Even disregarding its content, I thought the Contract with America was a major opportunity to change American politics, a chance to turn the meaningless menage of aphorisms that pass for party platforms into concrete manifestos for legislative action, and to turn elections into plebiscites for those manifestos. It offered voters the opportunity to endorse a slate of policies, not a list of personalities. And I give Newt Gingrich credit for making it happen, and for following it up by wringing the partisanship out of the fraught relationship between the Clinton White House and Capitol Hill.
Reading through John Richardson’s article from last September’s Esquire about the former Speaker of the House, I can only hope that somewhere there is a coherent counterpoint that would, if not quite rehabilitate Newt, at least leave him somewhat less vilified. The prima facie evidence seems adequate to call into question the competence of Mr. Gingrich to judge the character of anyone walking on earth. But let us leave his personal life out of this. Let us also set aside the mistakes, real and imagined, that forced him out of office over a decade ago. Let us instead focus on today.
There are many diseases that afflict the American body politic, but there is none so chronic and insidious as condition that allows groups and corporations to exert political influence outside of the electoral framework. As disgusting and criminal as it would be for a company to pay a voter for his or her vote, it is many thousands of times worse for a corporate body to pay to directly influence the vote of a legislator. Endemic it might be, but it is caustic to democracy and cannot be tolerated, regardless of the cause for which it is used.
This is, however, the work in which Newt Gingrich finds himself employed. For this reason, whatever good he once did for America and for conservatives must now be weighed against his efforts to elevate the influence of the wealthy and powerful above that of the American people.
Mind you, Newt is not alone. Washington is filled with influencers and fixers of every political persuasion who will, for a price, taint or circumvent the democratic process on behalf of just about any agenda you can name. But any American conservative truly dedicated to the principles laid down by the people who founded this nation should be sickened by moneyball politics, regardless of the cause for which they are employed. That Mr. Gingrich has built his wealth and his political rehabilitation in an effort that undermines democracy should not enhance his credentials: it should permanently tarnish them, removing him from serious consideration for any position of power or influence in government again.