On Tuesday Jan. 31, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the Florida Republican primary, securing all 50 of Florida’s delegate votes.
Meanwhile, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich continues to provide steady opposition to the once de facto Republican nominee, leading in the national polls by 2.5 percent. It is still early, of course, and the opinions of republican voters have been known to sway quite a bit – remember when businessman Herman Cain was leading in national polls? But the fact that any voters see Gingrich as a legitimate candidate for president is at the same time laughable and deeply disturbing.
Does America really have so short a memory? Gingrich, in his role as Speaker of the House in the mid-1990s was the architect of the hyper-partisanship that we see today. We have him to thank for the deep divide that so many Americans claim to hate between the parties that has stonewalled progress in every branch of our government. And yet, Gingrich’s poll numbers hover around 30 percent nationally, the highest of any republican candidate.
As speaker of the House, Gingrich had republican control over a Congress that had not been under republican control for 30 years. He decided what was necessary to help the republicans win then and in the future was to further “differentiate” the Republican Party from the democrats.
Through this logic, Gingrich went about systematically opposing everything proposed by then-President Bill Clinton and the democrats, forcing other republicans to fall in line with a more extreme ideology or risk political suicide. He did away with seniority and gave the political parties more control over committee chairs, which forced congressmen to fall into line with the party or risk their chairmanship.
In “differentiating” the parties, Mr. Gingrich went about creating the chasm that exists between the political parties today. He used his influence to extend this partisan ideology to the Senate where unilateral tactics seldom used earlier became old hat. Gingrich became so caught up in creating an age of hyper-partisanship that he was willing to shut down the government because of his maniacal refusal to compromise.
And yet here he is, talking about fixing Washington and solving the petty politics of the past. Do republican voters really want to elect the person who created the gridlock in Washington? Do we really want the person who put political party ahead of institutional and national loyalty to be the leader of our country?
Gingrich’s surge in the polls says a lot about the lethargy of voters in the United States, not taking the time to research who the candidates actually are but believing what they see and hear in 30-second political ads and stump speeches. We’ve reached a point in this country where a man who has divorced two wives – one with multiple sclerosis and the other with cancer – and who had a six-year affair with a congressional aide, can talk about “family values.” We’ve reached a point where the man who destroyed the political process in Washington can now say he will fix it and some will believe him.
Gingrich is a dangerous political candidate and one that should not be in the race for head of the school board, much less president. The only silver lining to Gingrich’s poll numbers is that he still trails President Obama in the general election. As economic numbers continue to go up, one can hope the only qualified candidate will take the presidency for a second term. But in this political climate, one can never be too sure.