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Opinion: Newt's Comeback Shows How Lame the GOP Has Become

Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 09:34 AM

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in Dubuque, Iowa, on May 16, 2011. (Mark Hirsch/Getty)

On Wednesday morning, I received an email with the subject line: "Newt Gingrich Moves to the Top of the Polls." A mix of emotions washed over me, the first of which was confusion. The same email — a paid advertisement from Newt 2012 over the Human Events listserve — shows a caption beneath the former Speaker's picture reading "Poll: Newt Moves Into Second."

So is he at the top of the polls or second in the polls? Fortunately, details and facts have never stood in the way of Professor Gingrich whose rambling lectures can't be slowed down by accuracy, and my confusion ceded to other reactions.

Amusement. I was convinced this was a joke. Newt's campaign was all but dead when his staff quit early on and he angered the primary electorate with his criticism of Paul Ryan's plan to cut beloved and successful public programs. And even if his campaign could find new energy in an Anyone-But-Romney cattle call, Newt's candidacy would have to confront his patriotism-inspired adultery and big paychecks from Tea Party bogeyman Freddie Mac.

So the notion of Gingrich actually rising in the polls just made me laugh.

Then there was concern: Was I in a time-warp? Or was I really still in the mid-90s and had only dreamed the past 15 years? But that couldn't be. That was an era when Gingrich actually did shut down the government as opposed to his successors who simply brought it to the brink.

That was a decade that saw him back a witch hunt over the president's marital faithlessness while courageously getting his hands-dirty with his own personal experiences of the same. That was the time that saw him resign from his leadership post and then from the House in disgrace: over hypocrisy and ultimately failure. And at best, that was a period where any economic success he claims would have to be shared with President Clinton, an instant kiss of death for conservatives.

There's no way the GOP could want to return to those roaring 90s.

So then I was left with sadness at the state of the Republican Party. They tried Bachmann, who is too busy getting government subsidies to genuinely end them. They tried Perry until he opened his mouth and nothing came out. To their credit, and against allegations of right-wing racism, they tried Cain — who has been bested not by the arrows of accusers but hosted on his own petard. The media wanted them to try Huntsman but the GOP passed. Party leaders wanted Christie, Daniels and Barbour but they sat it out.

Now, they've turned the clock back 15 years to lift up a lobbyist, revisit a retro rejection, embrace an unlikable candidate…simply to avoid Mitt Romney.

Why can't they give Ron Paul an honest second look?

Finally, acceptance. We worried we didn't have Newt Gingrich to kick around anymore. Yet he came back. Why fight it? Like a bad penny, he just keeps turning up. Like an annoying song, you just can't forget him. And, like an aging sports star coming out of retirement, he just can't win.

We always knew that conservatives would like to turn back the clock. We just thought they were aiming for the era of Reagan. Who knew they would settle for the error of Newt?

Justin Krebs is a political organizer and writer based in New York City. He is the founder of Living Liberally, a nationwide network of 250 local clubs that create social events around progressive politics, and author of "538 Ways to Live, Work and Play Like a Liberal."

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