Re 3: GOP’s Circular Firing Squad: National (Newt Gingrich) Edition
For over half a century now, the norm of American government has been autopilot increases in the size and cost of government. To stop this, before the country goes irreparably broke (if we aren’t there already), someone is going to have to successfully build a consensus around the idea that a different normal is possible. However, moving a nation away from practices that have been in place for multiple decades is not easy. This makes me potentially sympathetic to the reasoning for supporting a Newt Gingrich‘s candidacy discussed by columnist Jonah Goldberg…
Mitt Romney is still the sensible choice if you believe these are rough, but generally sensible, times. If, however, you think these are crazy and extraordinary times, then perhaps they call for a crazy, extraordinary — very high-risk, very high-reward — figure like Gingrich.But given the criticisms just offered of Mitt Romney and Ron Paul, can it clearly be said that Gingrich is obviously a better option? In terms of specific policies, Gingrich hasn’t been an example of rock-ribbed consistency in the last decade, having gone through some sudden changes, for example, in his positions on global warming and an individual healthcare mandate since the last Presidential election. Given that record, the same worries that apply to Romney apply to Gingrich too — no one can be 100% sure of which big-government programs he might choose to eliminate or drastically reform, and which he might choose to simply “manage”. And while he’s never given a policy answer that is as mind-numbing as Paul’s explanation of his simultaneous support for and opposition to earmarks, he does share with Paul the fact that his style of presenting his thoughts seems to be much more constant than the thoughts being presented (though, in Gingrich’s case the changes occur over time, while in Paul’s case the underlying philosophy is something of a jumble at any given time).
Convincing the country that a new normal must be achieved is going to require actively persuading a lot of people both inside and outside of government to support something that’s very different from Washington’s two favorite solutions to any problem of “let’s spend more money on existing bureaucracies” and “let’s create new bureaucracies to oversee the old ones”. Gingrich, on his good days, is as effective as anyone at explaining why something different is necessary. But on his bad days, he is equally as capable of scaring people away from reasonable ideas. And even if Gingrich truly has “evolved” in his decade and a half outside of government and is better able to moderate his penchant for potentially damaging outbursts, there is a legitimate political question of whether he has already alienated too many people over his lifetime to ever be effective (assuming that he already hasn’t alienated too many people to ever be elected).
Finally, this analysis of Gingrich sits upon the idea that his most recent changes in position are his final ones, meaning that it can’t be ignored that what has moved Gingrich back towards some of the conservative positions he had drifted away from has been his quest for the GOP Presidential nomination. Would a President Gingrich continue to hold the more-conservative positions, after securing the Presidency? Pondering the answer to this question raises another pragmatic question in turn: if you believe that some energy will need to be spent by the grassroots to remind Newt Gingrich to stay conservative and prevent him from getting sucked back into inside-the-beltway thinking, what is it that’s Gingrich’s advantage over Romney again?