Jonathan Bernsten has his story and he’s sticking to it: The Newt surge is a mirage; Newt remains an “implausible” candidate; and Romney’s still the favorite, by far, on the R side. The alternative would amount to an overthrow of everything Bernstein thinks he knows.
In Bernstein’s latest Plum-Line post on the subject – echoing countless other posts, tweets, and no doubt e-mails, e-cards, telegrams, handwritten notes, homemade t-shirts, and hand-engraved stone tablets – he quotes several “Republican Insiders” surveyed by National Journal to illustrate the total, extreme, and what might we might even call fundamental disregard in which the “disgraced former Speaker” is held by supposed typical representatives of that species. My personal favorite is “Bigfoot dressed as a circus clown would have a better chance of beating President Obama than Newt Gingrich, a similarly farcical character.”
Now, it’s not hard to find all sorts of reasonably smart and certainly seasoned political observers who think the Rs might very well end up nominating Bigfoot dressed as a circus clown, whatever the insiders say. Just to give one example, John Avlon thinks Romney’s ship is sinking, and he sketches out the prospective primary plunge. Others wonder if Newt is winning “the Fox primary,” and whether it has replaced the traditional accumulation of endorsements, establishment of a real-existing campaign organization and infrastructure, and not having been run out of town for ethics violations and multiple other (and continuing) embarrassments.
Charles Krauthammer, who, one suspects, considers himself at least as smart as Newt, and smarter almost by definition than any left-liberal, demonstratively insists on taking Newt seriously, to the following conclusion:
You play the hand you’re dealt. This is a weak Republican field with two significantly flawed front-runners contesting an immensely important election. If Obama wins, he will take the country to a place from which it will not be able to return (which is precisely his own objective for a second term).
Every conservative has thus to ask himself two questions: Who is more likely to prevent that second term? And who, if elected, is less likely to unpleasantly surprise?
Someone less invested in the conservative movement and Obama derangement might ask whether a party that can do no better than two such “significantly flawed front-runners” can be trusted to take the country to some better “place,” or at any rate keep us in North America if indeed that’s a problem, and whether being secured permanently from the threat of Romney, Gingrich, and Bigfoot the Clown might not be vote-worthy anyway, on whatever continent. For that matter, if K-hammer is right, then maybe the left really ought to be a lot more enthusiastic about Obama than it has been. End of the beginning! Communism in our lifetimes!
Could be! …Though you need to squint from a trans-paranoid extreme to see things that way, and conservatives, as we can see, are more comfortable in that mode these days than center-left and -right political professionals. Some of us have much less to lose, however, and we can calmly observe the spectacle of conservatives seriously flirting with collective self-immolation in the face of what they near-universally, perhaps quite fundamentally, see as an “immensely important election.” Gingrich’s candidacy therefore becomes the vehicle for determining whether the Republican Party – and by extension an entire ideological superstructure and the state of relations it reflects – is in crisis.
In short, the arguments against Newt and for Romney are strong enough to turn the GOP nomination fight into a test case for the theory of a new political-historical epoch. Furthermore, we know we are not crazy to ponder this possibility, because we are aware of inescapable independent evidence – the global economic conjuncture in all its dimensions, political paralysis afflicting the leading/hegemonic nation-state as reflected in unprecedented dissatisfaction with the system, to say nothing of the ongoing revolt of nature against humanity – that seems to point in the same direction. If Bernstein’s analysis is correct, then even a merely viable Gingrich candidacy alongside the peculiar weaknesses of Romney may already constitute evidence that the center – as reflected in centrist political science – is vulnerable; has, in a sense, already been overturned in principle.
Which would mean we are already in that place-of-no-return, and it’s only a question of how violently we thrash around in our search for a non-existent exit.