BIG FISH IN A SMALL TOTAL-IMMERSION BAPTISMAL POND
The New Republic's Michelle Goldberg is surprised that Newt Gingrich is hawking a religious-right documentary film, hanging out with "Christian nation" propagandist David Barton, and otherwise "hitching his bid for renewed relevance to the most exhausted culture war tropes." Goldberg writes:
Gingrich, after all, likes to imagine himself an innovator. And yet, at a time when he seems to be hoping to take advantage of Republican disarray to return to the political fray, he's doing it in the most tired way imaginable. There he was on the O'Reilly Factor a couple of weeks ago, warning of "gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us." Visitors to his website are asked to sign a petition on behalf of an issue surely disturbing the sleep of a crisis-ridden nation--insufficient references to God in the new Capitol Visitor Center....
One has to wonder--is this really all they've got? ... I'd have expected some attempt to modulate the message of perpetual kulturkampf in the wake of the election results, the public disaffection of so many prominent conservative intellectuals, and the cascading economic disasters threatening millions of Americans. Perhaps, though, people like Gingrich can't imagine any other way....
Maybe Gingrich thinks that's completely backward. Think about it: What political territory isn't occupied by Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats (and Republican-centrist allies) right now? Hating Bush, hastening the use of renewable energy, reregulating Wall Street, getting out of Iraq, using soft power in world affairs -- all of these have widespread approval on the left and in the center. What's left? What's a choice, not an echo?
Standing for the old-time religion, that's what -- selling the myth that somehow the country isn't moving forward, change hasn't taken place, gays will go back in the closet and we didn't descend from a damn monkey. Palinmania, however limited its appeal, proved that there's still a market for the belief in the fairytales that elected Reagan and Bush (and Gingrich). So, in anticipation of the moment when there'll be dissatisfaction with Obama and the Democratic Congress, maybe Gingrich thinks the shrewd move is to be positioned someplace where he and like-minded others can say, "You want different? We're different."
And if they look like ignorant throwbacks, well, they'll just work the refs, saying that anyone who calls them ignorant throwbacks is a bigot who hates God and Mom and apple pie and country music and NASCAR and the family and all the eternal verities. And then the media will taks them seriously precisely because they're extreme, because it's necessary to let them have them say and to treat what they say as (a) rational and (b) the opposition's rebuttal to the status quo. That's true even if -- or perhaps especially if -- the status quo is sane and rational and the opposition message is ignorant and utterly nuts.
Could this work? Hey, look at the the election results of the last thirty years.