Everything Old is Newt Again


I’ve taken some time off for real life this week – that oddly embodied and sensate earthly manifestation so much more vivid than Cyberlife. It’s been a trip. I kinda liked it, so – I don’t know – worldly.

Still, I have received communiqués from that way station between the two worlds – political news – and word has reached me that our Gingrich, like a cosmic marker, is in ascendance. (“Stay indoors. Make no new plans. Trust no one.”)

Among those attributes that seem to have lifted Gingrich in GOP primary voters’ esteem – among the clownish failings of most of the other GOP contenders – are his articulate and nimble debating skills and his intellectual froth: the Newt is always bubbling with “ideas.” He is framed as the GOP’s ideas man, an actual intellectual among the mental diminutives aligned with him on those many stages. However, articulate is to voluble as the liquid is to froth, and Gingrich is far more the latter in both comparisons. His ideas are rarely innovative or deeply conceived, though they come in a rush of words, and they are frequently striking mostly for their challenge to conventional moral thinking and good sense. It was Gingrich who attempted so publically to capitalize on the equally lightweight Dinesh D’Souza’s characterization of Barack Obama’s supposed anti-colonial Kenyan world view. Anti-colonialism in this attack, mind you – an opposition to colonialism (particularly of one’s own ancestral nation) – was offered up as a troubling political inclination, even an un-American one.

Most lately, Gingrich has decided that the twentieth century drive to eliminate most forms of child labor was mistaken – and that child labor would be a good for those otherwise good-for-little-else poor kids.  Offer such ideas with the worst kind of arrogant professorial volubility and, as Bill Maher notably pointed out on his show a few weeks back, an insistent use of the word “fundamental” – to suggest that the deep thinking is ever probing to the origins of social error, as with misguided bans on child labor or opposition to colonialism – and you get among the most conventional thinkers around, Washington journalists and political reporters, to anoint you an ideas man.

Amid all this Newtfoolery, it is ever worth recalling that it was Newt Gingrich who decided back in the 1980s that decades of comity between Democrats and Republicans was a political detriment, and who, through the creation of the Conservative Opportunity Society in 1983 and the successful 1988 campaign to drive Democratic House Speaker Jim Wright from office, strove to end it. We may trace the current state of near total disrepair of the federal legislature to the events in this period and the doughy demiurge behind it to New Gingrich.

For a confused electorate desperate for some kind of change and evolution away from current dysfunction to turn, of all people, to Newt Gingrich would be not only ironic, but an error – to choose a word – truly fundamental.


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