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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Newt Wins SC - Which Is Flat Out Nuts

Jan 22nd, 2012

There's a line from Robert Towne's "Chinatown" screenplay that sums up Newt's victory in the South Carolina GOP primary perfectly:
"Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all get respectable if they last long enough."
Gingrich is, after all, two out of these three.

While some pundits are still treating this as a horse race, the latest Newt "surge" is more significant.

His victory yesterday is a disaster for the Republican party. In no uncertain terms, it further exposes the divide between the party's base and the national electorate. I predicted the win and wrote about that HERE. Also, in spite of Romney's sizable lead heading into the Florida contest, this is a big bounce for Newt. This win will keep the coffers filled and the attack rads running.

Daniel Larison registers his disbelief:

"As a politician with connections in Georgia, Gingrich may have had some advantages in South Carolina that the other candidates didn’t have, but that isn’t much of an explanation. I suppose there was bound to be some backlash against Romney somewhere, but it’s a shame that it came in the form of elevating the government-expanding, warmongering lobbyist disgrace once again. What’s the message here? “We don’t like the rich moderate, so we’re voting for the disgraced hypocritical lobbyist instead”?

Romney can be a dishonest demagogue, but Gingrich is the one who thinks (or pretends to think) the “Kenyan anti-colonialist” theory about Obama makes sense. Many Republicans are unenthusiastic about Romney, but far more people nationwide can’t stand Gingrich. Romney has a record of trying to have things both ways on many issues, but as far as I know he has never been on both sides of a major issue within the same month. Gingrich has that unfortunate distinction. Gingrich isn’t going to be the nominee. The Republican primary electorate can’t be that stupid."

No, they can't. What they can be, however, is utterly consumed with the kind of hatred for a sitting President our country hasn't seen since Kennedy. The similarities are striking. That JFK was not "taking orders from Rome" or secretly working for the Kremlin never dented the wild and conspiratorial conjecture that was common in places like, well, South Carolina.

Although I agree with Larison that Romney is still almost certain to be the eventual nominee, Sullivan is not so sure:

"This is the Republican crack-up people have been predicting for years. Gingrich is on a roll. I think he can win this - and then lose this in a way that could change America history. That is a brief impression in one moment of time. But I cannot see Romney winning this at this point. They are just not into him, and he's an awful candidate. "

It certainly is a "crack-up." I think this goes deeper, though.

Newt has made the claim that he is fighting against "elites" while simultaneously (and endlessly) referring to himself as an "historian." Frum has a good quip about that:

"My Dem friend Rich Yeselson asks: "Can you imagine if Barack Obama mentioned that he'd been president of the Harvard Law Review as often as Newt Gingrich reminds us that he taught history at West Georgia College?"

Parsing the inherent hypocrisy misses the point. When Paul Krugman famously snarked that Newt is "a stupid person's idea of what a smart person sounds like," everyone got a chuckle. What went unexamined is why that's actually dangerous.

When Newt the "intellectual" panders to the basest racial stereotypes, the take-away for some in the GOP base is not, "hey, he thinks like us." Rather, it's "hey, we were right all the time."

His supposed bona-fides are re-legitimizing the dissemination of the worst sorts of falsehoods predicated on ethnic, gender and regional differences.

Erick Erickson seems to be enjoying the results:

"In every way in the last two weeks, Romney has signaled he won’t fight for the base. He looks like a lost child when trying to answer the taxes issue. He couldn’t stand up to Santorum in the debate. He sounds every bit like Gordon Gekko, not Milton Friedman, when he talks Bain and free markets.

Basically, today’s vote is about Republican grassroots giving the Washington Republican establishment the finger. The base is angry, and right now, only Newt is left to fight for them, as imperfect as he is. We may still end up with Romney, but voters aren’t going to let him have it easily."

Erickson is usually smarter than this. He seems not to realize just how crazy this really is.

John Podhoretz, on the other hand, summed it up perfectly when he tweeted last night: "Kind of fascinating to see a political party flirting with marching collectively off a cliff."

You might find that hyperbolic but this is what the national numbers say about the current face of the Republican brand.

One more time...


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