The election of Donald Trump marks the third great effort to break free from Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal system that has dominated American government for more than 80 years.
The first effort to overturn this bureaucratic establishment was Ronald Reagan in 1980.
The second was the Contract with America in 1994, which resulted in the first Republican majority in the House in 40 years.
As I argued in my speech at the Heritage Foundation this week, the third great effort is the movement that Donald Trump now leads.
In all three cases, the elites were contemptuous, the polls were wrong, the propaganda media was relentlessly hostile, and the American people threw out the establishment and the Left to their great shock.
In the first two waves–Reagan in the 1980s and the Republican Revolution of the 1990s—the insurgents accomplished a great deal in a short time but the left-wing, bureaucratic establishment outlasted the popular surge and the old order took back power.
The Trump surge is larger, deeper, and more energetic than the first two waves. It really began in 2010, and although it was undermined by an anti-populist, unaggressive presidential campaign in 2012, it grew stronger again in 2014 and 2016.
At its core this movement is about the American people reasserting control over an arrogant and corrupt political establishment that is both failing and failing to be held accountable.
The Trump surge has the potential to profoundly shift government and society from the New Deal-era big government, bureaucratic, redistributive model to an America based once again on decentralized power, work, optimism, and the effort of individuals, communities, and small groups.
Movements of big change require many activists, but they tend to be built around one personality: George Washington in the American Revolution, Andrew Jackson in the first era of populism, and FDR in establishing big government.
If Trumpism succeeds in replacing the 80-year-old bureaucratic model of government, there is no question who will be the defining figure.
Donald Trump is the only person ever to become president of the United States without first holding public office or having served in the military. In this respect, he is by definition unique and worthy of study.
He has an extraordinary combination of energy, business experience, drive, optimism and courage that make him the best chance in a lifetime to reinvent government.
These qualities are also reflected in President-elect Trump’s cabinet, which the press derides for having real world experience, business acumen, energy, toughness, and records of accomplishment that make them unusual cabinet nominees.
So far, the president-elect has nominated one of America’s greatest retired generals for Secretary of Defense, the CEO of the world’s largest company as Secretary of State, a woman who has spent her life fighting for school choice as Secretary of Education, and a world-class pediatric neurosurgeon who grew up in poverty and speaks with moral authority on the crisis of our inner cities as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
These are extraordinarily impressive people who understand how to achieve things in the real world. The press, which has been consistently wrong about everything this year, would like to brand them as unqualified radicals. That they are far more likely to bring change to Washington than the typical establishment cabinet should be obvious to most Americans–and it is exactly why Donald Trump was elected.
These nominees must understand, however, that they are on the front lines of the fight for change. The Departments and agencies they lead will seek to absorb them and outlast them. That is why it is so important that this new leadership is backed by a movement–millions of Americans who will help them and also hold them accountable.
Newt Gingrich, a Republican, was speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999. He is the author of the new novel “Treason” (Center Street, October 11) and co-author, with his wife Callista Gingrich, of “Rediscovering God in America: Reflections on the Role of Faith in Our Nation’s History and Future” (Center Street, May 17, 2016).