Sunday, May 22, 2011

Has Newt Gingrich already handed the 2012 elections to the Democratic Party?

I recently heard someone describe Newt Gingrich as a "hyperbolist," and I thought wow, that is really the perfect word to describe Newt Gingrich. You see, Newt Gingrich is addicted to the use of hyperbole: the use of exaggerations to create emphasis or effect. Gingrich likes exaggeration taken to its most extreme level.

If you oppose Newt Gingrich, he will denounce you as a "Nazi" or a "Fascist." If you are slightly left of center, like Barack Obama, you become the most radical liberal president in the history of the United States and/or the universe. Newt Gingrich is incapable of describing anything in anything but the most extreme terms. This is because of Gingrich's own inflated view of himself. Gingrich sees himself as an Olympian-like hero striving against the greatest of obstacles. In Gingrich's view, anything less than the most extreme opposition would be unworthy of his own awesomeness.

So when Meet the Press moderator David Gregory asked Newt Gingrich about Paul Ryan's budget, there was no way that Paul Ryan's budget could be dismissed as something that wasn't all that important. If the Paul Ryan budget was an obstacle for Newt Gingrich, then it had to be cast in terms of "THE WORST BUDGET EVER(TM)." Ryan's budget couldn't be dismissed: it had to be addressed, and it had to be addressed in extreme terms. Gingrich dug in his bag of rhetoric and out came "right-wing social engineering," which is just about the dirtiest of words for conservatives who like to believe they are libertarians even as they enact more and more regulations regarding every aspect of human life. Newt Gingrich held a mirror up to the right wing and called them out in terms they regard as fighting words.

Paul Ryan's budget--which contains a thinly disguised plan to eliminate Medicare by converting it into a voucher program--is a sore spot for Republicans. Republicans hate Medicare. To them, Medicare is Socialism, and it's Socialism of the very worst sort: the kind that works well and is incredibly popular. Republicans really, really hate Medicare.

In the heady days after their victory in the 2010 mid-term elections Paul Ryan, John Boehner, and Eric Cantor convinced the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives to do something very indiscreet: they put their opposition to Medicare and their intention to do away with it in writing and then voted nearly unanimously in favor of it. Did I mention that Medicare is incredibly popular? Within weeks of taking that fateful vote, Republicans began the process of trying to quietly live it down.

Enter Newt Gingrich. Thanks to the words and actions of this greatest of all hyperbolists, the Ryan budget vote is now front and center. The Ryan budget vote is now "THE MOST IMPORTANT BUDGET VOTE EVER(TM)." From this point onward, for the foreseeable future, every Republican running for anything anywhere will be forced to answer the following question or questions: 1) Why did you vote for the Ryan budget? or 2) Would you have voted for the Ryan budget?

Consider George F. Allen. He was quietly minding his own business, trying to run for the senate seat he lost to Jim Webb, when out of nowhere comes Newt Gingrich. Now Allen is facing the question "would you have voted for the Ryan budget?" So far, Allen is refusing to answer. If he answers yes, he loses the general election because Tim Kaine will be able to run commercials saying that Allen had indicated that he was willing to do away with Medicare. If Allen says he would have voted against the Ryan budget, then he offends every Republican activist in Virginia, and he'll lose the general election because they'll stay home or vote for a Tea Party candidate or a write-in.

Thanks to Newt Gingrich--hyperbolist extraordinaire--the Republican Party has been saddled with a litmus test that will render it unelectable in November 2012. But remember, Newt Gingrich doesn't do anything small.

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