Sunday, April 8, 2012

Gridlock Through Gingrich

In a recent article in the Washington Post, Newt Gingrich gave his version of why he is still in the race for the Republican nomination – to ensure that Mitt Romney stays true to conservatism.  Regardless of whether or not this statement comes from genuine ideological dedication or a disguised attempt to keep his own credentials intact (perhaps with the hopes of acquiring a cabinet position or even the vice presidency), Gingrich’s justification prompts concerns about gridlock for two reasons.

First, as we have long discussed, party polarization is one of the, if not the, most fundamental causes of gridlock in American politics today.  Though “true conservatives” may have disdain for Romney’s apparent willing to compromise on what they consider to be certain core conservative values, it is precisely this willingness to compromise that actually makes him a viable candidate for the presidency.  By attempting to “make sure that Romney runs as a conservative in the general election,” Gingrich is hamstringing Romney’s ability to pursue his campaign in what is, realistically, probably the only way that offers any chance of success.  By pressuring him to maintain more extreme conservative positions, Gingrich is contributing to inter-party gridlock and hurting the potential for productive dialogue.

Second,  this behavior is also contributing to gridlock within the Republican party.  Regardless of one’s political views, a two party system necessarily requires two well-functioning and coherent parties in order to maintain the American style of democracy with which we have all grown accustomed.  No matter how you slice it, a vibrant two-party system better protects both individual rights and governmental efficiency than a single party system.  The longer Gingrich fights what is clearly a losing battle, the more he highlights the disunity and lack of direction within the Republican party itself.  If taken too far, this disunity will soon render the entire Republican party irrelevant.  Such a result hurts us all, Democrat and Republican.


  1. The role and impact of Gingrich in the race is interesting- he's only been able to stay in because of monetary support from Sheldon Adelson (who also, as a previous poster noted, supports Romney). Adelson's money is functioning as a barrier to Santorum. Regardless of why Gingrich is staying in the race (I am more convinced by the credentials argument than the ideological steadfastness one), I'm not sure he's "hamstringing" Romney's ability to run a campaign that "offers any chance of success." More likely, Gingrich is just embarrassing himself, whereas Santorum is the one really challenging Romney's conservative credentials. The inter-party gridlock might be more of a result of only having two parties in America, which then, as big tents, need to include a diverse coalition of interests.
    I do agree that his campaign is highlighting the "disunity and lack of direction" within the party; on the other hand, this was also an argument made in 2008. I wonder if the system actually causes these fissures, rather than the politicians causing them to emerge. If anything, Gingrich's "behavior" is just making Romney look like the better option.

  2. I would agree with Sam that the current election and primary system is likely causing these party fissures to emerge rather than the politicians actually causing them to emerge. Our primary seems like a giant waste of time and money—and its only beneficiary seems to be the media, which can start hyper-reporting about political races long before the race is even close to officially starting.

    And I think it is generally the case that incumbent elections cause these fissures to emerge within the opposition. And the nature of today's politics (especially with the Tea Party's rise of ultra-conservatism) has significantly highlighted this problem. And the fact that the end result of this system is frustrated Americans and embarrassed ex-candidates doesn't bode well for our election system.