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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Newt Gingrich first made his mark in the dawning era of cable news, when the combative Georgian captured a generation of young conservatives’ hearts and minds. Now the man who rose to become Speaker of the House and then fell from power is back again. And as another marquee debate performance showed on Saturday, his surprising climb to the top of the Republican presidential field is best understood as stemming from coded appeals and historical references targeted to the older white voters that make up the grassroots of the Tea Party movement.

Facing direct scrutiny of his marital problems, occasional breaches of conservative orthodoxy, and lucrative post-congressional career in Washington, Gingrich was calm and poised at the next-to-last Republican debate before the Iowa caucuses next month, his demeanor that of someone in control of their destiny and confident of achieving a special place in American history.

One of his opponents, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (who rode the wave of the 1994 Republican Revolution), no doubt boosted Gingrich’s appeal by doing what the candidate himself has done all campaign: He reminded Republicans why they fell in love with Newt in the first place.

“When I was first running for office, you know, Newt Gingrich was the guy whose tapes I’ve listened to as a young man… He laid out a vision for conservative governance that I adopted and ran with in a very, very tough congressional district outside of suburban Pittsburgh, so tough that no one gave me a chance of winning it.”

That Newt delivered the GOP from forty years of congressional exile when he led them to retake the House of Representatives in the ’94 midterm elections cannot be stressed enough — and despite his years of scandal and high-priced Washington consulting, recent polls show that his strongest support comes from Tea Party members and seniors, exactly the kind of people who would remember his failures.

But asking Newt Gingrich to successfully pander to the Republican Party’s conservative base is like asking Mitt Romney to fix the cash-flow of a struggling supermarket chain. He’s good at it because he’s done it for decades.

“We found in our research that Tea Partiers at the grassroots level are older white people who actually approve of Social Security and Medicare and veterans benefits, but they’re very worried about public benefits for immigrants,” said Harvard Professor Theda Skocpol, who with two graduate student colleagues interviewed dozens of activists in the Greater Boston Tea Party and polled their membership on a variety of national issues. This is probably why Rick Perry’s talk of public education for illegal immigrants caused him more Tea Party trouble than Newt’s apostasy on Paul Ryan’s Medicare privatization scheme.

“Of course, Gingrich also has another thing going for him with older white voters: they remember his glory days,” Skocpol added.

Rather than sabotaging him or even openly opposing his candidacy, most GOP members of Congress who didn’t get along with the former Speaker have held their fire. Too many rank-and-file Republicans retain fond memories of a dynamic, bold, and powerful leader for them to make moves against him.

“In the living memory of conservatives, there are three high-water marks: the election of Ronald Reagan, the ascendance in 1994 of Republicans controlling the House, and the Tea Party movement,” said Rick Wilson, a veteran Florida-based GOP consultant.

“Those for conservatives are the three moments that they look at and go: ‘This is where we were doing it right.’ And in a very significant measure, Gingrich’s mark is on that middle piece and [Tea Party issues] are things he’s very comfortable talking about.”

His political career began during the school busing fights and economic malaise of the 1970s, when appeals to the white “Silent Majority” of Americans that began in the Nixon years were becoming increasingly central to Republican political strategy. He knows and loves the racial code of “dog-whistle” politics, stoking resentment against minority groups while retaining a veneer of politeness and decency. He even met with former President Nixon himself repeatedly in the ’80s and early ’90s to plot a Republican resurgence.

In an echo of the “welfare queen” rhetoric that Ronald Reagan used on the campaign trail in 1980, Gingrich was always sure to incorporate culture war issues into his messaging. In 1988, he lectured conservative Republican candidates, “Notice the power of the word ‘gay’ versus the word ‘homosexual,’ and notice how it changes the whole dynamic of the discussion.”

As a Republican strategist who worked closely with Newt put it to Connie Bruck of The New Yorker after the GOP took the House, “Newt grasped the essential cultural revolt. Middle-class people are not against rich people — they’re against funding poor people. People are sick and tired of people of color having illegitimate kids and spending money on drugs and creating crime.” This time around, Gingrich seems to have decided to target Americans making use of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps. Since the recession hit, use of the program has skyrocketed and become less taboo. But Gingrich sees an opening, as he made clear in a recent appearance on CNBC.

“We are going to have the candidate of food stamps, the finest food stamp president in American history in Barack Obama, and we are going to have a candidate of paychecks,” he said.

He clearly hasn’t lost that intuitive ability to appeal to the frustrated, white, older conservatives that make up the core of the Tea Party.

“Republicans have found the best anti-Romney,” said Sidney Blumenthal, whose tenure as a senior advisor to Bill Clinton overlapped with some of Gingrich’s time as Speaker of the House. “Boiled down to its essence, it’s resentment. For Gingrich, his great talent is to voice and reflect resentment.”

