Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Answer Is Out There and It’s Looking For You

Newt Gingrich’s candidacy has suffered a withering barrage of friendly fire in the past few weeks. Many conservatives whose opinions I respect have come out ardently against the man who I’ve been touting as the best available option. It’s not easy to believe in something the likes of George Will, Charles Krauthammer, and VDH have counseled against. But at this point in the race, I still prefer Gingrich over the only other presumably viable GOP candidate, Mitt Romney.

Today, another of the conservatives I respect, Jonah Goldberg, provides some much needed support for the idea of a Gingrich candidacy. I think this analysis is spot on:

Inside D.C., it sounds very strange to say that Gingrich is an "outsider." Gingrich has eaten from just about every trough imaginable inside the Beltway. And yet, he's always been very clear that he wants to ("fundamentally," "historically," "categorically" and "radically") overturn the existing order. Some critics always thought, plausibly, that such pronouncements were part of his act or a sign of his megalomania.

But there's another possibility: It's true. Moreover, the times may be ripe for precisely the sort of vexing, vainglorious and all-too-human revolutionary Gingrich claims to be. That's the argument a few people have been wrestling with. Gingrich, after all, is the only candidate to actually move the government rightward. While getting wealthy off the old order, he's been plotting for decades how to get rid of it. To paraphrase Lenin, perhaps the K Streeters paid Gingrich to build the gallows he will hang them on?

That remains a stretch. Mitt Romney is still the sensible choice if you believe these are rough, but generally sensible, times. If, however, you think these are crazy and extraordinary times, then perhaps they call for a crazy, extraordinary — very high-risk, very high-reward — figure like Gingrich.

This helps explain why Newtzilla is so formidable. In order to stop him, you need to explain to very anxious GOP voters that the times don't require him.

Some months ago, Nate Silver analyzed the prospects of various GOP contenders, based on historical data of general election results relative to ideological extremism of the challenger, approval ratings of the incumbent, and overall economic conditions. His conclusion was that Newt Gingrich would have a harder time winning than Romney. But that Gingrich could certainly win, in an atmosphere of more rapidly declining economic trends and/or low Obama approval ratings. That’s just another way to say, as Goldberg does, that Newt is a high risk/high reward proposition. Greater chance of being a transformational conservative and greater chance of cratering in the general election.

In terms of electability, if the voters perceive we are living in historically turbulent times and in need of a major course correction, Newt is the man. If, on the other hand, the more traditional dynamics of a Presidential race are in effect, and that Republican brand of business as usual is going to be good enough, Mitt is a better fit.

Where will the nation’s head be 11 short months from now?

This choice GOP voters have to make now kind of reminds me of The Matrix, where Neo was offered the chance to return to a comfortable, but false consciousness or strap in and get ready to take the reality ride of his life:

You take the blue (Mitt) pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red (Newt) pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."

OK, not a perfect analogy (Ron Paul is the real red pill in this scenario), but close enough for blogging work.