Thursday, December 04, 2008

The destructiveness and historical dishonesty of Newt Gingrich

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Michelle Goldberg, author of the fantastic Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, had a must-read guest post at TNR's The Plank yesterday on Newt Gingrich's latest contribution to the far right's seemingly endless culture war in support of "religious fundamentalism and sacralized nationalism."

It involves "Gingrich hawking a full-length documentary called Rediscovering God in America," an ugly assault on liberalism and secularism that rewrites American history, turning America into a theocracy at its foundation -- as well as Gingrich's association with a rather contemptible propagandist:

"There is no attack on American culture more destructive and more historically dishonest than the relentless effort to drive God out of America's public square," Gingrich says in a trailer for the documentary on his website. Among the program's talking heads is David Barton, a former math teacher and Texas fundamentalist who has fashioned a career as a prominent revisionist historian, reinterpreting the American past along theocratic lines. Barton started out on the fringe -- in the early '90s, he was a speaker at white supremacist Christian Identity conferences -- but in the modern GOP, he's hardly an extremist. Indeed, in 2004, the RNC hired Barton to give get-out-the-vote speeches to groups of clergy nationwide. What's surprising is not that Gingrich would associate with Barton, whose work he's been praising for years. What's surprising is that, at a time of serious collapse on the right, Gingrich is hitching his bid for renewed relevance to the most exhausted culture war tropes.

Yes, Gingrich wants back in, but he's cavorting with extremists and bigots and otherwise positioning himself on the far right of the increasingly right-wing Republican Party. He has a reputation, much of it self-spun, for being "an innovator" and an ideas man, but his ideas are as crazy as he is: What exactly is "gay and secular fascism"? And how exactly is it, whatever it is, trying to "impose its will on the rest of us"? Is he being forced to his knees by jackbooted sodomites?)

Goldberg concludes: "[W]ith the defeat of Republican moderates rendering the rump GOP more right-wing than ever, [Gingrich] apparently sees a path to power in challenging Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee for leadership of the Elmer Gantry wing of his beaten party. Maybe he's clueless about the future of Republicanism, but if he's right about it, it's hard to see what kind of future Republicanism has."

Whatever the case, given the current state of the GOP, he's perfect for it.

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