December 12, 2011
Newt's Rise: It's the Persuasion, StupidBy C. Edmund Wright
While the entire elite insider structure of both parties in a full tizzy over the out-of -the crypt rise of Newt Gingrich -- and the national pundit class totally vexed by it -- allow me to unlock the deep dark mystery that has them all scratching their pointy little heads.
It's the persuasion, stupid.
Now before you slough that off as too simple and too shallow of an analysis, keep in mind how rare true persuasion is these days in politics. And by true persuasion, I mean the ability to persuade voters to consider changing their minds to agree with the politician who is speaking.
Generally, the only persuasion we see today is the phony attempt to make voters think the politician agrees with them. This normally happens after some shallow political hack has persuaded some soulless office seeker that this is the way to win the precious moderates and independent voters.
Too many folks running for office are merely thermometers, hiring a consultant to take the electorates pulse and then attempting to reflect it. True leaders are like thermostats. They set the temperature and bring the electorate to them.
Now keep in mind that anyone who even tries to do this is almost always reflexively attacked by the keepers and beneficiaries of the status quo. This was true of Gingrich back in the 90's when as a pugnacious minority leader he had the temerity to go hard after Bill and Hillary Clinton. His leadership and creativity led to the Contract with America revolution in the 94 midterms. That election was conservative America's shining moment between Reagan's win in 1980 and the 2010 midterms.
And of course Reagan himself was the great communicator -- er, persuader, and that was the magic of Reagan. He never won a single moderate or independent vote by pretending to agree with the moderate. He persuaded them that he was right -- or in some cases at least trustworthy enough in his convictions -- to get their support. The elites had a similar visceral hatred and fear of Reagan.
It was often said of Reagan that "agree with him or not, at least you know were he stands." Does anyone say that of say, Romney?
Sarah Palin was another persuader who threw a deep scare into the establishment wing of both parties and the media and therefore was (is) attacked viciously. Now with Palin, it is how she lives and what she stands for more than her verbal persuasion that strikes fear in the hearts of the elite -- but a powerful life can be very persuasive and scary to elitists.
Then of course there's Marco Rubio -- whose ability to speak on the greatness of the American dream that reminded people of Reagan -- who sent the elite insider structure of the Charlie Crist wing of the Republican Party into a self-immolating tantrum of a campaign. Upon getting the nomination, Rubio was considered such a threat by the entire Democrat elite structure that they sent Bill Clinton down to Florida to try and get Kendrick Meek to drop out of the race in an attempt to coagulate the anti-Rubio vote. Rubio still scares them today, and for good reason.
Face it. The ability to persuade is rare and the courage to even try is even more so. Few have both traits. In the culture of our politics, it is so much easier to join the go along to get along game. But those few who know how and why to truly persuade strike fear into the elites and always have.
Which brings us to the frustrated campaigns of Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum and their supporters. They too are miffed by the rise of Gingrich and openly feel jilted by conservatives who are supporting the former Speaker. Again, the key is persuasion. Bachmann and Santorum stake their claim to the conservative voter on some iteration of their being willing to "take the slings and arrows" for their beliefs. They have the "courage" part of the equation for sure.
That's an admirable trait. But with all due respect, neither candidate has much ability to persuade anyone to do anything other than respect their principles. Ability matters, period. This is why many voters who are ideologically simpatico with Bachmann and Santorum prefer Gingrich nonetheless.
Now such an explanation might invite the charge of selling out or compromising of conservative principles. The problem with that charge toward new converts to Gingrich is that it ignores the practical results of applied persuasion. Persuasion leads to accomplishment and Newt Gingrich has accomplished some great things for conservatism even if he is not as reliably conservative as many would like.
And when you get down to it, it is far more practically important to all of us what our politicians accomplish for conservatism than how purely they believe it.
The Contract with America campaign itself was a stunning success for conservatism. Welfare reform pushed through by that Congress was also. Ditto the Clinton balanced budget, which was the fruit of that Congress. Behind all of those efforts was Minority Leader (and then) Speaker Gingrich. And all through those fights, Gingrich took most of the heat directed at the entire conservative movement. He is one of the few folks on the planet who can fully empathize with Sarah Palin on this score.
To be fair, the weight of that criticism weighed heavily on Newt and he and the "Contract" Congress did fizzle out after a few years. It was the first Republican Congress in 40 years and the first in the new media era. The withering attacks could not have been understood beforehand. No doubt the CWA opportunity was not maximized. And Newt deserves a lot of the blame for that.
Moreover, the trauma of all of those attacks are certainly at the root of some of Newt's disturbing intellectual dalliances with pet causes of the left. He was beaten down by the media attacks on him in the 90's and was no doubt tired of being hated.
Which brings us back to the power of persuasion and Newt. His rise is based on the fact that he has persuaded many that he now understands the problems facing our nation and he understands the media's key role in those problems. He understands that while no one is perfect, all of the GOP candidates are far superior to the current occupant of the White House. He seems not to mind at all being hated by certain groups. In fact, he now seems to relish it. He is a master at deconstructing their reasons for hating him.
In other words, he has persuaded a lot of conservatives that he fully understands the battleground now and what is at stake. Whether or not he has persuaded you is your personal decision. And he certainly might step in something along the way to persuade people the other way down the road.
But for now, the reason he is on top is simply too easy for the elite pundits to figure out. It's the persuasion, stupid.
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