Skip to content

How Newt Gingrich led us to the current president: a retrospective: the Atlantic

Swiss Guard at the Vatican– photo by lorenzogallo via

This article in the Atlantic dated October 17, 2018, explains how Newt Gingrich led the Republican Party to its dénoûment today.

When I ask him how he views his legacy, Gingrich takes me on a tour of a Western world gripped by crisis. In Washington, chaos reigns as institutional authority crumbles. Throughout America, right-wing Trumpites and left-wing resisters are treating midterm races like calamitous fronts in a civil war that must be won at all costs. And in Europe, populist revolts are wreaking havoc in capitals across the Continent.

Newt Gingrich was a a 35 year-old college teacher when he entered politics in 1978, finally winning a seat in the US House of Representatives. His message to College Republicans during his campaign was to stop being nice:

“One of the great problems we have in the Republican Party is that we don’t encourage you to be nasty,” he told the group. “We encourage you to be neat, obedient, and loyal, and faithful, and all those Boy Scout words, which would be great around the campfire but are lousy in politics.”

For their party to succeed, Gingrich went on, the next generation of Republicans would have to learn to “raise hell,” to stop being so “nice,” to realize that politics was, above all, a cutthroat “war for power”—and to start acting like it. …

The GOP was then at its lowest point in modern history. Scores of Republican lawmakers had been wiped out in the aftermath of Watergate, and those who’d survived seemed, to Gingrich, sadly resigned to a “permanent minority” mind-set. “It was like death,” he recalls of the mood in the caucus. “They were morally and psychologically shattered.”

But Gingrich had a plan. The way he saw it, Republicans would never be able to take back the House as long as they kept compromising with the Democrats out of some high-minded civic desire to keep congressional business humming along. His strategy was to blow up the bipartisan coalitions that were essential to legislating, and then seize on the resulting dysfunction to wage a populist crusade against the institution of Congress itself. “His idea,” says Norm Ornstein, a political scientist who knew Gingrich at the time, “was to build toward a national election where people were so disgusted by Washington and the way it was operating that they would throw the ins out and bring the outs in.”

The end result of Newt’s plan was the election of 2016, in which the “establishment” candidate was overwhelmed by negative messages from the Republicans and their rumor-mongers about her and her participation in government. Her opponent, on the other hand, claimed to be an outsider and represented an alternative in which government would be radically restructured and even shrunk to the point where it could be “drowned in a bath tub” as one famous Republican, lobbyist Grover Norquist, had it:

I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.

The new president immediately set about filling the administration’s politically-appointed posts with rich sycophants who had no experience in government, or else had spent their previous careers (either in government or out) trying to tear down the departments they headed. The professional career civil servants tried to resist.

The president’s executive orders and the changes he instituted in government rules and regulations destroyed the previous departmental structure. They became demoralized and began to quit or retire. Now we have a number of government departments– most of them, in fact– that are dysfunctional and no longer able to perform the services they were instituted to do.

The Postal Service (USPS) is the latest victim: subsidies were refused, previous unworkable and unsustainably expensive orders were continued (I’m talking about the order to prepay USPS retirees’ health expenses, which predictably is bankrupting the Service), and the only thing that is sustaining the USPS now is the massive increase in package deliveries due to online buying caused by the pandemic.

Predictably, the president has threatened to dramatically increase the charges that USPS would be forced to impose upon packages, to the point where the package senders (such as Amazon) would be better off building their own package delivery services. The loss of package revenue would cause the USPS to be bankrupted within six months. This has been the goal of the Republicans for many years: to destroy the USPS and offload its services to private companies, which could charge more and show a profit.

There are certain services, such as mail delivery and prison administration, which are unprofitable, yet vitally necessary for an orderly society. The Republicans are trying to force private, profit making entities into these vital services at the expense of society. The private provision of critical, yet essentially unprofitable services would make society worse while extending the dominance of capitalism into all areas of life.

There’s nothing wrong with capitalism when it provides non-essential things that can be scaled from really cheap all the way to luxuries– things that poor people can live without. Mild regulations, however– that prevent capitalist entities from cheating people and providing unsanitary or unsafe products and services– are critical to our quality of life.

But essential products and services that give us life or death necessities, like prisons, mail delivery, infrastructure (e.g. roads and sidewalks), and medical care are unsuited to capitalist exploitation. Republicans can not seem to understand the differences between essential and non-essential products and services– they don’t want government entities to provide essential things. Republicans only want government to provide armies and police– instruments of control, both internal and external.

Republicans are trying to give us moral regulations that intrude upon personal privacy and women’s right to control their own bodies. At the same time, they are encouraging capitalist entities to take over all aspects of our lives. They want government to provide only moral regulations and battlefield capabilities (like soldiers and policemen.) We must resist these attempts to control our lives and force us to submit to capitalist exploitation.

Government, when it supplies essential goods and services, doesn’t exert control over us (despite Republican claims that “socialism” tries to “control” us by taxing those of us who can afford to pay)– it gives us a better quality of life, regardless of the sizes of our bank accounts.

Newt Gingrich is one of the main architects of the Republican takeover of government that has resulted in the election of the worst American president in history. Newt has been richly rewarded with a government sinecure– his wife is American Ambassador to the Vatican (a “government” that controls nothing but a huge bank account and a few square blocks of land where the leader of one of the world’s major religions resides.)

Newt is happy with what he is done, and is enjoying the rewards of his political career. We need a different government, and a different Ambassador to the Vatican.

No comments yet

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: