The Real Newt Gingrich?

by Vince

This reminds me of Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly – do they truly believe what they spout and support or is it all a political choice that brings them many benefits (money, for one!):

A few years later, having fathered two children with his high school math teacher (whom he had married at the age of 19), Gingrich returned to Georgia and launched his electoral career, running for Congress in 1974 and again in 1976. His incumbent opponent was John Flynt, an old-fashioned conservative Democrat best known for being on the League of Conservation Voters’ “Dirty Dozen” list of environmental reactionaries. Unlike many Georgia Republicans who sought to out-flank Dixiecrats by coming across as better-bred right-wing extremists, Gingrich ran to Flynt’s left, emphasizing environmentalist and “reform” themes, and enlisting significant support from liberal Democrats. Unfortunately for him, these were the two worst election cycles for Georgia Republicans since the 1950s (the Watergate election of 1974 and Jimmy Carter’s Georgia landslide of 1976), and he lost narrowly both times.

But then Flynt retired, just as Gingrich’s form of liberal Republicanism was falling out of fashion nationwide, in the run-up to Ronald Reagan’s election as president in 1980. When Gingrich ran for Congress again in 1978, this time against a more conventional Democrat, he reinvented himself as a fighting conservative focused on anti-tax and anti-welfare messages. He also burnished his conservative credentials by heading up a statewide group opposed to President Carter’s Panama Canal Treaty, a major right-wing (and specifically Reaganite) cause at the time. Gingrich won as a newly minted conservative, riding a conservative trend in his state and the country. It’s hard to know whether his earlier liberal persona, which seemed consistent with his private behavior and the polyglot crew of environmentalists he hung out with at West Georgia, or his later conservative incarnation was more genuine. But it is clear his turn to the right was well timed, and launched him not only into Congress but into a career as a national political celebrity.

If you don’t feel like reading all of that, this short bit sums it up:

ut the lesson of Gingrich’s early years is that he has a jeweler’s eye for a political opening and a willingness to transform himself as necessary to exploit such opportunities when they arise. This could be one of those times: Because the 2012 Republican field is exceedingly weak in ways that would benefit Gingrich, he could end up in a surprisingly good electoral position if he decides to run.

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