Newt Gingrich, Matt Bai, and the Revisionist History of Conservative “Ideas”
Newt must be a happy guy this weekend. He’s on the front cover of the New York Times magazine section. The article’s author, Matt Bai, has made Newt out to be the intellectual savior of the GOP.
This paragraph really sticks out to me, because it involves a false premise that is the foundation of the the entire revisionist construct:
As it happens, Gingrich is also the only guy alive who can actually claim to have led a beleaguered Republican House minority back to power. During the years when Tom DeLay and Karl Rove ruled Washington, conservatives wondered what they had to learn from a has-been who had been forced from power; now they wonder if he might have just a little more magic left under that schoolboy shock of white hair. “If you said to me that I could only consult with one individual, and my job was to bring the party back, Newt Gingrich would be the guy,” says Frank Luntz, the pollster who has worked with Gingrich going back to the 1994 Contract With America, the 10-point agenda that Republicans waved around on their way to the majority. “This guy would be the perfect ‘Behind the Music’ story, because he was on top, and then he lost it all, and now he’s back and bigger than ever. It’s perfect.”
OK, lets remember how Newt got to be Speaker of the House shall we? Simple, he took over GOPAC and transformed it. He went around raising money from big corporations, promising them that he could deliver reliable votes on matters that were important to them (kind like an uberlobbyist) and then he went out and recruited candidates who promised to adhere to his commands — he made them sign his "Contract with America"– but were too weak to run unassisted. He gave them messaging, candidate training, staff, and most of all MONEY from GOPAC.
They were elected to Congress, producing that famous GOP majority, but they were utterly dependent on Newt for the re-election that was only 2 years away, and he never hesitated to remind them of that. He owned their asses.
Newt didn’t win a majority in the House because of the strength of his policy ideas or political views; he won because of a dubious fundraising system and a cynical marketing strategy.
The documents are striking for showing how a group whose aim was transforming the Republicans into the majority party focused far more on strategy and marketing than on the substance of ideas. Gopac members did grapple at length with how to define their political philosophy. At one point, Mr. Gingrich conceded that it was only "70 percent" conservative.
If the GOP is turning to Newt again, it is a sign of just how bankrupt of ideas and very desperate they are.