To those wondering why Newt is doing so well, read this piece by Ben Adler at The Nation. There is one thing he does better than any other politician in America: articulating conservative contempt for liberals. And I do mean liberals, not liberalism. This is about bad people not bad ideas, and that is an important distinction:
The answer lies in what many in the mainstream media tend to perceive as a weakness, rather than strength, of Gingrich’s: his over the top rhetorical condemnations of Democrats and liberals. Gingrich’s various pronouncements that strike moderates and liberals as odd are actually effective dog whistles. Here are some examples:
-In September, 2010 Gingrich told National Review that Dinesh D’Souza’s widely mocked Forbes article on President Obama provided him with the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama….What if [Obama] is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior, can you begin to piece together [his actions]? That is the most accurate, predictive model for his behavior.”
-In an October, 2011 presidential debate Gingrich, responding to why no one on Wall Street executives was arrested after the financial crisis, said, “If you want to put people in jail, you ought to start with Barney Frank, Chris Dodd.”
-Gingrich has repeatedly denigrated the Occupy Wall Street movement with language that oscillates from dismissive to paranoid. On November 20, he instructed them to “Go get a job, right after you take a bath.” Just a few days earlier Gingrich had decried “the destructive, hostile, anti-civilization of the so-called ‘Occupy Wall Street’ crowd…. They want to tear down our country.”
To most people these sorts of comments seem divisive, foolish and un-presidential. To a movement conservative, though, they hit the sweet spot.
This is what the hardcore base craves now more than ever and Newt can give it to them. In fact, it's the only thing he has to offer. His organizational abilities are nil, his only example of leadership as Speaker of the House ended with a failed coup from his own lieutenants and eventual resignation. He has caused endless headaches among the establishment elders and his ego is so inflated that it threatens to explode him at any given moment.
But when it comes to an overarching theory of conservative righteousness and snarling contempt for liberals, he's the only politician in the party who can do it with the kind of panache the folks usually only get from wingnut giants like Limbaugh and Coulter. He just sounds like one of them. He's the original Glenn Beck, but smarter and without all the Mormonism and kooky conspiracy mongering.
The base wants someone to tell them a story, or maybe a fable, about how they are mankind's saviors from the enemy of all that is good and decent. (That would be liberals.)
It's their own version of that ode to American narcissism: "we are the ones we've been waiting for." Nobody delivers that better than Newtie. Perhaps his time really has come.
Update: For more on Newtie's unique appeal, read this fine piece by Elias Isquith:
If the man had truly wanted to be President from the start of this campaign — if, instead of hawking books, he had devoted himself to amassing the campaign infrastructure (and cash) so vital in winning a major electoral contest — he very well may have been able to topple Romney. Because, again, he “gets” it. As a recent Times report makes plain, Newt knows how to talk to these people with an uncommon authenticity and intimacy. He effortlessly weaves winks and nods toward the far-right id into his pronunciations, and taps into enduringly powerful themes that make-up the GOP base’s worldview.