I have to admit I’m overjoyed that Newt Gingrich won in South Carolina.
Not that I’m a Gingrich fan, mind you, but the way he won seems indicative of some heartening trends. Obviously the victory itself, in dramatic come-from-behind fashion, combined with the reversal of the result in Iowa’s caucuses, drastically reconfigures the race for the Republican nomination. The increasing nastiness of the campaign fits the mood of many in the Republican base, and indeed of their world view. It indicates that the Reagan rule is dead and the Republican monolith disintegrating.
The relationship between the country clubbers and the fundamentalists, always exploitative, has become verbally abusive. Kansas has begun to realize that something is the matter, though without knowing precisely what, a familiar situation after all to the fearful authoritarian mindset as Altemeyer describes it. The two groups never had much in common in the way of interests, with one focused on extracting money while the other played morality police. Neither really has much use for the other’s obsession, and it was a pairing bound to rupture at some point. At this point it looks serious for the Republicans. But one must ask whether prime Republican candidates who could rise above the current crop might have opted to wait for 2016, and whether such candidates might rebuild the coalition.
The way (She Turned Me Into a) Newt managed to pull off his surprising victory bodes well for our side, too, it seems to me. Although he personally backed out of the fray after drawing blood on first contact, a Super PAC in his camp released an anti-Romney film, which portrayed Romney as a capitalist predator in ways that sometimes reminded one of a union organizer back in the day. It’s a natural theme for a populist, which is Gingrich’s current garb. The small business person, whom Republicans have long professed to love but rarely actually taken out on a date, is indeed among the targets of ruthless, predatory big business people like Romney and Bain Capital who earn their money by creative destruction, also known as profiting by firing people. Gingrich has a ready audience when he points to Romney as emblematic of the folks who move South Carolinian jobs overseas.
Occupiers who wonder if the protests left their mark can rest assured after Gingrich’s victory in South Carolina. Even the Republican base is now sufficiently angry to be set off by an anti-Wall Street message. Social dominators, Altemeyer tells us, tend to overreach in their megalomania, and it looks like they have once again tried to gather too much of the goodies into too few piles, a cyclic situation we’ve no doubt faced for many millennia.
With Gingrich’s attack on Romney’s wealth as ill-gotten, a concept previously unknown to many Republicans, inequality is once again taking center stage. The idea that maybe we shouldn’t slant all our society’s rules to benefit those who already have massively more than they need is now speakable. The barrier has been broken, and Gingrich will probably compare himself to Nixon going to China. Or perhaps Cæsar crossing the Rubicon.
Plus, what could be more entertaining than a disgraced former Speaker of the House running as an outsider?