Thursday, December 08, 2011

Will Gingrich Kill the Tea Party?

As a former Republican I shake my head daily at the lunacy that has now become the norm within the GOP. Ignorance is exalted, hypocrisy has been taken to new heights, and the rabble within the Christianist/Tea Party element of the Party seem Hell bent to destroy not only the GOP but the nation as well as the strive to move backward in time to a version of America that never really existed except in their deluded minds. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is moving forward and nations like India and China are embracing the science and knowledge that the GOP wants to discard. Enter Newt Gingrich into the GOP mix. He's the antithesis of what the Christianist/Tea Party claims to support. He's a thrice married serial adulterer - so much for the sanctity of marriage - and the consummate corrupt Washington, D.C., insider who has made a fortune playing the system. A column in The Atlantic looks at the quandary that the deranged party base faces if Gingrich were to win the GOP nomination. Here are some highlights:

Gallup finds that 82 percent of Tea Party affiliated voters deem Newt Gingrich an acceptable Republican presidential nominee in 2012. They don't seem to realize that if he wins the nod their movement is doomed, regardless of how the general election goes. The Tea Party cannot support Gingrich without betraying its core principles. But the movement also cannot disclaim him once he is the Republican nominee.

Tea Partiers with a better instinct for self-preservation would see that none of the Mitt Romney alternatives still running would be as corrosive to their cause as the former Speaker of the House.

Support for the War on Terrorism and the invasion of Iraq caused many conservatives to stay loyal to Bush. But that didn't mean they liked No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, the attempt at a guest worker program, TARP, or the Harriet Miers nomination. Especially after the defeat of John McCain, many on the right insisted they'd never again support Bush-Rove conservatism. And Gingrich supported almost all the most controversial Bush-Rove policies!

He [Gingrich] favored No Child Left Behind, an unprecedented federal intervention in education. He supported Medicare Part D, a brand new, budget-busting drug entitlement. He supported "comprehensive immigration reform," perhaps the most divisive-among-conservatives policy initiative of the aughts. He urged the passage of TARP. And he even spoke favorably about the infamous Harriet Miers nomination, a George W. Bush misstep that caused many of his most loyal supporters to rebel.

Another Tea Party talking point is its suspicion of Washington, D.C., insiders. . . . But Gingrich? He is the epitome of the Inside the Beltway insider, and not only because of his long stint in Congress. After retiring, he profited lavishly off connections he made on the taxpayer dime, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars influence-pedaling. Most famously, he got $1.6 million from Freddie Mac, the very entity that many conservatives regard as most culpable for the financial crisis. And then he had the temerity to insist that he was paid as "a historian," an explanation so transparently farcical that it can justifiably be seen as an insult to the intelligence of GOP primary voters.

As if supporting such a man weren't incoherent enough already, a movement that valorizes Joe the Plumber, family values and hockey moms is now rallying behind a long-winded former academic turned career politician with an affinity for private planes, chauffeurs, and buying Tiffany and Co. jewelry for his third wife.

Confronted with Gingrich's heresies, which are sure to spill from his novelty-addled mind regularly, they'd have to decide on their next move: leave or live with it.

Some affiliated voters won't support in good conscience a guy who favored all the things they railed against after it happened under Bush. Others will be disgusted by the revolving door cronyism, and still others will be upset that the Republicans nominated a twice-divorced adulterer (with a record of supporting an individual mandate in health care). There is a small chance that a narrow Gingrich win at the end of a long, drawn out primary, wherein his Tea Party support suffers, could result in a third party run that divides the right side of the political spectrum.

Much more likely is that Republicans, including most Tea Partiers, rally around the GOP nominee, even if it is Gingrich. That might do even more damage to the Tea Party, as it would be the ultimate act of compromising principle and ideological purity for the sake of beating the Democrats.

It would seem worthwhile in the immediate aftermath of a Gingrich win. And then President Gingrich would take office, and proceed to behave like... well, a decades-long Washington insider who supported No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, the attempt at a guest worker program, TARP, and the Harriet Miers nomination. Every conservative betrayal would be a reminder that the Tea Party helped elect just the sort of man they'd so righteously vowed to eschew. The label wouldn't stand for anything anymore.

And a Gingrich loss to Obama? In a world where the Tea Party was seen as responsible for his rise, it would be discrediting, as losses always are for the faction that urges a divisive candidate. Along with the blame game, there'd be four more years of Obama, which Tea Partiers regard as the ultimate failure. No wonder that a Gingrich win is Nancy Pelosi's dark, twisted fantasy.

It seems the Tea Party is looking at a potentially lose - lose situation. Which is fine by me. The cancer of the Christianist/Tea Party element needs to be eradicated.

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