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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Of Cohn and Karma

Jonathan Cohn worries in the wake of Gingrich's South Carolina victory:
But I know one member of the liberal media who is not giddy: Me. There’s a reason Gingrich is rallying the conservative base right now: He’s espousing some very conservative ideas. For starters, Mr. Former Speaker, what is wrong with food stamps? Gingirch is also appealing to some less than enlightened instincts. Let's face it, his victory in South Carolina probably has less to do with attacks on Bain Capital than it does with an attack on Juan Williams.
Maybe the Gingrich schtick stops working outside of South Carolina and the Republican base – and maybe, if he somehow won the nomination, he’d be the gift to Democrats that everybody supposes. That's the safe bet. But in a year that’s already proven so unpredictable, how can anybody be sure?
I know how he feels; I've expressed similar thoughts about Palin (a first: I can't find the link!). Yes, an unstable demagogue should be a lot easier for Obama to beat than a candidate who'd make a plausible president -- e.g., judging by past work product, Romney. But in a two-party system, either party nominating an unstable demagogue is a danger to democracy, both because any incumbent can be beat if economic conditions are bad enough or if catastrophe strikes, and because the takeover of one major party by extremists, reactionaries and hatemongers means we are always on the knife's edge.  The counter-argument, often expressed by Sullivan, is that only by electing an extremist and getting its clock cleaned can a party submerged in its own ideology be dragged back to the center. That may have worked in the case of Goldwater. But Goldwater was a sober statesman compared to Gingrich, Perry, Palin.

My own personal compromise with Nemesis is to hope that Gingrich makes a sustained run at the nomination and continues to train his full demagogic arsenal on Romney, highlighting every flip-flop, making everyone in the nation grasp in reasonable detail the structural kinship of Romneycare and Obamacare, and continuing to demonize Romney's tenure at Bain as nothing but serial layoffs and asset stripping.  Then let a weakened Romney face Obama.

Of course, it doesn't matter what Democrats wish, unless they intervene actively, such as by voting in open primaries.  But it feels like bad karma to me to root for a candidate unfit to be president to win the nomination contest. And that Gingrich is unfit, the whole GOP establishment knows.

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