“There is a special providence for drunkards, fools, and the United States of America.”
attributed to Otto Von Bismarck
With the withdrawal of Tim Pawlenty from the Republican Presidential race, the weeding out process begins. One candidate still barely in the race could be the eventual winner, though he faces very long odds.
To understand why he could win, it would help to review the history of a twentieth-century British politician. This man served in a high cabinet office during World War I. He was always full of ideas. Some turned out well and others were disastrous.
Between the wars, nobody wanted to listen to him. He still had all kinds of ideas but people eventually get tired of all those ideas. They just want to go along and get along. He wound up out of the leadership and forced to sit on the “back benches” in Parliament.
In the late 1930’s he tried to warn people about Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. But since everyone was trying to get along with Herr Hitler, our “hero’s” views were unpopular and unfashionable. In fact, the British Broadcasting Corporation considered his views so extreme he was not allowed on the air.
When the war started, there was a consensus that Britain should work out a deal with Hitler. The “wise” politicians were looking for someone to bear the onus of the surrender. They arranged for our “hero” to become Prime Minister.
But, Winston Churchill did not surrender. The British system, in a time of crisis turned to a man they had ignored for years and dismissed as annoying.
In the early 1990’s a brash Republican member of the House of Representatives saw a House which had been dominated by the Democratic Party for years. Everyone knew it would never change. But Newt Gingrich led a “takeover” and, in the 1994 elections, the Republicans gained control of the House for the first time in the memory of many members.
After a few years and some wins and some losses, people got tired of him. He was constantly vilified by a media which largely disagreed with him. In the end, issues in his personal life helped to bring him down.
For fifteen years he has been in the political desert, but he has kept active. He has formed one group after another looking for ideas to improve the government.
Now the United States is in a crisis. The economy, the government and the political system all seem to be broken. Most of the politicians seem committed to their pet phrases, their “poll-tested messages.”
Gingrich’s chances rest on his ability to survive until the questions get serious and serious answers are demanded. When the question becomes, “What are you going to do?”, there will be a lot of mumbling and canned answers.
It will be difficult getting the candidates to give specific ideas. Here is where Gingrich will be different. There will be no problem getting Newt to start telling you his ideas. The problem will come in getting him to stop.
There are a thousand reasons why Gingrich will never be President. His personal life is as big a disaster as the economy. People who know of him at all are likely to remember the news magazines campaign to define him as the “GinGrinch who stole Christmas”. His entire staff just quit on him.
But for a country in turmoil and looking for ideas we could do worse. The man is an idea factory who has thought long and hard about how government works, or doesn’t. He has worked “across the aisle” with Hillary Clinton and others.
If we are looking for a leader with ideas and enthusiasm, Gingrich might be the man.
Do I think he will win? Probably not. If I were asked to bet on it, I would probably pass and do something safe with my money – like putting it in the stock market.
For what it is worth, I thought Newt had probably the strongest performance in last Thursday’s debate before the Iowa straw poll. He clearly is the equal of any of the Republicans when it comes to ideas, experience and understanding how government works. Whether that translates into fundraising success and, ultimately, actually support from party activists is an open question
Dale, it usually takes about 20 years to catch up to a genius; I know because I am one. I wake up in the middle of night and cannot go back to sleep for all the ideas I have. Sometimes I think it is a curse. Society is so willing to accept the mediocre and I often wonder what I am doing here surrounded by the walking dead. But what it teaches you is humility, patience, and perseverence; all attributes that Newt has mastered by now. I feel that it is Newt’s time now, I can only hope that the Lord feels that way too.