What do establishment Republicans and liberal Democrats have in common? They’ve long labored under a shared misconception: conservative candidates are unelectable.
In 1980, conventional wisdom held that Ronald Reagan didn’t stand a chance against Jimmy Carter. The GOP leadership, the mainstream media and liberal politicos alike lined up against the Gipper in an attempt to derail his presidential campaign.
Rush Limbaugh recently addressed this phenomenon on his radio program: “Gerald Ford said that Ronald Reagan was unelectable. George H.W. Bush said that Ronald Reagan was unelectable. The entire Republican establishment thought Ronald Reagan was unelectable because they were governed and informed by the Goldwater landslide defeat. That’s what they think will happen to every conservative.”
That’s what they think will happen to Newt Gingrich.
As it became clear last week that the former House speaker was on his way to an impressive victory in South Carolina, liberal strategist and MSNBC talking head Lawrence O’Donnell summed up bipartisan conventional wisdom by suggesting, against all the evidence, that Mr. Gingrich “cannot win a national election … It’s impossible.”
On “Meet the Press,” fellow MSNBCer and mushy moderate Joe Scarborough declared, “Republicans are panicked in Washington, D.C., for good reason.”
Indeed, Mr. Gingrich’s solid win, coupled with another surge in Florida, has the establishment squealing and darting about like a flaming pot-bellied pig. Massachusetts moderate Mitt Romney’s campaign has trotted out surrogates like Ann Coulter and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to nip at the speaker’s heels.
Coulter, who has moved briskly leftward in recent years, even joining the Republican gay activist group GOProud, has stooped to personal attacks against South Carolina voters. “Apparently, South Carolinians would rather have the emotional satisfaction of a snotty remark toward the president than to beat Obama in the fall,” she said.
Of South Carolina conservatives’ willingness to forgive Mr. Gingrich for his past marital infidelity — something he has long admitted to and repented of — Coulter snipped, “I think South Carolina is going back to its Democratic roots. I mean, to not care about that, that’s the position of the Democratic Party.”
Still, RINO Republicans’ fear of Newt Gingrich stems from something entirely different from that which drives the left. The GOP leadership actually believes that he cannot win a general election, while — with a traumatic Reagan presidency still fresh in their minds — left-wing “progressives” know that he can.
It’s the liberal media and Democratic National Committee, in fact, that has largely pushed the self-serving “Romney-is-the-inevitable-nominee” meme.
In a recent Fox News interview, Sarah Palin, who has all but officially endorsed Newt Gingrich, said, “I believe the mainstream media and Obama want to face Mitt Romney in the general election.”
And why wouldn’t they? In terms of his ability to inspire the base and get out the vote, Mitt Romney is a bit like Bob Dole without all the honorable accomplishments. After last week’s debacle in South Carolina, it’s little wonder that The Washington Post is reporting Romney will no longer commit to any further Florida debates. He finds himself in a Catch-22: he must either debate and lose to Gingrich or not debate and lose to Gingrich.
Guess who else doesn’t want to debate Newt Gingrich? Hint: his initials are BHO.
I’ll state the obvious: Newt Gingrich is not a perfect man. Neither is he the perfect candidate. Who is? The question is, do we allow repentance for personal sin? Do we forgive others their trespasses as we wish to be forgiven?
I’m reminded of the biblical account of King David. As a shepherd boy, he slew a giant. As a man, he fell into sin — marital infidelity and even murder. Yet through it all God called him “a man after [His] own heart.” Through it all, David remained a great leader.
Like David, Newt Gingrich has proven to be a man with many flaws. But like David, he has also proven to be a great leader. It was Gingrich, of course, who led the 1994 “Republican Revolution” that launched the political careers of many establishment Republicans who now fear their past leader’s future nomination.
Our volatile times require a man who will decisively and decidedly lead from the helm. We cannot survive four more years of “leading from behind.”
That’s why we need Newt Gingrich.
Matt Barber (@jmattbarber on Twitter) is an attorney concentrating in constitutional law. He serves as vice president of Liberty Counsel Action.