To Democrats, moderates, progressives, liberals and independents, i.e. 60% of America; it is, indeed, a confusing political time. While many of us want Obama to win re-election, most of us concede that any incumbent President running for re-election with 8.5% unemployment is highly vulnerable and likely to be defeated. So it just seems weird that that the Republicans don’t seem to be treating this whole election-thing seriously.
What’s going on?
Yes, Obama is vulnerable. But the Republicans are flocking to Newt Gingrich. A man with near 100% name ID among likely voters and near 60% unfavorable ratings. 60%! It’s almost as if Obama pulled a reverse Watergate, broke into the GOP headquarters, drugged the chairman and had a Mission Impossible style replacement mask put on James Carville who took over things just to screw with Republicans.
But that doesn’t quite seem plausible, so here are two other theories.
1. Insanity rage. Anyone beyond a certain age has known friends or family members who were perfectly sane and rational for their entire life and then simply snapped. If it can happen to individuals, it can happen to an entire political party. Sometimes severe trauma can do it. Sometimes it’s just blind rage. We’ve all seen people who are so blinded by rage in a bitter divorce that they reject the mild mannered, efficient lawyer who can draw up a quick property settlement with minimum fees and hassle. Sure, their ex-spouse will get a lot, but your friend will get more this way than if any other way is pursued. By contrast, there is the person who says, “I don’t care if I have to spend 150% of my $5 million network! I don’t care if I become homeless and have to beg on the streets for the rest of my life! I would rather starve to death than give my spouse a single penny!” So this person hires a lawyer who is skilled at lengthy depositions, hiring private eyes, and firing lots of nuisance law suits. Mission accomplished. Ex- spouse gets nothing. Your friend ends up bankrupt and living in a box on the street.
In this scenario, Republicans are so filled with intense, utter blind rage of Obama, all they care about is finding the one person who can attack, vilify and trash-talk Obama the most forcefully. Well, no one can seriously dispute that Gingrich is uniquely talented for that. Republicans hate Obama so much all they care about is inflicting pain. That’s why they don’t care about any of New Gingrich’s shortcomings. That’s why the various so-called family values coalitions rally around the thrice-married, serial adulterous Gingrich against the once-married, idyllic family man Obama. That’s why Tea Party members who hate career politicians who get rich off of lobbying and stay in Washington for 35 years don’t care about Gingrich's Freddie Mac contracts.
News Flash: it just doesn’t matter! Newt Gingrich can publicly marry 5 wives at the same time, he can have a live pay-per-view webcast sexually assaulting an underage boy paid for by the National Endowment by the Arts and it just won’t matter. The only thing that matters is hating and trashing Obama, and Gingrich is the best there is among official candidates. Of course if Republicans really had their way, the ticket would be Ann Coulter/Rush Limbaugh in 2012 (who knows, maybe a brokered convention will create that ticket).
Republicans are taking the attitude that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And since Obama is the enemy and Gingrich trashes Obama better than anyone, Gingrich is Obama’s worst enemy therefore Gingrich is the Republican’s #1 friend.
2. The second scenario has a slightly different beginning, but then blends into the same result. In this scenario, the cause of Republicans flocking to an unelectable scoundrel like Newt Gingrich is the result of Republicans now living in a hermetically sealed bubble. This is a media bubble, geographic bubble, religious bubble, and social bubble.
First, the media. Thanks to the continued rise of Fox News, and conservative websites, plus the steady influence of talk radio, it is now possible for a person to be a news junkie, consider himself to be extraordinarily well-informed, and NEVER hear anything positive about President Obama. In the conservative media universe, where most Republicans now get most of their news, the dominant world view is that President Obama is the worst president in the history of the country. Obama is the most corrupt, least talented and most disastrous leader in the history of the world. Obamacare is the single worst act of public policy ever created. Obama is a foreign-born Muslim socialist who through some fluke slipped into the White House accidently. Now that his hideous flaws have been revealed daily for almost 4 years, Obama will be voted out of office, perhaps by a 95% margin, and sent back on a boat to Africa, where he came from and where he belongs.
It is now possible to hear that worldview perpetuated from a variety of media sources that (if you are a conservative Republican) you trust and admire. Furthermore, it is now easy to surround yourself with friends who all share your beliefs. And everyone at your Christian, suburban, white, Protestant church shares your worldview. And everyone in your neighborhood does too.
