Monday, January 23, 2012

It's Now a Race

Apparently, Newt Gingrich won South Carolina. Apparently, by a lot of votes. I expected Mitt Romney to either a) win, or b) lose by a small percentage. Neither happened. Instead, Gingrich got about 40% to Romney's 28%.

I think two factors played an important role here: the "documentary" known as the King of Bain (watch the full video here), and the breaking news on Thursday that Gingrich's second wife Marianne accused her former husband of wanting to have an "open marriage." The documentary alone, might not have been so damaging, but the media highlighted what Romney's Republican critics had claimed during his time at Bain Capital: he was a corporate raider who shed jobs in the name of profits. Even if you didn't watch the video (I didn't), you knew what it was about, and the media's reporting of it made the message stick.

The second factor is somewhat ironic, somewhat funny given that Republicans often pander to the "family values" wing of their party. Here you have Newt Gingrich, a Presidential candidate two days away from one of the most important primaries, having a huge bombshell dropped in his lap - an accusation that he wanted to stay married with his then-second wife and continue his extramarital affair with the woman, Callista Bisek (now Gingrich), who is now his third wife. As Gingrich is a champion of social conservatives' causes, you would think they would be outraged by this, given his prior history of cheating on his first wife, Jackie, with his then-soon-to-be second wife, Marianne.

Alas, you would be wrong. The night of the South Carolina Republican Debate, moderator John King wasted little time and asked Gingrich with the very first question if he had a response to the charges. Instead of defending himself, he attacks the media for attacking him, making him the victim in all this. The crowd goes wild, and he rides off to victory by an impressive margin two days later.

Now, let's suppose Gingrich's second wife fabricated the story, since we can't prove either way if it's true or not. It's public knowledge he already had two affairs, so we can establish a pattern of behavior. Even if the second Mrs. Gingrich wasn't being truthful, why are so many social conservatives so quick to circle the wagons around the guy WHO IS ON HIS THIRD MARRIAGE????

I blame ideological tribalism (a term I picked up from Bob Somerby). Basically, it's the idea that people who are of a certain ideology or political leaning tend to have a belief that the people who think like them are virtuous, and that those who they are opposed to are at worst, a bunch of are idiots, liars, and crooks. It can never be that one of your own is one of those three.

Take my word for it, it's not something limited to conservatives and Republicans. I hear very little criticism from liberals about Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, or Rachel Maddow, even though all three are guilty of being very fast and loose with facts in their documentaries or reporting. Probably because everyone's pride is at stake, and no one has the stones to call out one of their own.

As with Gingrich, we are left with more of the same. It's now a race, but I suspect it will be over by Super Tuesday. Romney has the establishment behind him, and they tend to carry the real weight in primary politics. I suspect as the coming weeks unfold, we'll see more party insiders who once worked with Gingrich dishing enough dirt to bring him down and ultimately undo his campaign.

If you're hoping a long and costly Republican primary will help Obama in November, think again.

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