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Tea Party Quicksand in the GOP Presidential Landscape

Tea Party Quicksand in the GOP Presidential Landscape

When Newt Gingrich is too moderate for the Republican Party, the Tea Party has turned the political landscape to quicksand for GOP presidential aspirants.

Gingrich, appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press, was asked whether Republicans should buck polls that show their Medicare voucher system is D.O.A.  His reply put the GOP spin-o-sphere into complete apoplexy:

(See the VIDEO)

MR. GREGORY:  What about entitlements?  The Medicare trust fund, in stories that have come out over the weekend, is now going to be depleted by 2024, five years earlier than predicted.  Do you think that Republicans ought to buck the public opposition and really move forward to completely change Medicare, turn it into a voucher program where you give seniors…


MR. GREGORY:  …some premium support and–so that they can go out and buy private insurance?

REP. GINGRICH:  I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering.  I don’t think imposing radical change from the right or the left is a very good way for a free society to operate.  I think we need a national conversation to get to a better Medicare system with more choices for seniors.  But there are specific things you can do.  At the Center for Health Transformation, which I helped found, we published a book called “Stop Paying the Crooks.” We thought that was a clear enough, simple enough idea, even for Washington.  We–between Medicare and Medicaid, we pay between $70 billion and $120 billion a year to crooks.  And IBM has agreed to help solve it, American Express has agreed to help solve it, Visa’s agreed to help solve it.  You can’t get anybody in this town to look at it.  That’s, that’s almost $1 trillion over a decade.  So there are things you can do to improve Medicare.

MR. GREGORY:  But not what Paul Ryan is suggesting, which is completely changing Medicare.

REP. GINGRICH:  I, I think that, I think, I think that that is too big a jump.  I think what you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options, not one where you suddenly impose upon the–I don’t want to–I’m against Obamacare, which is imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.

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The reaction from reactionary congressman Paul Ryan was short and swift.  He told radio reactionary Laura Ingraham on her radio show:

“With allies like that, who needs the Left?”

The dim doyens of the Right Wing were quick to dismiss or respond.

Charles Krauthammer said “He’s done” in an interview on Fox News that the called out.

“I am not going to justify this. I’m not going to explain this,” talk radio host Rush Limbaugh clamored. “The attack on Paul Ryan. The support for an individual mandate in health care? Folks, don’t ask me to explain this. There is no explanation.”

Except there is a simple one, “folks:”   Gingrich, a seasoned veteran of video that comes back to haunt a candidate, was trying to position himself, as former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney had attempted, just 48 hours earlier, to stake out positions that are defensible in a general election.

The mid-terms of 2010 caused a kind of euphoric distortion curve in the GOP, a “bubble” not unlike the ones experienced by investors in the stock market. The Far Right had its 15 minutes of fame for this decade in Congress.  Their ideas are too radical, and the public reaction by the mainstream, largely independent voters to them has been chilly at best.  The rhetoric and the agenda hyper-inflated.  The pendulum has been swinging back to the center since November 2010. The GOP and the Tea Party find themselves increasingly on the outs in polls testing the sentiment regarding their big plans to “fix” government.

One thing which should not escape both parties is the rising number of Independents.  In many states, a large portion of the electorate has disenfranchised itself from the primary process. They can vote for non-partisan offices and amendments, but that is it.

If Faux News puerile parody-patriot pundits insist, along with the Tea Party tykes in the Congress to say ‘my way or the highway,’  it looks like voters are going to get their kicks on Route 66.

Gingrich and Romney are taking the heat for being pragmatic, and understanding the bigger picture.  Victory in 2012 is going to be won by swaying the vast unaffiliated middle  in each state. Even if they don’t believe everything coming out of their mouths, which has never been a problem for either candidate, they need to be on the record saying things that, in a general election, can diffuse criticism of their policies or concerns about their personal and social views and give them a foothold with Independents.

Which is not to say that Newt has gone soft.  He used racist-tinged commentary to try to tie Mr. Obama to food-stamps in a speech in Georgia. He defended it on the same Meet the Press last Sunday when Gregory called him out on it by trying to tie Obama and food stamps to the “the same destructive political model that destroyed the city of Detroit.”  So he used more racist code for “black” and “poor” to fend off questions about racism.

Rudi Giuliani another mainstream Republican, takes a swipe at Romney, whom he tells the Huffington Post  has “got big baggage.”

“I mean, RomneyCare, particularly for Republicans, is a major issue,” he said.

If that is a litmus test for the GOP hall pass to the White House, then Gingrich is dead too.

Gingrich says that he opposes the Health Care Reform Act, but in 1993, Gregory showed him a comment that he made to Tim Russert on the same show:

“REP. GINGRICH:  I am for people, individuals–exactly like automobile insurance–individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance.  And I am prepared to vote for a voucher system which will give individuals, on a sliding scale, a government subsidy so we insure that everyone as individuals have health insurance.”

The economy may lurch slowly forward, but Mr. Obama is developing a large perimeter buffer for 2012 as the radical right lashes out at any candidate who speaks in moderation. Unless someone in the GOP can get that lemming lockstep reconnected, and throw a candidate a vine to pull themselves out of all of that factional fighting, it will be difficult, read impossible, for a Republican candidate to enter the general election after the primaries alive.   Add to that the problem that local Tea Parties will be spending big dollars on more extremist candidates who, by the (R) next to their names tie themselves to the presidential candidate, and whomever is unlucky enough to win the primary will be lucky if we can see their head as it sinks into the quagmire of Republican politics in the 2012 cycle.

My shiny two.

About Brian Ross

Brian Ross is a writer, screenwriter, political satirist, documentarian, filmmaker and chef. Ad hoc, ad loc, quid pro quo... so little time. So much to know!

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