Sarah, Newt, and the GOP Establishment

In her Facebook post of January 27, Sarah Palin characterizes this week's rash of articles attacking Newt Gingrich as employing "tactics of the left" and using "the politics of personal destruction to attack an opponent."  She claims this "opposition dump" constitutes "Alinsky tactics at their worst" and, as many have suggested, intimates that the articles criticizing Newt were a coordinated assault by the GOP Establishment.

Her commentary is as much an endorsement of Newt as it is an indictment of those who do not support him and went public with their views. 

I've never met Sarah Palin.  I've never been to a Tea Party convention.  But I am a Tea Party leader on the Bay Area, where it isn't easy being a conservative.  I'm also a proud member of the Republican Party, although not part of the leadership.

I do not have a dog in this campaign, but I do have a preference which I try to keep to myself. 

As someone who spoke out against a Newt nomination in a series of blogs at American Thinker, I'd like to posit a different take on the anti-Newt articles.  They most likely weren't coordinated.  Although I have no proof of this, I am intimately familiar with much of the conservative chatter, especially among Tea Partiers, after the South Carolina primary.   

A sense of immediate concern arose among many conservatives after Newt's South Carolina victory, when the reality hit hard that he could be the Republican nominee.  Maybe it was buyer's remorse.  But Newt, riding high into the Florida primary and milking it for all it is worth (as he does), prompted many people from all walks of life who don't know each other, and some from the political world who do, to share their personal experiences and assessments of what a Gingrich nomination would look like.

Those who know Newt personally and professionally, and regular folks like me, have had a very brief window of time before the Florida primary to voice their opinions about a Newt nomination.  The numerous articles appearing in major conservative blogs and publications have been less a coordinated effort by the "Establishment" than a frantic effort by many to say something that might change voting minds in Florida.

I imagine Sarah Palin thinks she did a worthwhile thing, calling out the "Establishment" for launching a supposedly coordinated effort against Newt in order to resurrect their establishment guy, Romney.  But some aspects of her article are troubling and actually part of the problem we face as conservatives today.  As conservative is pitted against conservative, average Republicans and conservative voters are being turned off by the escalating infighting.    

I have no problem with anyone taking a stand about a candidate and putting it in writing for the world to judge.  We are in a closely contested race among conservatives who have to distinguish themselves from one another -- any one of whom would be preferable to Obama.  This is at a time when the cost of losing the White House would devastate the country.   

We all want our guy to win, and most don't like the mudslinging.  Many recoil from negative ads.  Most despise last-minute, dirty, personal October surprises or digging up trollops who make unsubstantiated claims and force out candidates like Herman Cain -- great feats of sleaze perpetrated by the elite, left-wing media.

But we also want our guy to defend himself, point out the flaws in, and distinguish himself from the other guys.  So let's all admit that we have a love-hate relationship with the unpleasant aspects of campaigning and agree that we won't tolerate ad hominem personal attacks and outright lies. 

Newt lost countless supporters following his Iowa defeat when he launched his Occupy Wall Street class warfare attack on Romney.  Even as early as May 2011, Newt alienated conservatives when he took on Rep. Paul Ryan -- the hero of the budget battle -- and dismissed his budget plan as "right-wing social engineering."

I suggest, but do not insist, that there might be another category of ugly campaign tactics we won't tolerate: when one Republican takes down another by attacking long-held Republican principles like free markets, opportunity, the right to succeed, and balanced budgets.

Then there is a consistency factor Palin and others overlook.  As we are plunged into the "who started it" aspect in the world of campaign crimes, many criticize Mitt for not calling off the super-PAC attacks against Newt in Iowa.  Similarly, many criticize Newt for not calling off the super-PAC attacks against Mitt in South Carolina.  Until the election laws change, we need to be consistent and either give them both a pass or call them both out.  In the meantime, "We the People" are savvy enough to decide for ourselves which, if any, super-PAC attacks are credible.  

Another irony in this unfolding tale is that many voted for Newt because they didn't think Romney had it in him to fight Obama the way Newt would.  The claim was that Romney wouldn't go after the red meat and rip Obama apart limb from limb like Newt, the fearless debater, would.  Post-South Carolina, the writing was on the wall: conservatives are out for blood, and Newt is the only one who can deliver -- metaphorically, of course.

The punditry -- professional and amateur -- almost uniformly proclaimed that Mitt's only way out was to go on the attack and prove he had the DNA to body-slam Obama.

When Romney and his supporters finally showed some fang -- which, because of the timing of the primaries, happened to coincide with hundreds speaking out against a Newt nomination -- it was contorted into proof that the "Establishment" is for Mitt and against Newt, and now, according to Palin, it's a GOP vs. a Tea Party race.

How is it that Newt, "an imperfect vessel for Tea Party support" in Palin's words, is suddenly the Tea Party candidate?  Ron Paul and Rick Santorum supporters might beg to differ.

Sarah Palin is entitled to speak her mind and defend her choice; she certainly has earned it, and she has the eyes and ears of millions.  But she does not speak for the entire Tea Party.  Many Tea Partiers support Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul instead of Newt.  This doesn't make them card-carrying members of a Republican Establishment Cabal (I wonder: is that the same thing as the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy?).

This is a campaign where people want to learn as much as they can about the candidates.  Isn't that one of the key issues we protested in the last election -- that the press didn't vet Obama?  Didn't query his college and law school classmates?  Didn't question his lack of experience?

Now we are hearing from people who worked with Newt, and while some of the criticism has been discredited, some of it has been confirmed. 

Aren't we, the People, capable of judging the candidates?  Can't we evaluate the evidence, articles, and claims and put it all into a calculus when we step into the voting booth? 

Sarah Palin seems to be setting Tea Party conservative against Republican Party conservative; many of us are both.  In this fight, we have no choice but to work together.  Unless someone steps in at the last minute, it has to be Rick, Mitt, Newt, Ron, or Obama.  

As for the Republican "Establishment" picking our candidate and coordinating an assault on Newt, many conservatives have spoken out against Newt, and they are not members of any "Establishment" -- Tea Party or Republican Party.

The resistance against Newt isn't because he has a checkered personal past, but because his nomination would be a strategic blunder for conservatives of all stripes and a strategic coup for the Democrats.

Not only will Newt start out of the gate with a huge handicap -- his national unfavorability rating is 60% -- but Obama's machine will make mincemeat out of a Newt campaign that exemplifies Republican/conservative hypocrisy about family, morality, and loyalty. 

The argument will not be that Newt cheated and lied per se, but that he did it while taking down their hero, Bill Clinton, for doing the same.  Obama will sail back into the Oval Office as the Family Values President, and the rift between the GOP and the Tea Party will grow even wider than it already is.

Sally Zelikovsky is a former attorney-turned-mother of three.  She is the founder of Bay Area Patriots and coordinator of the San Francisco Tea Party.

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