Newt Gingrich ended his campaign yesterday with a statement I’m sure people on both the left and right will ridicule whenever his name comes up over the next couple of years. I won’t be one of them. See, I backed Newt for the Republican nomination and, quite honestly, I’m sorry to see him go. I won’t go into all the reasons I supported Newt (see here and here) except to say that, in answer this question, I am glad I did. I don’t think he ran a joke campaign and I don’t think his ideas are worthy of ridicule, grandiose though they may be.
Newt was a good candidate — a man of wide vision, with real plans to pry the government off our throats and a track record for making government smaller. Indeed, he was the only candidate who could claim he made decreased the power and scope of government when he had his hands on real political power. Neither Mitt Romney nor Rick Santorum could claim that, though they both tried in some form or another. After a big win in South Carolina, Newt got buried by the Mitt Romney money machine in Florida and spent a lot more time carping about negative campaign ads than he did talking up his optimistic vision for America (which, I believe, is what made him an early front-runner).
That turn in the tone of his campaign after South Caroline ultimately doomed his candidacy. Not only did he turn his attention from the incompetence of the Obama administration and the perfidity of the lapdogs in the MSM, but he changed the tenor of his message from optimism to complaints about his Republican rivals’ tactics. More than that, though, he changed (from my POV at least) the way his campaign ran — from a hungry and creative money-poor message machine to a more extravagant operation. Except that Newt, who hadn’t been running for President the past 6 years, didn’t have the money and GOP insider help Romney has. That change in operation put Gingrich in debt and unable to capitalize on his opponents’ many mistakes.
I still like Newt. We conservatives need someone to remind us, insistently at times, that our goals ought to seem ridiculous and grandiose sometimes. He tool a lot of heat for his talk about neuroscience and a moon base, but I’d rather have more of that. Aspirations are important. Vision matters. If we conservatives want to grab and hold America’s imagination, so that they let us do all the things we want (mundane and otherwise), we’re going to have to spin tales of the amazing things America can do once we get utopian progressive government out of the picture.
Democrats no longer dream big dreams. They talk about bringing down the achievers, about paving over the grand accomplishments of our parents and grandparents. When once a Democrat challenged us to go to the moon, our current President challenges us to build windmills and bridges. We can do those things — indeed we almost certainly will in some form because they must be done — but we need greater challenges. We need someone with a glint of “Well, why the hell not?” in his eye to remind us that we are America, that we have done the seemingly impossible, and we can do so again.
Our deficit seems out of control, but we can rein it in, and not in 20 or 25 years. Our manned space program sits dismantled, but we can build not just one new program but many thanks to visionaries like Elon Musk and Bert Rutan. Thousands of us succumb to incapacitating or deadly diseases, but we can beat them as we’ve beaten polio and malaria. It requires vision. We don’t have that in this Presidential race and I hope Newt sticks around to make sure it’s a part of the discussion.
Category: The 2012 Horse Race