Having had a worm's eye view of the rise of Newt Gingrich from Georgia politics to the National stage, his subsequent fall and resurrection, a few thoughts on the true significance of this self styled "world historic figure."
Newt Gingrich has grabbed a piece of the media spotlight again. As noted in a diary posted by Meteor Blades yesterday, Gingrich took advantage of an interview with FOX's Greta Van Susteren to paint a portrait of President Obama that could have been drawn right out of the racist film epic "Birth of a Nation". Clearly the meme of a shiftless, lazy, incompetent illegitimately occupying the White House owes more to historic slanders against the reconstruction governments of the post civil war South than to the reality of President Barack Obama.
No doubt Newt imagines himself quite clever in the coyness with which he deployed a whole catalog of racist stereotypes. Doing so by the simple expedient of omitting any direct reference to color. The cynicism of this ploy is only exceeded by Gingrich's smug confidence in utilizing it. And why shouldn't he be confidant? He's been poisoning the wells of public discourse in this fashion for years without being called on it. Instead he's been rewarded with financial success and lionization as a major public "intellectual." At this rate he might end up as the most influential political failure since John C. Calhoun.
In some ways Gingrich is a perfect example of the post Jim Crow, racist politician. Certainly no other politician, not even Richard Nixon, has done more to rehabilitate racism as a political force in public life. Gingrich perfected, if he didn't actually invent, the template for the "bleached" racist appeal. Gingrich recognized that even the vilest racial slur wouldn't be recognized as such by the Political and Media elites so long as it was purged of any direct reference to race. In applying this insight, he helped insure that conservatism would supply racists with a congenial political home and access to real power. In a very real sense, Newt is the architect the present day GOP: Narrow, Nativist and racist.
Gingrich was also shrewd enough to realize that his racist schtick could be doubly disguised by paying lip service to the achievements of the Civil Rights movement, even as he worked to undermine them. Newt used to show up every year for the parade that was held in Atlanta to celebrate Dr. martin Luther King's birthday. I think his presence was a contributing factor to splitting the parade and the March held by activist organizations into two separate events. He'd spend one day posturing as an admirer of MLK and rubbing shoulders with black folks while working to undermine their interests and pandering to white racial resentment during the remaining 364 days of the year.
In some ways Gingrich is more despicable than the Bilbos, Talmadges and Tillmans of yester year who are his political ancestors. They, at least, were sincere products of a white supremacist system. Their racism was overt and deeply felt. Consequently, it never occurred to them to disguise the moronic viciousness that motivated them. Yes, they used racism as a political tool but they were true believers.
Gingrich, in contrast, is a complete opportunist. The briefest survey of his career as a politician and a human being would reveal that his only sincere convictions are in his personal superiority and his contempt for the greater mass of humanity. Newt's racism, in contrast to the old school Segs and Klansmen, is impersonal. It isn't motivated by personal animosity or hatred but by a desire for personal advantage that values others only to the degree that they can be used to advance himself.
Far from being the result of a collective identification with "whiteness", Newt's racism is an outgrowth of the borderline sociopathy inherent in his Ubermensch self image.
It's this mental attitude that allows Newt and so many others to posture as being free from "personal" racial bias even as they eagerly exploit and feed the racist impulses at play in the "white" class. Feeling themselves superior to the broad mass of humanity, regardless of color, they feel entitled manipulate and inflame them for their own benefit.
Newt's spiritual, as opposed to political, forebears are not the Jim Crow Seg politicians nor even the Slave driving Planter. Rather, he is the moral and ethical offspring of the Slave Trader.