This post is several days late but I have suffered, as Lowell is found of saying, “from a serious bout of employment.” But I do want to do some analysis of what is going on with the Gingrich campaign. Of that implosion, I wrote on Monday:
My analysis is this – Gingrich was never in to win; he was in to maintain his public profile and therefore media/moneymaking presence. Hence the effort at an “unconventional” campaign. Here’s the problem that all media candidates eventually run into: If it’s not genuine, people will figure it out at some point . That means to pull it off, one has to be consummately gifted at misdirection, if not outright lying. The Ed Rollins/Mike Huckabee team proved pretty consummately gifted, which is something for the Bachmann backers to think about; Palin keeps using the word “unconventional” – also food for thought.
We’ll return to those thoughts in a moment.
There has been a battle between Gingrich and those that resigned raging all week. Former aide Rich Galen wrote at length:
There is a reason that just about every airliner looks like every other airliner. Some are larger, some smaller; some have two engines, some four, but they generally look alike.
There is a reason for that. There is a design solution that fits commercial airliners. They take off, they go where the pilot aims them, they land, and they can carry enough passengers to make money.
Same with political campaigns. Every cycle candidates say, “We’re going to run a different type of campaign.” They all look pretty much alike because there is an engineering design solution for political campaigns.
Things change. On-line fundraising instead of using the USPS was new. So were digital avionics instead of analog instruments. But those things are updates, not fundamental changes.
Gingrich and his wife wanted to campaign where, when, and how they wanted; a different kind of campaign. But, they ran afoul of the rule that campaigns look like campaigns look, because there’s a design solution that works.
The Gingrich campaign was like an airliner with no wings, no engines, and no landing gear. It was a different kind of airliner.
But, it couldn’t get off the ground.
Newt Gingrich said this morning that the bulk of his senior staff resigned en masse due to “fundamental differences about strategy.”
“My campaign consultants understood 30-second attack ads,” Gingrich said on Fox and Friends. They didn’t understand you could actually write a book with big ideas and actually campaign talking about big ideas.”
Still, the way the advisers resigned has raised eyebrows from DeSantis and others close to Gingrich. “We do not know for sure how they coordinated their departure,” he says. “But we are curious about whether there were any inappropriate conversations or actions. There is a lot of talk that another potential candidate made it clear that he may join the race. If former staffers were being paid by the campaign — yet plotting to join another campaign — that would be a major conflict of interest.
I think both sides have a point. Presidential campaigns are what they are because that is what it takes to win – score one for Galen. What they are is not necessarily what is best and there is a place for “big ideas” – score one for Gingrich. But the point for Gingrich does not change the fact that better might be better, but better often does not win. In the end elections are not about best, they are about the will of the electorate and the electorate often is about less than the best, and is even self-contradictory. For example, the American public seems to want entitlements and limited government – you figure out how to make that happen. With such inconsistencies among the voters, is it any wonder that candidates often sound like they are a bit schizo?
If Gingrich insists on running on “big ideas” one must assume that he is either grossly misguided about the American voter (he’s too smart for that), or he thinks he can single-handedly raise the electoral consciousness of the average American voter (even his ego is not that big), or he is running for reasons other than to win. Needless to say, my money is on the latter. I speculate, and I emphasize speculate, that his media presence has been fading and nothing raises media presence like a presidential run. Of course, he could be doing so to raise certain issues in the campaign, or to get the VP slot, or a host of non-media reasons, but given the trajectory of his career since he left the House in shame, media makes the most sense to me.
Now let us return to my comments from Monday with which I opened this post:
That means to pull it off, one has to be consummately gifted at misdirection, if not outright lying.
Whatever the reasons for running, if they are other than to win the presidency that statement holds. Which brings up one of the essential points people often forget about the presidency. It is a service job. It is not a popularity contest. It is not a step to the highest speaking fees available. It is not a platform to implement your plan. It is a job to provide the American people with governance, as outlined by the constitution. Campaigns are as much about the candidate learning what the people want as they are about the people coming to know the candidate.
If you are running for any reason other than to serve, even some that are not so self-serving as to build a media career, you are running in service of your agenda instead of trying to run in accordance with the agenda of the American electorate. That frankly, is what I hear when I hear all the protests and rebuttals that come from Gingrich – I hear his agenda, and his purposes, and his style. That is also why I have always had my suspicions about Gingrich’s outreach to Evangelicals. An article has appeared about how marital fidelity matters to GOP voters. Despite his apparent personal confessions and redemptions, Gingrich simply is not a good fit to appeal to Evangelicals as a candidate. Again, I sense his outreach based on something other than a sincere desire to serve that community in office.
The media has made the self-serving run more common and pronounce. That is one of the many reasons why I laud the birth of new media though to date new media exposure seems to be even less serious than the old media analog. At least with new media I can find the good stuff if I look hard enough.
This is why I sound so negative about even good people when I sense they are running for other than the purest of reasons. In many ways it is a violation of the trust of the office, and candidacy.
As a final note, returning to the comment about Evangelicals – this is a place where religion really matters in politics. Religion, at least the good and reasonable ones, are the only authority I know that can teach service. If there is any trend that underlies the many ills we all note in out culture, it is narcissism. It is reflected in everything from how stories are written to advertising to music to self-serving presidential campaigns. The idea of a higher power – a deity – is the only thing that can break the narcissistic viewpoint of so many. To be sure, many religious people are narcissistic, but in their devotion lie to roots of the solution to the problem. Without their faith there would be no solution. That is not a idea that is deeply or particularly theological – it is perhaps the most generic of religious ideas, but it is also the most important to a democracy.
The problems of religion in politics arise when we confuse such basic ideas from religion with our own particular theological formulations. Such confusion is decidedly undemocratic. Here is hoping our nation is learning that.