August 18, 2005
The Party of Gingrich
The fun thing about writing articles is you get to bury into a topic you never thought much about before. I'm penning a piece on Gingrich, and so I'm deep into everything the guy's written, said, or had written or said about him. Interesting stuff. And some quotes are just too good to pass on, so here's one for you. This comes from Newt's apologetic, post-fall memoir, Lessons Learned the Hard Way:
For us Republicans in Congress, one of the most impressive aspects of this assault was the way Democratic activists in the House and Senate could be counted on to march in lockstep with it. The Democratic Party, of course, is much more of a political machine than the Republican Party. Those members of the House who had switched from the Democratic Caucus to the Republican Congress -- there have been something like a dozen of them -- kept remarking how surprising they found the lack of groupthink and intimidation [to be].
This, of course, was right after hundreds of Democrats had bailed on the President's health care plan, right after Clinton had had to reach across the aisle to pass NAFTA, right after he'd had to twist arms and break legs to pass his budget, right after fellow Democrats like Kerrey and Moynihan had called for investigation into Whitewater, right after, well, the most stunning show of party incompetence in a generation, all of which aided and abetted 1994's Republican Revolution.
But whatever Newt's historical omissions, the fact that Republicans saw themselves that way is something worth marveling at. The modern, DeLay run Republican party is less conference and more cult. Last week, Rep. Joel Hefley responded to questions about his possible retirement by saying:
"I think I'll wake up some morning and say, 'Enough is enough. I'm tired of Tom DeLay telling me when to go to bed at night.' I'm not there now."
The Party of Newt is not the Party of Tom. Maybe it never was. Newt's been known to look down on the gang of power hungry dolts who currently crack the whips even while he respects their ability to force members in line. But it's interesting to think that the Republican party of a decade ago conceived of itself in an entirely different fashion than its modern incarnation. Back then it was a response to a calcified, tired, brain-dead majority party that ran less on ideas than machine politics. This is no new conclusion, but the degree to which the Republican party has become what it despised is really quite astounding.
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There's a lesson here for the Democrats of today and tomorrow who seek to overthrow the DeLay machine: it may be that in order to destroy it we have to become it.
Isn't that the way of most revolutions?
Posted by: aphrael | Aug 18, 2005 6:22:56 PM
aphrael, that is the tragedy of human civilizations isnt it?
the more things change, the more they stay the same...
Posted by: almostinfamous | Aug 18, 2005 9:26:02 PM
I clearly remember the Gingrich Contract on America (intentional sic), and I find the party of Tom not that different than the party of Newt. In my view, Newt really started the ideological lock step that really has come to fruition under Tom. Punishment was meted out for not adhering to message, and the mass attack on the media began.
While one can argue that the Dems in the early '90s had become fat and complacent (see: Wright and franking), the idea from Newt that the Left was a more stronly structured ideological machine really doesn't hold water.
I can't remember any Dems being punished or ostracized for going off message, while at that time, the Repubs were lining up behind Speaker Newt regardless of their own conservative convictions, as he warped the Republican Party into the Party of the Rich, instead of the Party of the Small Guy.
The utter hypocrisy of the Repubs is worth noting, as you point out, but they came from not so much a populist place as a power hungry army, led in great part by Newt. And as usual, the "take no prisoners" mentality is, and was, clearly the modus operandi.
Posted by: SteveAudio | Aug 19, 2005 3:52:04 AM
The party of Tom was created by the party of Newt. Newt might be wondering if this was actually what he had in mind - but the GOP of today begun by Reagan really got it's personality from Newt - he was the driving force of the GOP growth in Congress. The GOP of Delay just out Newt-ed Newt. Newt was their starting point - their model of behavior - and they had to outdo him or become more Newt than Newt. Much like workers looking to move up mimic their behavior after the boss - the GOPer that were new under Newt took their cues from him and took off running.
Posted by: ET | Aug 19, 2005 9:42:53 AM
He was full of shit from the get-go. They've been peddling this nonsense about the Republicans being the party of new ideas and non-ideological free thinking forever and ut's always been crap.
The thing you have to keep in mind aboput Newt is that George W. Bush "compassionatre conservative" visage was created in direct response to how universally loathed Newt became to anyone who wasn't a member of the true believers club. He was very effective as an opposition politican --- and democrats could learn a thing or two about hi,. But he was a disaster in the majority.
I am hoping with every fiber of my being that makes a comback. his policies are no worse than anything done by the Bushies, bit his image will help destroy their party. He just can't keep his big mouth shut.
Ezra --- I don't know what your angle on the Newt article is, but if you want to go deep, check out his relationship to the Toffler's and the Pentagon. It's really a doozy of a story. This guy had massive influence on military policy which he based on some very flaky, new agey stuff. He has an agile mind, but it is totally undiscriminating. And some of his legacy is the reason why we are having so much trouble in Iraq.
Posted by: digby | Aug 19, 2005 5:22:49 PM
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