If history tells us anything, the rise of sometime-historian Newt Gingrich to Republican presidential front-runner is a sign that the tea party movement is destroying itself.
After all, the former House speaker has surged to the top of Republican presidential polls on the shoulders of tea party supporters, a movement that ironically came together to topple “Washington insiders” — like Newt Gingrich.
The tea party movement rose up angrily in early 2009 to expose and clean out what its members saw as the greedy Washington fat cats and wheeler-dealers who line their pockets while raising taxes, expanding government and spending taxpayers’ money.
Now, the movement has become a faction of the party whose front-runners are Mitt Romney, who the right largely rejects as too moderate, and Gingrich, the quintessential Washington insider.
After all, this is a man who has earned millions by doing precisely what the tea party rages against: advising, promoting and lobbying for big corporate and public-policy interests.
That includes at least $1.6 million he was paid by Freddie Mac, a government-sponsored enterprise that many conservatives scapegoat for the financial crisis, to help its efforts to block new congressional regulations it didn’t want.
Yet, fiscal conservatives appear to be putting all that aside in the way many social conservatives are looking past his two divorces or his ethical challenges, including his status as the only House speaker to be penalized $300,000 for ethics violations.
No, what’s left of the tea party insurgency appears to be willing to look past Gingrich’s shortcomings in pursuit of a bigger prize, the defeat of President Obama.
One reason for Gingrich’s rise: The tea party and the Grand Old Party have been looking for strong, sure-footed leadership, and no one’s feet are more sure than Newt’s. Gingrich provides leadership the tea party appears to need: someone who can tell a movement what they are for when they only know what they are against.
In a spectacle about as deliberative as American Idol auditions, GOP voters flirted with Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain — before coming back around to Gingrich. Of course, he could be toppled as the latest GOP flavor of the month, but this close to the Iowa caucuses, the timing of his return from the political grave could hardly be more fortunate.
But what does Gingrich’s rise say about the tea party movement? Are they selling out or buying in? Probably some of both. In that way, they’re beginning to look a lot like other conservative Republicans. In other words, business as usual.
So long, tea party. The name remains, but the spirit is fading.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Is the Party Nearly Over?
from The Tennessean