Way back when Newt Gingrich was leading the GOP presidential primaries, after he cleaned Willard M Romney’s clock in that bastion of Southern decency and Confederate zeal, South Carolina, former Clinton labor secretary and increasingly shrill Obama critic Robert Reich admonished Democrats who were cheering Newt on in the belief that a demented megalomaniac as the GOP candidate could only enhance Obama’s reelection prospects.
… Democratic pundits, political advisers, officials and former officials are salivating over the possibility of a Gingrich candidacy. They agree with key Republicans that Newt would dramatically increase the odds of Obama’s reelection and would also improve the chances of Democrats taking control over the House and retaining control over the Senate.
I warn you. It’s not worth the risk.
Even if the odds that Gingrich as GOP presidential candidate would win the general election are 10 percent, that’s too much of a risk to the nation. No responsible American should accept a 10 percent risk of a President Gingrich.
I don’t know to what lengths Reich would require that Democrats and responsible Americans go to eliminate the possibility of a Gingrich presidency, but fortunately Willard M Romney and some like-minded billionaires ended the immediate threat without physical violence.
Gingrich brings to mind a city-slicker version of Lonesome Rhodes, the amoral grifter played so well by Andy Griffith in Elia Kazan’s 1957 film, “A Face in the Crowd.” (The link is to a fairly detailed summary of the film, so if you want to watch it fresh—and it’s well worth watching, not least because of Griffith’s performance—don’t click through. It’s available on DVD through Netflix or at many of your finer socialized print and media repositories, also known as “libraries.”) Like Gingrich, Rhodes is raised high and brought low, but never with finality.
I never really bought into the sentiment that “every nation gets the government it deserves,” but President Gingrich would come awfully close to validating it. Still, one can excuse (barely) people who don’t much pay attention for mistaking him as what he says he is rather than as what he is, because he can string lots of meaningful words together in a manner that can make one think, just before the blackout, that he must know what he’s talking about.
Reich hasn’t said much yet about Rick Santorum, the most recent of the 32 Republicans to have led the polls during this spectacularly entertaining primary season. He may be counting on Romney’s Super PAC billionaires to bury Santorum in the Midwest the way they did Gingrich in Iowa and Florida, but Willard M. is now so thoroughly disliked by Republicans that even at this relatively late stage of the primaries—the often decisive Super Tuesday votes go off in less than three weeks, on March 6—only a quarter of Republicans say that a candidate’s potential to win the general election is their top criterion. In Michigan, where Santorum leads Romney by a few points and where he and Gingrich combined are favored by more than 45% of likely voters compared to Romney’s 30%, the primary is barely more than a week away. If Gingrich voters begin defecting to Santorum, all the money in the world might not buy Romney better than a sad second place in his home state.
Santorum is even more obviously who he is than Gingrich. He hates people who enjoy sex with men, be they women or other men, he disapproves of men who enjoy sex with women, and he clearly never outgrew his six-year-old’s conviction that girls have cooties. (He doesn’t approve of lesbians as parents or wedded persons, but I can’t find any evidence suggesting that he finds women having sex with one another offensive enough to decry. Perhaps he’s studying scholarly materials on the subject …)
Gingrich might serve as a litmus test for gullibility—fittingly, he turns purple when he doesn’t win—but that’s been done more than once and the verdict, sadly, is well in. Santorum, though, would serve as a more significant test, of how openly hateful toward women and blah people, and how comfortable with theocracy, the voters are.
Reich might do well to worry more about Santorum than Gingrich, seeing, for instance, as how the Virginia legislature just passed a measure punishing women who want an abortion with preemptive, state-mandated rape; if Santorum prevails, there are sweater-vested legions of purely malevolent souls waiting to ride in behind him.
So it is probably the job of Democrats and responsible Americans now to root for Santorum as the GOP candidate. Because if he can win, we’re better off knowing it sooner rather than later.
I would be remiss not to mention Ron Paul.
Lest we forget: