To fend off Iowa attacks, historian Newt Gingrich turns to ‘passive resistance’

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
Font Size:

Newt Gingrich is getting pummeled in Iowa. The negative attacks lodged by his rivals (and a pro-Romney super PAC) have been relentless. And there is little doubt they are having an impact. The dirty little secret of negative ads, it has been said, is that they work.

In response, Gingrich has mostly done two things: Talk about his positive ideas and complain about the negative attacks.

Gingrich said he was “disappointed in all the ‘negative junk’ and renewed his promise not to attack fellow Republicans,” reports the Daily Mail.

You might be wondering: Is this a rare example of heroic virtue — or shocking naivete?

Most likely, it’s just a matter of necessity.

It is true that Gingrich’s unconventional campaign uniquely positions him to run an especially positive campaign. He is an ideas factory; his opponents are not. This is an inherent competitive advantage.

Having said that, the notion that Gingrich is morally above launching his own negative ads strikes me as dubious. It strains credulity to believe that — were funds readily available — Gingrich would still choose to abstain.

Regardless, absent the funds, Gingrich has used the means which are at his disposal. Whether or not Gingrich — who never misses an opportunity to remind us he is an “historian” — realizes it or not — he has opted for a strategy of passive resistance.

In his controversial book, “Rules for Radicals,” liberal organizer Saul Alinsky argued this strategy is employed based on necessity. For example, in the case of Mahatma Gandhi, Alinsky writes:

If he had guns he might well have used them in an armed revolution against the British which would have been in keeping with traditions of revolutions for freedom through force. Gandhi did not have the guns, and if he had the guns he would not have had the people to use the guns.

Gingrich is attempting to lead a revolution — but is outgunned. And because he doesn’t have the resources to fight back, his only hope is to try to hang a lantern on his problem — to turn the public against his negative opponents — against their political fire hoses and their campaign truncheons…

At a recent stop in Iowa, Gingrich rhetorically asked: “Do you really want to reward politics as usual, negativity as usual, attack as usual, consultant as usual, fundraising from Wall Street millionaires as usual?”

He is employing the strategy of “passive resistance.”

Matt K. Lewis