So imagine a world where every single trusted media source from the Wall Street Journal, to Fox to Newsmax all agree that Obama will be easily defeated because he is the worst president ever. And every friend you have feels the same. And everyone you work with feels the same. And everyone at your church feels the same. Suddenly, it becomes quite difficult to imagine any reality in which Obama is not the worst President ever and destined to an electoral defeat of epic proportion.
In this bubble, the whole concept of a GOP candidate’s “electability” seems quaint and, frankly, irrelevant. In this view, Newt Gingrich is eminently electable because any and every Republican over the age of 35 and born in America (ha, take that Obama!) is electable.
Electability is relative. Since conservatives cannot conceive any circumstances where Obama could b e re-elected, then of course Gingrich is electable. In this sense, Gingrich is “thin” for a presidential candidate, if your comparison pool consists of William Howard Taft and Newt Gingrich.
So why can Romney never be acceptable to a majority of Conservative Republicans today? Quite simply, the problem with Romney is that he does not hate Obama. Romney isn’t willing to call Obama a monster. For Christ’s sake, Romney isn’t even willing to call Obama a socialist or a communist! (He only hints at it). The problem conservatives have with Romney is that they suspect, deep down, that Romney secretly likes and respects Obama and that is the most despicable thing they can think of in a GOP presidential candidate.
Conservatives believe that Romney is bland and milk toast candidates like that don’t win elections, because they end up like John McCain and Bob Dole. So to the conservative Republican trapped in the conservative bubble, Romney is actually less electable than Newt Gingrich. And all the polls that show Romney is eminently more acceptable to moderates, independents, and conservative Democrats? They all come from the liberal media and conservatives are too smart to fall for setup tricks from the evil liberal media!
So what do conservatives really want? They want a debate between Obama and Gingrich. And in that debate, they want Gingrich to turn to Obama and sneer “Please get your skinny black ass back on a boat and go back to Kenya where you belong. And don’t even think of stepping back into the White House again unless you are willing to swap your grass skirt for a butler’s uniform so you can fetch me my tea!”
This is what conservatives mean when they say Gingrich can “beat” Obama in a debate. And when Gingrich does deliver that sound bite, he will have won that 40% of conservative America forever. He will be their lord and savior. But in the process, Gingrich will alienate every single moderate, independent, and conservative Democrat in the nation, thus guaranteeing an Obama landslide victory along with a Democratic sweep of the House and Senate and a possible Democratic re-alignment that could last a generation.
Some of you may be asking, isn’t there the chance that conservatives simply have policy differences with Obama? Uh, no. this is entirely personal. Regarding foreign policy, Obama has killed Bin Laden and largely continued Bush’s wars and fight against terrorism. Liberals have a problem with Obama’s foreign policy, not conservatives.
What about domestic policy? Obama repudiated what every liberal asked for: a single-payer government run universal health care plan. Instead, Obama enacted the Nixon health care plan along with all of the Heritage foundation-advocated mandates. As former Reagan Administration official, Jack Kemp-Ron Paul adviser Bruce Bartlett has written, Obama has governed like a “moderate-conservative Republican.”
No, the problems Republicans have with Obama are not political, they are personal (and yes, racial).
So what should Democratic supporters of President Obama do these days when having conversations with Gingrich-supporting Republicans? Here is what I recommend:
1. Whatever you do, don’t tell them we want them to nominate Newt Gingrich and that we think Gingrich will be really easy to beat because he is the most detestable national political figure of the last 20 years.
2. When Republicans say “Newt is a great debater and will destroy Obama in the fall debates,” just smile and say “Newt sure has done well against Romney and the others in the primary debates.” Do not point out that if Newt bashes the media or attacks Obama as the “food stamp” president in a fall debate that he will look like a complete ass to the independent voters who will decide the election.
3. When more headlines pop up claiming that Gingrich has 60% unfavorably ratings and is, in fact, less popular than Charles Manson, Republicans will counter that this is just liberal media spin and that, in fact, Newt is highly electable. Bite your tongue. Do not correct your Republican friends. Instead, simply say, “Any incumbent running at a time of high unemployment will have a hard time winning re-election.
4. When Republicans ponder who Newt should pick as his running mate, please suggest Ann Coulter, or, better yet, Sarah Palin! If you are going to go over-the-top, go all the way!