On Newt and second acts

Interesting piece in the Politico today about Newt Gingrich’s recent rise in the polls to contender status. The piece ponders whether or not Newt can “rewrite his personal narrative.”

Memories are short in politics. It could be that people supporting Gingrich in recent polls only dimly recall that he made himself the most unpopular man in American politics while House speaker in the mid-1990s.

What immediately came to my mind is that Newt came out the “loser” in the showdowns with President Clinton in the mid 90s but in actuality the American people were the winners. Everyone talks about those government shutdowns and the budget battles as dark days for the GOP but the truth is that Gingrich FORCED Clinton toward the center. Clinton and the American people were the beneficiaries.

As the article points out, Newt is 68 years old. His political career is long. With that longevity obviously come many opportunities to stumble, many positions held that are potentially unpopular in the long-term. Newt, unlike Obama in 2008 does not have a relatively “clean slate” for voters to project their own positions and ideology onto.

The other thing that occurred to me is that the impulse among some analysts to discount Newt based on his loss of popularity as Speaker of the house is that they are ignorant of history. This summer I went to London and among the things I enjoyed was visiting the Churchill War Rooms Museum. Winston Churchill was a high profile member of parliament who ended up in the political wilderness for 10 years before emerging again to become prime minister and guiding the United Kingdom through it’s most vulnerable period during World War 2.

I’m not saying that Newt is Churchill but there are some parallels. It is quite possible that the American electorate is moving toward Newt, where he’s been all along. The situation is dire and requires someone with the knowledge and track record to get things done. I’m not worried about Newt’s “popularity”. I want someone who is a fighter. His cantankerous nature may have been out of sync with the late 90s prosperity but it may be just what the doctor ordered to get us out of this mess.

F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “there are no second acts in American lives.” He’s been proven wrong many times. Will Newt also prove him wrong? We’ll see.

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