Monday, November 14, 2011

Culturally-Identified Ideology is Unconcerned with Policy

Newt Gingrich, correctly, remarks that voters are probably uninterested in the alleged $1.6 million he was paid by the mortgage broker Freddie Mac; the very same Freddie Mac he excoriated as a key driver of 2008's financial collapse. I believe he is correct.

Specifically, the optics of Gingrich earning such vast sums of money from a right-wing boogyman is more much damaging to his candidacy than the actual policy ramifications of it. Median voters, and I think the especially Republican primary voters, are much more concerned with cultural indicators than they are with policy outcomes. The fact that Mr. Gingrich admits as much is the real surprise.

I wanted to highlight this because it is one of those moments where Gingrich's mask slips. Per Wikipedia, Mr. Gingrich has "served as the 58th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 1995 to 1999 and before that, as House Minority Whip. He represented Georgia's 6th congressional district as a Republican member from 1979 […]" After twenty years of holding a national-level public office, and even more as a public figure, I am sure Gingrich knows the fact that voters―especially Republican primary voters―are less concerned with policy ramifications of candidates than they are with the cultural and political signals the candidates transmit. This is how a thrice-divorced Gingrich is able to be taken seriously in a primary process of a party ostensibly dominated by "family values."

Update: From Dave Weigel, a reminder on just what kind of snakeoil Gingrich is selling:

It's true to say that Gingrich never "lobbied" for the bill. Lobbying is a distinctive career; you have to register to conduct it. Gingrich merely used his status as a conservative icon, with close ties to many House members and a well of respect with others, to advocate for policies.

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