It is Newt Gingrich’s turn on the Republican presidential candidate carousel that has seen Donald Trump, Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain rise and fall in a few short months. For some reason, the conservative punditry hive mind is collectively suggesting that the carousel may stop with Gingrich on top. Whether it’s their weariness with the poll swings or comfort with a familiar face, I can’t say for certain. It isn’t conservatism.
What the former speaker would likely attribute to broad-mindedness is a public life fraught with contradictions, scandal, turbulence and, at times, outright apostasy in the eyes of most conservatives. On illegal immigration, global warming and Obamacare’s signature individual mandate, Gingrich hasn’t reached across the aisle. He has joined the opposing camp. Gingrich’s broad mind has convinced itself that whatever it is currently pondering is, by definition, conservative.
And therein lies the coming fall of Newt Gingrich: he’s unlikable.
I can say that with certainty because I don’t like him. I haven’t liked him since he twice endorsed Dede Scozzafava, a pro-union, pro-abortion, Working Families Party-approved candidate, on national television in 2009. In a very close election, Gingrich’s endorsement likely cost the GOP a congressional seat that the party had held since the Lincoln administration. But if you stop and think about it, you don’t like him either.
Yes, conservatives like Newt’s gravitas. Whatever the topic, he comes off as instantly credible. We admire his intelligence. We even sometimes cheer at his righteous anger and oratorical vivisections of debate moderators. But those points dance around the issue.
It would be convenient if the electorate were comprised of educated, well-informed people. It’s not. The truth is that many Americans who don’t care about politics check the news in late October every four years and vote on what they see. National elections often boil down to likability, and Gingrich is too arrogant to be likable.
For instance, in 1992, he described himself this way in a note he wrote to himself: “Advocate of civilization, defender of civilization, teacher of the rules of civilization, arouser of those who form civilization, organizer of the pro-civilization activists, and leader ‘possibly’ of the civilizing forces.”
He seems to have become even more confident recently. Last week, he told Jake Tapper of ABC News that he had the nomination wrapped up. “I’m going to be the nominee,” he said.
Even his supporters must have gasped when he said that. I didn’t see the interview, but I imagine that, after the remark, he lifted a glass of sherry to his lips, lit a Macanudo with a hundred dollar bill, then scolded his butler about some insufficiently polished mahogany. To be the nominee in our party, you have to win votes, right?
On another occasion, Gingrich explained that he’s not a natural leader, because “I’m too intellectual; I’m too abstract; I think too much.”
Newt wears arrogance like a zebra wears stripes. He is imperious, um, always. I imagine he snores condescendingly. He has a short fuse and an explosive temper. He smiles like a jack-o-lantern and laughs like a patrician when he should be apologizing or retracting. He’s often dishonest and has a limitless capacity for obfuscation. And he’s a serial divorcee. The man is unlikable.
I shouldn’t need to make this argument. In an age where both the left and right are clamoring for something new, Gingrich should be automatically disqualified by the weight of his resume. But it’s December and Newt is at the top of the polls. On television, the word electable keeps being said, as if it ever had any meaning but to disqualify worthy Republicans. Conservatives are feeling a little desperate, and they feel they have to hitch their wagon to someone. It shouldn’t be Newt.
It’s difficult to ignore everything you know about Barack Obama’s destructive agenda and political malfeasance to see what the non-political voter sees: a rags-to-riches success, a nice guy and a devoted husband and father. He may not have the common touch, but, if you are what you do, most Americans have more in common with Barack than with Newt.
Let the carousel spin.
Yates Walker is a conservative activist and writer. Before becoming involved in politics, he served honorably as a paratrooper and a medic in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.