Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Doom Candidate

I'm developing a small-scale Newt obsession. He seems to encapsulate so perfectly a certain chunk of the American subconscious, the part that's full of half-smart autodidacts, swollen with self-satisfaction, that generates vast volumes of crank literature and end-times cults. Newt's obsession with apocalyptic scenarios is well known (he was a climate change believer until that got politically inconvenient). I've been known to trend that way myself on occasion, but I never imagined that the world could be saved by stockpiling ammo or electing myself to high office.

Of course, Gingrich, while not the civilization-saving intellect he likes to pretend to be, is no basement-dwelling crank either. He's was an actual college professor, and while it is pretty impossible to know how much of his bullshit he actually believes, the other element of his character is that other great American archive, the medicine show grifter:

Medicine shows were a form of entertainment -- I imagine people went to them not so much to look for a cure for their rheumatism as to experience the thrill of a smooth talker and to be part of a collective experience, sort of a degraded form of religious service. And I think that's pretty much what politics has come to -- nobody can take these people very seriously as remedies for what ails the country, but the spectacle they put on is pretty fun, and Gingrich through his skillfully deployed outrageousness may be the most fun of all, as long as you can suppress the thought of him actually gaining power.

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