Monday, January 23, 2012

Gingrich as an Outsider

According to this morning's Times, the Republican primaries are
shaping up as a proxy battle in the fight between the Republican Party’s establishment wing — in favor of Mr. Romney — and a grass-roots insurgency that, for now at least, seems to be coalescing around Mr. Gingrich as a no-holds-barred opponent to President Obama in the fall. 
The notion of New Gingrich as an outsider is puzzling at first, since he is a former Speaker of the House who used his connections to make a fortune in Washington consulting. And yet in another way it does make sense. Gingrich got started as an angry back-bencher always willing to denounce the Democrats in harsher terms than anyone else, and when the election of Bill Clinton made Republicans really angry, Gingrich was there to lead them to control of the House in 1994. That was his peak moment; once he was in power, his indiscipline and his self-righteous preening made it hard for him to govern. His House colleagues were maddened by his dishonesty and his constant shifts of position, and they eventually fired him. He was by then as hated as any man in Washington.

Republicans are really angry again, so Newt is back, seeking again to lead them. Anger was always his strong suit; what he does best is channel rage into respectable-sounding rhetoric. Being roundly hated in official Washington only adds to his outsider glamor. So Republicans who mainly want a leader who will express how angry they are with Obama, Washington, the economy, and the ongoing weakening of white power are flocking to support him.

The conventional wisdom is that Americans won't support an angry man for President. Deep red Republicans may delight in Gingrich's venom, but pundits say his intemperance will turn off the apathetic middle of the country and hand the Presidency back to the Democrats. I wonder. Certainly there is a lot of anger in America, and I can imagine laid off factory workers in Ohio giving Gingrich more support than Romney. I find the man to be more of a circus freak than a potential leader, but I am not the average American, and I only get one vote. One thing I will say is that Gingrich would need bad news, and plenty of it, to fuel his campaign; if the economy keeps improving and there are not new terrorist attacks or wars, his schtick will be marginalized, and Obama will coast.

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