill Clinton:
Gingrich led the movement to promote a fiscally conservative "Contract with America"
platform under which Republican candidates united in November 1994, resulting in the first Republican U.S. House majority since 1954. Gingrich, who by virtue of seniority had become a high-ranking member of the House Republican leadership, had little difficulty getting elected Speaker of the House by the new majority. Gingrich is remembered primarily for his role in the government shutdown of 1995
and the Clinton impeachment of 1998
Life in the Post-Clinton Era:
Gingrich retired in 1999 after facing ethics sanctions, followed by unexpected losses in the November 1998 national elections. His career since then has centered primarily on his role as an author books, both fiction (primarily alternative history) and nonfiction (primarily policy analysis). His most recent book, To Save America: Stopping Obama's Secular-Socialist Machine
, accuses Obama of socialism
and largely conforms to the ideology of the Tea Party movement
, though Gingrich has at times shown a far more mature and broad-minded historian's perspective.
Views on Criminal Justice Reform:
Gingrich surprised critics in April 2011 when he joined the NAACP's call
for humane criminal justice reform centering on reduced incarceration and reduced prison spending. "If our prison policies are failing half the time," Gingrich wrote, "and we know that there are more humane alternatives ... [then] it is time to fundamentally rethink how we treat and rehabilitate our prisoners." Gingrich praised the NAACP
for describing "innovative solutions that rightly emphasize rehabilitation, aim to reduce recidivism rates and fortify communities across the country that have been ravaged by mass incarceration."
Views on Freedom of Speech:
If you're a civil libertarian, Gingrich's views on incarceration reform probably sound refreshing and encouraging. Which is why you need to know that in 2006, Gingrich also, in effect, proposed resurrecting WWI-era sedition laws
as part of the War on Terror
. In a November 2006 speech, which he followed up with an editorial titled "The First Amendment is Not a Suicide Pact,"
Gingrich called for "a serious dialogue ... to ensure that free speech protection claims are not used to protect the advocacy of terrorism, violent conduct or the killing of innocents."
Views on American Muslims and Church-State Separation:
Views on Immigration:
Gingrich has made the bizarre argument
that Obama's policy platform is motivated by a "Kenyan, anti-colonial" ideology, but his actual policy platform on immigration is arguably the most moderate and sensible in the Republican field. In the first Republican debate, Gingrich criticized politicians
for proposing "catastrophic alternatives" on the issue of immigration. "[The idea that] you either have to ship 20 million people out of America or legalize all of them, that's nonsense," he said. "There are humane, practical steps to solve this problem."