Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Gingrich Gives Voice to GOP Resentment

Howard Schweber attributes Newt Gingrich's win in the South Carolina GOP primary to his giving voice to the resentments of the Tea Party and evangelical voters in The Huffington Post.

Gingrich and his supporters do not oppose Obama, they resent the fact of his existence. He will speak for his constituents by articulating their resentments in more strident, more combative, more articulate terms than they can themselves, which is why they find him brilliant. Ron Paul's supporters find him brilliant because he reduces the complexities of the world into easy soundbites. Gingrich does that too, but he does much more -- he tells them that their nastiest, darkest, angriest, most irrational self-indulgent justifications are 100%, absolutely right. It's a negative version of a politics of self-esteem: not that you are right to feel good about yourself, but that you are right to be resentful of everyone else.

They don't really care what Gingrich says he will do, or whether it makes sense, or even whether they would approve of his policies or benefit from them. The are filled with resentment, and Gingrich has captured that voice. Romney can't project it, nor can Santorum or Paul. Plenty of the other candidates share the good-versus-evil absolutism, the paranoid style, the willingness to say anything no matter how crazy. But only Newt, Bad Boy Newt, Nasty Newt, the Grandiose One, the Historian (the guy has too many monikers to keep track of, we'll have to hold a contest) -- only Newt has captured the key emotive element that drives the Republican core this year: resentment. The hard right core of the Republican Party is filled with resentment, and they have found just the man to let us all know about it.

Andrew Sullivan makes a similar observation on The Daily Dish.

This now is the party of Palin and Gingrich, animated primarily by hatred of elites, angry at the new shape and color of America, befuddled by a suddenly more complicated world, and dedicated primarily to emotion rather than reason. That party is simply not one that can rally behind a Mitt Romney. He too knows what he has to say - hence his ludicrous invocation of Obama as some kind of alien being. But it doesn't work. He believes it - since he seems capable of genuinely believing in anything that will win him votes and power. But he doesn't have the rage to make it work. And that rage cannot be downward, as Romney's often is - toward hecklers or interviewers. It has to be upward - at vague, treasonous elites. It has to have that Poujadist touch, that soupcon of contempt, that sends shivers up the legs of the Republican faithful, reared on Limbaugh, propagandized by Fox, and coated with a shallow knowledge of a largely fictionalized past.

--Ballard Burgher

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