In what other field would I have to write this post? Where else would we find a Republican Party so bereft of leadership that its voters (and elites) would actually consider Newt Gingrich as a viable alternative to Romney, and a plausible Republican nominee? We should be so lucky as to have him win, but it’ll never happen. So, let’s have some fun.
The root of Gingrich’s appeal is (apparently) his “intellectual,” well-thought out, and detailed explanations of his particular beliefs. From the influential PowerLine blog:
But beyond handicapping the primary campaign dynamics, Newt is doing something interesting and maybe profound: he is trying to run for president according to an older model that stresses substance over sound bytes and gimmicky, targeted campaign strategy. (Hence the emphasis on Lincoln-Douglas style debates that de-emphasize the place of the media questioners, among other things.) It is a bid to see whether presidential politics can still be conducted along the line of the old republic that would be more familiar to the Founders, to the style of public argument more akin to what Hamilton had in mind in talking about “refining and enlarging the public view” through “reflection and choice” in Federalist #1.
That’s certainly how Gingrich sees himself, with his promise of daily debates against Obama. Now, granted that Newt can string a thought together, support his beliefs with the appearance of evidence, and speak coherently on matters of national importance — all of which puts him head and shoulders above Perry and Cain. But that basic competence, the absolute minimum we should expect of all candidates for elected office, is also the limit of the disgraced Speaker’s depth. You might as well report a crime to a guy dressed as a police officer at a Halloween party (or to Gob Bluth) as ask Newt Gingrich for smart solutions to America’s problems.
Remember, this is a candidate who believes exactly as many crazy things as the rest of the field. His only accomplishment, and exclusive distinction from the rest, is that he attempts to ground the same hopelessly flawed arguments in a distorted picture of history. Gingrich still wants to functionally end the Supreme Court as we know it (pdf), by abrogating the power of judicial review as somehow contrary to the founding generation’s vision for the country (actual quote: “There is no Supreme Court in the American Constitution.”). He still thinks American values have absolutely no bearing on how we conduct ourselves in the war on terror. He would happily repeal (or somehow urge states to “nullify”) everything from Social Security to the Endangered Species Act. He still uses race to divide the country and says patently offensive, inflammatory things about the President at every turn — he just uses polysyllabic words to do it. He pioneered the tactic of casting one’s political opponents as traitorous, un-American scum, which is certainly clever, but it’s also evil. And he compares everyone and everything everywhere to Hitler. Seriously. Here’s a list.
In Newt Gingrich, the Republican Party has absolutely found the advocate most able to cloak a backwards, revisionist, extremist social agenda in convenient, plausible lies. Maybe his patented mix of distortion and ignorance passes for knowledge in this primary field, but it shouldn’t pass for intellectualism. Republicans like Gingrich have made a cottage industry of talking about history and the law, but that doesn’t make them scholars, just as Bill O’Reilly’s hilariously flawed “history” of Lincoln doesn’t somehow put him on the same footing as Doris Kearns Goodwin. Concerning yourself with serious things is not the same thing as actually knowing what you’re talking about.