The Gingrich Fantasy

Our conservative readers (and yes, there are some) might be interested to know how liberals view the rise of Newt Gingrich to a clear lead in the race for president, and the answer is, we're gobsmacked. We just can't believe the Republican Party would be foolish enough to nominate a man who has so many weaknesses and is so plainly (from our perspective, anyway) repellent. We're not at all surprised to see the GOP establishment freaking out over the prospect of a Gingrich nomination (witness George Will employing every florid turn of phrase he can come up with to condemn Gingrich: "There is almost artistic vulgarity in Gingrich’s unrepented role as a hired larynx ... His Olympian sense of exemption from standards and logic ..."). The fact that the average Republican voter now seems to think that nominating Newt will work out well for them just makes no sense.

Someone recently said that Republican voters are acting like they're auditioning not presidents but Fox News personalities. Primary voters want someone to channel their rage, their resentment, and their hatred of Obama in the same way that Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity do. Mitt Romney doesn't make the kind of television personality that the other candidates do. The key to delivering the contempt over the airwaves is that you have to believe it, and while Mitt is happy to serve up the red meat, it's pretty clear he doesn't actually believe it but is giving his audience what he thinks they want to hear. All the other not-Mitts, for all their modest talents, clearly believe it. And yesterday, conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat made what I think is an important observation about the latest not-Mitt, Newt Gingrich:

IN 2004, the Democrats were furious at what they considered the fraud to end all frauds: the selling of George W. Bush as a decisive military leader and all-American tough guy. So they nominated John Kerry for the presidency, hoping that having a real combat veteran as their standard-bearer — a bemedaled war hero, no less, who began his convention speech by announcing that he was “reporting for duty” — would finally expose Bush as the tinhorn chicken hawk that liberals believed him to be.

The conventional wisdom holds that Mitt Romney is the John Kerry figure (a Northeastern flip-flopper with good hair) in the 2012 Republican primary field, with his various challengers auditioning to play the more exciting role of Howard Dean. But Newt Gingrich’s recent rise in the polls is being sustained, in part, by a right-wing version of exactly the impulse that led Democrats to nominate Kerry: a desperate desire to somehow beat Barack Obama at his own game, and to explode what conservatives consider the great fantasy of the 2008 campaign — the conceit that Obama possessed an unmatched brilliance and an unprecedented eloquence.

If you aren't tuned in to conservative media—the radio shows, television shows, and websites where the base Republican voter lives—you might not be aware of how powerful this impulse is. Many conservatives are positively obsessed with the idea that contrary to all appearances, Barack Obama is kind of a dolt. There's lots of talk about how Obama only got into Columbia and Harvard Law School because of affirmative action (you may remember noted highbrow intellectual Donald Trump making this claim), and endless jokes about Obama overusing teleprompters, with the idea that he's too dumb to give an extemporaneous speech sometimes implied and sometimes stated outright.

So many conservatives have a fantasy that if they nominate their own smart guy, he'll show the world that they've been right all along, that Obama is really a numbskull whom people only believe is smart because the liberal media sing his praises. Gingrich himself is well aware of this, which is why he's happy to play into it by challenging Obama to a zillion debates and saying, to the laughs and cheers of the crowd, "If he wants to use a teleprompter, that would be fine with me."

Newt may be, as Paul Krugman recently said, a stupid person's idea of what a smart person sounds like. But to many Republicans, Newt offers the opportunity to not just defeat Obama but to expose him as a fraud. In truth, he's probably capable of doing neither. But don't tell his new supporters that. In Newt they are beginning to see the possibility of Obama being humiliated. And that could be a fantasy too delicious to resist.

Comments

Then there are the Republicans who are so only because the Repubs are the only party that shows even a faint hope of a promise of nominating a president who will appoint to the SCOTUS someone who will put even the slightest crimp in the ongoing wave of grossly unConstitutional Fed bureaucrazies the Republic has been saddled with, starting early in the 1900's and metastasizing from the 1960's onward, rationalized by a ridiculous interpretation of the Commerce and General Welfare Clauses. These agencies have promulgated a host of economy-killing regulations that are doing us in. In this respect, Mitt and Newt are about as likely as any of the Repub contenders, and will probably pick from the same pool as GB did, eventually. We might get lucky and get another Clarence Thomas.

I'll admit, it's not very likely, but it's a hope; the only realistic one the Republic has, since the sovereign of the nation, We the People, are clearly uninterested in our own foundational Law. We couldn't care less what the Constitution says. This does not end well.

A Letter to the Editors of Thew New Hampshire Union Leader Newspaper:

Dear Union Leader,
When I heard on the news of your endorsemen­t of Newt Gingrich for president, I was truly surprised.  A couple of times over my long career in media production I have visited New Hampshire.  The Yankee ancestors of our nation were always on the faces of the people there.  

The people of New Hampshire deserve a candidate for president who strives for the good of the nation.  The people of New Hampshire are proud, noble and independen­t.  
It appears that the voice of the people of New Hampshire, the Union Leader is now only a crude follower.  Fox News is your muse.  The New York Post is your comfort. Rush Limbaugh is your panacea and your antidote for reality. Limbaugh­'s clone, Gin­grich is clearly not interested in benefittin­g our America.  
Over his entire career as a politician­, Gingrich has never done anything but grandstand for whatever will gain him more money and cheap status.  His record is identical to many other egoists in political history.  Gingrich'­s malicious works can lead only to more dissolutio­n of our democracy and our shriveling into irrel­evancy in our perilous world.  

How can you not see this?  How insulated from the world you must be?  
While America sleeps the Union Leader sleeps.  

Good night my once dear New England friends, 
Martinshushu

What world does SOTMHK live in that he thinks LESS regulation would have prevented the global economic meltdown caused by deregulation of the financial industry? And the current SCOTUS is the one that has committed the sophistry of pretending that corporations have opinions that need First Amendment protection. He's wrong-headed on both of the points he attempts to make.

I think Newt is a tougher nut to crack than most Dems imagine. He's skilled at delivering the rhetoric that excites conservatives and I think he can rally the Republican base into a frenzy of working their fingers to bone for him. He'll remind them he led the Republican revolution of 1994 and he'll remind them he led the battle against the hated Clintons. He was the anti-Clinton and he'll be the anti-Obama. Unlike say Mitt Romney who is entirely too slick to be the anti-Obama, Gingrich's rough and ready style contrasts so markedly with Obama, the Republican base will eat it up. Newt fits into the pre-existing conservative narrative - they lost 2008 by nominating the not really conservative McCain, they won 2010 by running hard to the right so they'll win 2012 by being even more hardline conservative. Newt can be that man. He'll turn into an apocalyptic battle between good and evil, between freedom and socialism, and even if he turns off everyone except the Republican base, he still emerges a storied hero who led them into a losing battle against the cynical machinations of the secular socialist Muslim forces trying to destroy America. We'll hear stories of our how he lost due to massive voter fraud, or was destroyed by unfair tactics by Democrats.

The President's legendary no drama stance will reassure most Americans, but that's not what the right wants. They want to storm the Bastille, launch a revanchist revolution and roll back a century of history. Newt already sees himself as world bestriding figure, a modern Robespierre. Win or lose, he emerges a hero to the American right for daring to lead them in this crusade. Win and he vanquishes the hated Obama and reclaims America for the right. Lose and he becomes a legendary hero who led them when no one else would could in a valiant rearguard right against a nefarious enemy. And the election becomes cultural and political trench warfare.

It's going to be a rough year.

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