In 1976, shortly after Jimmy Carter was elected president and the post-Watergate GOP lay in ruins, there was an episode of All in the Family in which Archie and Meathead argue over the election. Archie, of course, has the last word—and the final line of the show:
“Yeah—we’ll you’re gonna get Reagan in ’80!!!”
It was meant, of course, as a laugh line—pathetic and absurd. And—whether enhanced in the studio or not—it achieved the desired guffaws, chortles, et. al.
Well, we know how that one turned out.
I’m reminded of that episode today, as Newt Gingrich surges to the top of the GOP pack. Many of my fellow liberals in the media are crowing, rubbing their hands in glee, and all but doing a victory dance—a year early—over the prospect of corrupt, caddish Newtie going up against President Obama. Rachel Maddow—whom I love dearly—crows about it most every night. Pundit after pundit—Republicans included—dismiss Gingrich as unelectable.
Maybe they’re right. They probably are. Newt’s bubble may burst well before Iowa.
But please, Democrats, liberal and otherwise: Don’t spike the ball yet. Despite his titanic flaws, we might still get Gingrich in ’12.
I say this not only because I’m superstitious and constitutionally pessimistic—on Election Night 2008, I sat with my wife in a Barnes & Noble café until I’d learned from the barista that Obama had won Pennsylvania and Ohio, and only then raced home to watch the returns, and savor Keith Olbermann’s announcement of my candidate’s resounding victory.
I clung to this pessimism because I simply did not think this country would elect a black man named Barack Hussein Obama. This despite all the polls, despite the fact that some weeks before the election, a friend of mine who’d appeared on a show with GOP strategist Ed Rollins, had relayed to me that a disgusted Rollins had said off-camera, “It’s over.”
But even leaving aside my own neuroses, there are plenty of reasons to be very afraid. The President could be undone, Newt notwithstanding, by any number of factors, such as
- GOP economic sabotage continuing to work
- The Europe mess
- FOX news—and friends; yes, they were there in ’08, but the propaganda and disinformation juggernaut is larger, more virulent than ever. And remember, there was no Tea Party in 2008.
- The other mainstream media: They’re sloppy, lazy and terrified of being labeled “liberal.” Hence the false equivalencies, etc.
- Citizen’s United, which has given ALEC, Rove et. al., unlimited influence. Next time liberals bash Obama for going to a big-ticket fundraiser, keep this in mind. We’d love to get money out of politics—but for the moment, it’s very much here.
- Race: A recent study concluded that Obama lost 5 points because of racism. Do the math. And Newt Gingrich, an angry old white guy, is the perfect candidate to channel Caucasian hate and rage.
- Voter Suppression: One of the dire consequences of the 2010 elections has been the dominance of the Right Wing agenda on the state and local level. Using the ruse of near nonexistent voter fraud, there is a coordinated—and downright evil—attempt by Republicans to make it difficult for minorities, the elderly and young people to vote. Of course, this chiefly affects constituencies far more likely to vote for Barack Obama
- Liberal self-sabotage: I am not one of those people who says that one must never criticize the President. I disagree with many of the things he’s done. But at some point before the election, Cenk Ugyur, Bernie Sanders (my favorite Senator), Cornel West, Tavis Smiley and all those aggrieved lefty bloggers had better lighten up. Liberal disaffection and apathy may well have played a role in the 2010 debacle. That was disastrous. In 2012 it could be catastrophic. The GOP is doing enough to suppress Democratic turnout. Let’s not abet them. If Romney or Gingrich wins, you will beg for Obama on his worst day
- Maybe Newt isn’t so unelectable: Americans tend to have short memories, and believe in second (or third) chances. Perhaps even for someone who got kicked out of Congress, did shady deals, supports child labor, and dumped his cancer-stricken wife on her hospital bed. What Newt has going for him is the appearance of strength. Americans like that—more, perhaps, than the cringing, dissembling, waffling displays of Willard Mitt Romney.
- Wild cards, domestic or international
There are other hazards, of course. At bottom, I believe—much as I genuinely love Joe Biden—that the only way to ensure the President’s reelection is for him to run with Hillary Clinton. He’d take heat for having her bail him out. But I believe it would secure most every swing state.
That’s not going to happen. In my heart, I believe the President will be reelected anyway.
But in the meantime, don’t gloat over Gingrich.