And now he is now doing what Romney never could: reminding Republicans of the heyday of the modern conservative movement in the mid 1990s, when the right was winning the culture war and Bill Clinton was signing reactionary legislation like the Defense of Marriage Act, denying federal recognition to same-sex relationships.

“He pulled off this historic coup,” said Julian E. Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton and an expert on Congress. “He made conservatives a force in the Republican Party, and in some ways conservatives are forever grateful and appreciate that he delivered for them.”


Follow Political Correspondent Matt Taylor on Twitter @matthewt_ny

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Copyright 2011 The National Memo
  • fordneri

    It also doesn’t hurt that the Tea Party has a large number of recovering acid heads from the 60s and 70s as it’s base. We all remember how these people cooked their brains, found religion and turned conservative. Newt is taking advantage of their willingness to be led. First it was selling peanuts in airports. Now it’s selling their families to corporate, religious and political enslavers.

  • Hankk

    It’s not over until the fat lady sings. Just keep watching the crowds when Newt is there, just may find his next wife’s face right there in it. hankk,MI

  • doc4cd1

    BTW most of the 1960s weirdo-hippy-freaks did NOT become conservatives. Second, the Tea-Party is not Conservative it is Radical Reactionary…at best. That older White men are impressed with Gingrich is a testament to their lack of insight. These older folks should remember what “scape-goating” is all about (think Gypsies, Communists and Jews in the 1930s….Germany….Hitler and his followers….DUH). Tag some group as the cause of the problems the public faces and keep harping on that and pretty soon the people have had their collective attention diverted from the real problem. In this case, it is NOT “illegal aliens” that have caused the problems in America. It is the Reactionaries belief that government (regulations that control banking and mortgages and corporate behavior and social security and medicare) is bad. All of the things I have mentioned, parenthetically, would stop the Reactionary rape of the Middle Class and return some semblance of equity to our social and financial structure. Gingrich is the shining example of a personality disordered, egocentric shill. He does not believe in anything other than his own agrandizement and financial well being. This is a man that served divorce papers to his wife, in the hospital, while she was dying of cancer. Shoot the bast–d, don’t elect him President. Anyone who is that cold hearted will clearly put his own self-interest before ANYTHING else. There is NO EXCUSE for what he did!!!! Evangelicals support this man…..if Gingrich meets Christ in Heaven…count on it….warp speed transfer to Hell.

    I seem shrill because I am deeply troubled as to why the Middle Class keeps electing Republicans to office.

  • mezzie57

    I completely agree with everything you’ve said. Newt tried to get one of his marriages annulled after producing two children? who does that? He didn’t want to pay child support. How anyone could think this man has any principals at all is beyond me. He pushed harder than anyone in D.C. to have Clinton impeached meanwhile in the backseat of his lovers car he was getting his head stroked while his wife sat wondering where the hell he was. Newt is the worst possible choice for any office let alone a presidental post.

  • theuglytruth

    Ok it’s time to tell the truth. The republican party are the party of ego!!! They are for one thing collectively and that is their own self angrandizing, self centerd and self loving selves. They have given up all compassion in a bargin with the devil (newt, rush, savage, hannity, O’reilly, trump etc)that allows them to give generously to them selves (Intellectually), while they pooh pooh any and all other peoples who don’t look like them (White) don’t think like them (ignorent) or live like them (in glass houses) and why the media and the social scean don’t want to say any of this has me courious as to how far our country has dipped into the well of of forgetfullness. look to the past and you will see where the people live.

  • jcurtis595

    Newt will say and do anything to achieve wealth and power. He is truly and totally unprincipled and unscrupulous. His personal life is an example of a true sociopath. In an article by Robert Mathews in 1997, several of his 18 questions to identify a sociopath, based on academic research, were ” 2.Do they frequently manipulate others to achieve selfish goals, with no consideration of the effects on those manipulated?’ and, “4. Do they have an air of self-importance, regardless of their true standing in society?” “10. Are they quick to blame others for their mistakes? ” “14.Are they sexually promiscuous? ” “15.Do they have a belligerent, bullying manner? ” “5.Have they no apparent sense of remorse, shame or guilt? ” “3. Are they cavalier about the truth, and capable of telling lies to your face?” I submit that serving his wife with divorce papers while she is dying of cancer in the hospital, blaming his infidelities on stress from working too hard for the American people, pandering to the fears and angers of the most ignorant, prejudiced, and and angry people in America proves he is, indeed, a psychopath classified as a sociopath, egomaniac. We need a president of some humility and who seeks to bring out the best in all of us to achieve unity in our nation. If Newt were dictator of America I’m sure we would see gas chambers and death camps and scapegoating of numerous minorities. The fact that our constitution might prevent him from exercising his real agenda doesn’t mean he would be good as President. He would be a disaster for the poor, the middle class, ethnic, racial and social minorities and all sane, responsible Americans. Having no ethics whatsoever (fined $300,000 by congress) is not a qualification for the Presidency, and lie as he has to claim this leopard has changed his spots and “come to Jesus” hopefully the American people will see his insincerity. There is a good reason that Newt’s third wife won’t let him stay on the road overnight without her. Wanna guess what it is? Could it be SHE DOESN’T TRUST HIM ? Lincoln said, “You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all the people all the time.” Lets hope he was right.

