Thursday, December 15, 2011

Republican Ragnarok

"Why can't they love me?"
He is not a nice human being. He is a bad person when it comes to demonizing opponents. When he puts on his political helmet he is a terrible person…. Let me tell you something: the Republican establishment will never make peace with Newt Gingrich. They just won’t. They won’t. This is an important point. Because the Republicans I talk to say he cannot win the nomination at any cost. He will destroy our party. He will re-elect Barack Obama, and we’ll be ruined. --Joe Scarborough, former Republican representative and television talk show host

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These remarks, made by Joe Scarborough, who served as part of the House Majority when Newt Gingrich was Speaker in 1994, are not atypical of those made by national conservatives.  Take a gander through the remarks made by other right-wing pundits.  You'll see phrases like "hubristic volatility," "prevaricating," "unstable," and "temperamentally unsuited for the presidency."

Obviously, Newt Gingrich isn't getting a lot of love from Republican intelligentsia.  The general sentiment among such folk is that a Gingrich nomination would mean disaster for the Republican party. 

"Why can't they love me?"
But there's a problem. Mitt Romney, the only viable Republican alternative, is anathema to grass-roots Republicans.  Check out any political forum on the internet.  Conservatives use terms like "RINO" (Republican-in-name-only), "neurotic," "committed government spender," and "too slick and well packaged," to describe Mitt.

All of this makes apparent the fault line that exists between the upper and lower factions of the Republican party.  The upper faction, the pundits and op-ed writers and king-makers, are terrified at the thought of a Gingrich nomination.  The lower faction distrusts Romney's motives and his character. 

Republicans are in a fix of their own making.  After years of incendiary rhetoric, vilification of political opposition,and shrill insistence on ideological purity, Republican demagogues have convinced the GOP base that there can be no compromise; that alternate political philosophies are not just misguided, but evil.  Well, they sold that message very well, apparently.

If we can believe the polls, Newt Gingrich is, at this moment, the favorite to win the Republican nomination.  Newt gives voice to all the vitriol and contempt that grass-roots Republicans have for Democrats, Muslims, gays, and anyone else who is not a grass-roots Republican.  Romney, a former blue state governor, a consensus-builder and a man who seems reluctant to vilify, cannot pass the ideological litmus test that the GOP base requires. 

The real irony is that Newt Gingrich, with his long, ugly history of political flip-flops, over-the-top rhetoric, and unscrupulous opportunism, merits not a whit of trust or confidence from anyone.  (Just ask his ex-wives.)  But like any mob orator, he says nasty, ugly things about people.  And that's what the GOP base wants.  His positions on the various issues are beside the point.

We're less than a month from the Iowa caucuses and the GOP is divided into bitter, distrustful camps.  For now, the knives are sheathed, but what might happen next is anyone's guess.

Will the fat lady sing?  Will she invoke Republican Ragnarok? 

We'll see soon enough.  But whether it happens in January in Iowa, or some other time at some other place, the GOP is in for a bout of nasty internecine blood-letting.  It couldn't happen to a nicer group of people.

1 comment:

Sal said...

Brilliant post.  Thanks.