12.29.2006

Newt's Wish: Reinvent America

by Jeff Siegel

Newt Gingrich, who has thankfully been absent from the public stage for most of the last decade, has returned. The New York Times reports that he has found a higher calling than running for president – he is going to save us from ourselves.

One of the first rules of political analysis is to ask why. Why is someone doing something? What’s in it for them? In Gingrich’s case, he says it’s to solve the gravest political crisis facing the U.S. since the Civil War. To do this, he says, we must enact a program that includes appointing judges who understand “the centrality of God in American history,” Social Security privatization, electoral reform, radical streamlining of government, and something he calls “patriotic education” for school children and immigrants.

In short, Gingrich wants to remake the United States into something that it never was, save for a very brief period between the end of World War II and the beginning of the Vietnam War – when, coincidentally, he grew up in rural Georgia. Why so many conservatives and members of the religious Right figure that the 230-year history of this country mirrors their childhood is one of the great mysteries of post-modern American politics.

To be fair, Gingrich probably believes all of this stuff. Otherwise, the irony would be overwhelming. This is, after all, a man who has been married three times lecturing the rest of us about the role of God in our lives, a man who grew up in the South under Jim Crow comparing what’s facing us now to the Civil War. But he is entitled to his opinions, no matter what those of us whom he blames for the country’s ills think of them. Which is the difference between Gingrich and us, and, sadly, it’s a difference he will probably never understand.

(Photo from the State of Missouri; it is in the public domain.)



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