    Jay Curtis (Author of THE CODE)

  • dpaano

    I’m a white, senior adult, and I DON’T like Newt. I know people like to “bundle” groups up all the time, but I know several older seniors (white) who won’t be voting for the Newt (or ANY Repubican for that matter). I’m hoping that most of us know the difference between an idiot and someone we can trust (President Obama). There isn’t a SINGLE Republican candidate running today that could instill any trust from my point of view!!

  • metrognome

    Newt is a self-serving, pandering, hypocritical, lying jerk. Why anyone, even an ultra right-wing Tea Partier could believe a word he says is just totally beyond my comprehension. And I’m an old white guy.

  • bigsurmac

    Newt is the perfect Rural Georgia politician.

    First AND ONLY U.S. Speaker in history to be censured (398-26), kicked out of the speakership and forced tor resign his seat by his own party. CONSIDERING normal low lives of congressman, that was slightly serious.

    Had a long-term adulterous affair with a young worker in his House office, until his first wife was diagnosed with cancer.
    Presented divorce papers to Wife ONE in the hospital. Quickly started another affair with another office aide and had the best of two worlds until Wife TWO was diagnosed with MS, while he was still in that affair.

    Whereupon, Rewty Tewty NEWT handed Wife TWO divorce papers so, you guessed it, he could marry for the third time — To his NEW young office staffer mistress.

    Of course, geting caught in dozens, if not hundreds of ethics violations, for the famous Contract ON America Speaker and then getting kicked out of congress was really a blessing.

    Rather han slinking back to his burrow in Georgia, Newt stayed in Washington, down on Rich Lobbyists’ Row, and became — according to Newt — a historian.

    In fact, he became a $1.6-Million historian for the head guys at Fannie May and Freddie Mac. Mind you, Newt would neer consider engaging in Influence Peddling or Lobbying –he was merely “Rich Loffyists’ Row’s” premiere Historian.

    Word is, his twenty year career of not lobbying from Rich Lobbyists’ Row” apparently NETTED Ol’ Georgia Boy Newt somewhere in excess of $40-Million.


    Romney should have included Newt in his $10,000 bet challenge to “Brains Perry.” “Let’s see, there are three reasons Newt should be president. He divorced two of them, and han’t given up.

    Why do you think he wants to become president —

    Just imagine how many White House interns with D-Cups would be working there with Newt.

    Just imagine, wha kind of historical help Newt would be able to provide if he became an ex-President. As the censured and booted out Speaker, he’s been getting $60.000 per half hour. For twenty years.
    He might match Reagan’s $1-Million and $2-Million per speech.
    Just consider his value as a historian!!!

  • mr rational

    Dude, you need to get your facts straight. It was all us old acid heads that brought about civil rights for minorities women and gay people. We are the ones that set America free from its white bread born again Christian straight jacket. We are the one’s that expanded America’s mind to the point where an African American president was even conceivable.

    As an aging acid head. I am thoroughly offended. The tea party is made up of a bunch of drunken red necks and pseudo Christians.

  • Scott-Roney

    mezzie57 wrote, “Evangelicals support this man…if Gingrich meets Christ in Heaven…count on it….warp speed transfer to Hell. I seem shrill because I am deeply troubled as to why the Middle Class keeps electing Republicans to office.” Ha! Couldn’t agree more.

  • Hankk

    If I’m thinking right, didn’t Newt swear to GOD when he had all 3 marriages? But what he did to the first 2 doesn’t matter to the Evangelical’s and long as he swears to them? It seems to me something is really wrong with this picture? Now has he traded in his born again Cathloic faith, to now become a born again evangelical?
    Has anyone seen # 4 lurking around somewhere? hankk, MI

  • CharlesM.Hill

    You said “There is no excuse for what he did!” You were implying that he delivered divorce papers to his wife on her death bed.
    Fact of the matter is that is not true at all. When he went to see his wife in the hospital it was to take his daughters to see their mother in the hospital. His wife was the one that wanted the divorce. On top of that every other statement you made about Newt Gingrich is the opposite of the truth. You sound like some snot-nozed youngster still wet behind the ears who thinks he know everything and actually knows nothing. You probably learned what you believe about Newt Gingrich on the the internet from people who don’t like him or are on the opposite side of politics from him. When you speak about people and their careers, do it with some creditability. Do some research and learn what you’re talking about. Smearing people because it seems that they are some evil force to your ideas is evil on your part without actually knowing what you are talking about. Live a little longer before you smear people and their reputations. I may be wrong about your age but I know I’m not wrong about your ignorance.