Newt Gingrich, South Carolina, and the Abortion of My Career in Political Commentary
The GOP primaries are like Chicago weather: completely, utterly, and insanely unpredictable.* Just when you think you understand the day-to-day realities of winter in Chicago, BAM!! Thunderstorm in January. Just when you think you’ve figured out the winner of the GOP nomination, BOOM! Newt wins South Carolina. I mean, what the fuck, Newt? I thought we were done. I really did. I thought Silly Time was over and it was time for some Real Talk with Obama and Romney (or at the very least, an Al Green-themed The Voice-style sing-off). Not so fast. But I guess I should’ve seen this coming.
Here is a Facebook status I wrote a few months ago, when Newt Gingrich was polling in first place while his opponents floundered, as Herman Cain struggled to fight rape charges and Rick Perry struggled to remember things and Mitt Romney struggled to be interesting: “Newt Gingrich is in first place. That’s it. It’s all a farce. Let’s stop pretending that all of this is real. I throw up my hands.”
Newt polling in first was to the GOP race what Sam and Frodo reaching the end of the Shire was for LOTR. We were now farther from political sanity than we had ever been before, and there was no telling where we would be swept off to next.
Rick Santorum! His name has been successfully Google-bombed and EVERYBODY KNOWS IT and he still won Iowa!
I underestimated the GOP. And not in a “wow I underestimated how good this Nutella milkshake from Fran’s would be” kind of way. Oh no. It was a “the 1984 Portland Trail Blazers underestimated Michael Jordan so much they decided to draft Sam Bowie instead of him” kind of underestimation. Half of me understood that the Newt poll meant the Brotherhood of Dada had dragged us into an alternate universe where ‘politics’ was synonymous with ‘freakshow’ and words lost their meaning and anything was possible…but half of me kept thinking that every crazy development (“oops,” Herman Cain’s Pokémon obsession, Ron Paul’s status as the voice of reason) was the zenith of absurdity, that there remained no further depths to which we could plunge.
But you best believe Newt Gingrich always had an answer for me. Once again, for the record, in case you were too busy this weekend dancing to polka music or playing cards with guys who have the Teen Titans tattooed on their arm to hear about it, Newt won South Carolina! Once more for the record: aaaaahhhhhhhhh!
My last article was not only a celebration of the ridiculous hilarity of the GOP campaign, but also an elegy for that craziness, which I thought was about to vanish in a cloud of sanity. I thought Mitt finally had this all locked up after winning New Hampshire, and I was sure we were finally transitioning from Perry-Bachmann-Cain-Paul-Gingrich to Romney-Obama, to real political debates between two sane candidates. But then Newt charged back to metaphorically punch me in the mouth and remind me that America isn’t going to stop being a hot dysfunctional mess anytime soon.
My possible career in political commentary hasn’t even started and I’m already thinking of quitting forever. I just cannot wrap my head around Newt Gingrich. Can anybody? If you thought Rick Santorum was vulnerable to a casual Google search, try taking Newt’s name for a virtual walk some time. Newt probably has his closet bolted shut with a chair against the door and that still isn’t enough to keep the skeletons in. There is absolutely no possible way that Newt can win the GOP nomination, much less the presidency. But if this campaign has taught us anything, it’s that the possible is impossible and up is down and America is fucked up. In the real world, Newt could never win. But I don’t think we even live in the real world anymore.
My sense of surprise is utterly gone. For the rest of eternity I will believe any story, any event that involves the GOP. Nothing is too nonsensical for a party where Newt Gingrich is a viable candidate. I probably won’t even bat an eye when Bristol Palin wins the Iowa caucuses in four years and becomes the favorite to win the GOP nomination. The Republican Party has moved beyond my paltry comprehension ability.
I think I’m just gonna have to stick to the fiery anti-coffee invective. I can’t do this anymore.
—————————————————————————————————————————— *And for those of you scoring at home, “Chicago weather” is the third thing I’ve compared the GOP primaries to during my career. The list also includes Doctor Who and NBC’s Thursday night sitcom lineup.