This post was cross-posted at OneUtah.org
The US is a system; it is an open system which means the other systems with which it communicates affect it. Internal events have effects as well; the national system is made up of a host of smaller interconnected systems. The Republican primary has got me thinking about systems in actions.
The classic example used for systems is the spider web. A drop of water hits a single strand and the entire web vibrates. Touch a strand and the entire spider's web responds. It's a simple enough insight - things are connected. Everything is connected to everything. Perhaps because it's simple, it's also profound. Rather than the old chain reaction theory or simple cause and effect, systems propose that things are interdependent.
Yes, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction but there are also sideways reactions. Systems compensate for changes; change in one area results in unanticipated change in other areas. I went to a lecture about the effects of the reintroductions of wolves to Yellowstone. Once wolves were introduced to the park, the trees and shrubs starting thriving. In a WTF? moment, biologists realized they were seeing an ecosystem response few people had really predicted. It's a good example of a sideways reaction. The wolves preyed on the various animals that ate the trees and shrubs. With fewer animals eating the leaves and bushes, the bushes thrived which in turn affected the health of the streams and rivers. The herds were healthier as well because their populations were lower which meant less competition for food. The entire ecosystem of the park benefited when wolves were reintroduced. The park ecosystem is still adapting and changing in response to that one change. Each individual component is a system unto itself, interacting with and interdependent on other systems; changes in one part affect other parts.
Systems feedback into themselves, giving themselves information that shapes future changes and responses. That feedback is part of what keeps systems in balance. Throw one part out of balance and a moves towards a new balance; introduce or reintroduce a part and the system moves itself back towards balance. The reintroduction of wolves resulted in great biodiversity in the park. That biodiversity is the system moving into a new balance. Systems thinking suggests we should expect the unexpected, anticipate the unusual.
Living systems respond to input and changes in all kinds of ways. Sometimes those ways are obvious, sometimes not. Newt Gingrich is currently riding high and to me that makes sense. Why? He's not the anti-Romney, he's the anti-Obama. Where Obama is cerebral and measured, he's bombastic, tossing out idea after idea, insult after insult. Obama is the suave, uber-cool big band, Gingrich is the rough and ready honky tonk. Obama is cosmopolitan and multicultural, Gingrich, despite his education, is insular. Even their ways of thinking contrast sharply. Obama is measured, careful, analytical. Gingrich, no less intelligent, is a whirling dervish, jumping from concept to concept, idea to idea. He'll throw out whatever the latest "big idea" he heard or pondered, and a week later forget he ever said it and have moved on. Gingrich is mercurial, Obama Apollonian (yes, I know the normal dualism is Apollonian and Dionysian but I don't see Newt Gingrich as Dionysian). Obama is no drama, Gingrich is all drama. Their personal lives reflect those differences. The Obamas are a boringly conventional couple, evincing steadfast devotion to one another and are obviously doting parents of adored girls. Gingrich, the serial adulterer, has left a trail of broken relationships in his wake, his entire personal life a cauldron of dis-ease and upheaval.
My point is that Gingrich is riding high right now is the most effective carrier of the Republican Id. Gingrich for all his flaws captures and communicates the frustration of the Republican base. Romney may well emerge as the Republican nominee but unlike Gingrich he isn't angry. Santorum is absolutely orthodox in is positions but his emotional demeanor is all wrong. Bachmann and Perry weren't conduits for the anger and frustration of the Republican base for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that for all their ideological purity, come across as pleasant individuals - sure Michele Bachmann is a whackjob, but I'd be she's personally charming and entertaining. Gingrich, prickly, unstable, seething, is the man who embodies the Republican base's emotional reality. They want him to make people uncomfortable; they believe he makes liberal squirm and they like that because Obama makes them squirm. (I'd argue much of the right's bombast is grounded in that dynamic.) Barack Obama is a person of immense personal charisma. Newt Gingrich is not. It's as if each man is the other's shadow in the Jungian sense.
Barack Obama's presidency embodies the emerging America, the America of 20 years from now. Newt Gingrich embodies the America of thirty years ago. Confronted with a host of changes, the Republican Party’s base prefers to wish those changes away and Newt Gingrich promises that wish can come true. The system that is America complex, fascinating, contradictory and paradoxical, has generated two candidates who almost perfectly capture the systems internal struggle for balance.