Melanie Phillips

15 November 2011

Narcissus v Lazarus 2012?

Published in: Daily Mail

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Newt Gingrich has now overtaken other Republican candidates in the race for the presidential nomination. According to PPP polling, in a startling come-back from the political dead Gingrich has now overtaken Herman Cain and Mitt Romney while the rest of the field have been reduced to also-rans. Republican voters in Iowa, which Gingrich has to win over in order to stay in the race, appear to be listening to him with interest.

This Lazarus-like resurrection surely illustrates the depths of the Republican problem. Gingrich was written off long ago because, in addition to a messy private life, his career imploded in even worse controversy. In 1997 as Speaker of the House of Representatives, he was reprimanded and fined for ethical wrongdoing after admitting failing to ensure that the financing for two projects would not violate federal tax law and by giving the House ethics committee false information.

Yet despite all this Gingrich has now become the front-runner for the Republican nomination. The reason is pretty obvious. First, he has performed strongly in the TV debates between the contenders; and second, virtually every other breathlessly announced front-runner has promptly disintegrated under scrutiny, either through intellectual limitations, flip-floppery or allegations of sexual wrongdoing.

Herman Cain has now distinguished himself by scoring heavily in both the first and last categories, with lurid claims of sexual harassment now superseded by his excruciatingly embarrassing incoherence when asked on TV whether he supported the removal of Gaddafy from Libya. The only other one left standing seems to be Romney -- and his own ducking and diving on various issues hasn’t gone down too well either.

Well might heads be scratched over the Republicans’ calamitously weak store of presidential material. But the reason why they are fielding one crash-and-burn artist after another is surely that the Republican party has itself crashed and burned, in that it has lost its sense of purpose.

Ever since the defeat of Soviet communism, western conservatives have been in a state of woeful intellectual and moral confusion. What they failed to grasp was that while state communism was dying the threat to the west merely transferred itself to the cultural and social sphere through the twin attacks by secularism and left-wing ideology.

The west is now suffering from the baleful legacy of the ‘Boomer generation’, those born after World War Two and who turned with such nihilistic glee on the consumerist society that had nurtured them. As this article by Walter Russell Mead suggests, the Boomers created a culture of narcissism that has expressed itself on both left and right through failed or destructive economic and social policies. The resulting self-centred and debauched culture has created a vacuum into which the enemies of civilisation are steadily marching.

Like their Conservative party cousins in the UK, US Republicans have failed to grasp that the task for conservatives today is as stark and as urgent as it has been ever since Edmund Burke articulated it in the face of the French revolutionary terror: to defend life and liberty in the free world against its enemies both within and without.

Faced with the apparently overwhelming power of the left-wing media and intelligentsia, weaponised through their Orwellian hijacking of the language of the centre ground and their career-ending bullying and intimidation of all who dare to disagree, many conservatives have succumbed to the cultural mind-bending without even realising they have been in effect captured by the enemy.

The reason why Newt Gingrich is striking such a chord is principally because he does realise all this very well, and so delivers a very clear message and the hope of a return to reality. He gives expression, in other words, to an authentic conservative voice. Gingrich is very smart, a serious thinker and a good communicator.  He is also extremely tough and resilient. He is without doubt a Big Beast in the political jungle -- beside whom Mitt Romney, his chief rival, seems a diminished figure.

There is still much to play for and maybe Gingrich will fall by the wayside yet again. Without doubt, he has his flaws. He is a loose cannon, a polariser rather than a healer, and with a dubious ethical record. But in a poor field it is possible that Gingrich’s strengths will bring him out on top. For these are desperate times. If Obama wins a second term, not just America but the free world will be in an even more desperately dangerous plight from an American President who is effectively aiding the enemies of civilisation (read Barry Rubin to see how the First Narcissist is busily empowering Islamists everywhere). Desperate times like these need a Big Beast not just to defeat Obama but to defend the free world.

So far, the Democrats have been able to sit back and watch the entertaining spectacle of the Republican multiple pile-up. However, if Iowa comes out for Gingrich expect to see great volleys of poison-tipped knives flying his way.

About Melanie

Melanie Phillips is a British journalist and author. She is best known for her controversial column about political and social issues which currently appears in the Daily Mail. Awarded the Orwell Prize for journalism in 1996, she is the author of All Must Have Prizes, an acclaimed study of Britain's educational and moral crisis, which provoked the fury of educationists and the delight and relief of parents.

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Melanie Phillips
Daily Mail
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Contact Melanie