Tired of the political squabbling and incivility of our day? Blame it on hanging chads—and Newt Gingrich.
According to NBC and MSNBC political correspondent Kornacki, the notion that there are two Americas, more or less equal in strength, dates precisely to Nov. 7, 2000, “the product of an entire nation torn perfectly in half.” The rupture took time to build, though; one climacteric was the civil rights movement of the postwar era, which led to the formation of a Southern, segregationist wing of the Democratic Party that would in time switch to the Republicans and take the South with them. When Bill Clinton came along in the 1990s, he brought a “New Democratic” style meant in at least some regard to woo the region back into the fold, but Republican firebrand Gingrich would have none of it. Instead, he practiced a slash-and-burn, us-vs.-them politics that verged on civil war. Few of his allies liked him, but indeed, “even if they still despised him, they had to respect him” after he toppled Speaker of the House Jim Wright with a decidedly malign but effective campaign. Gingrich, rising to that position, took it as his brief to “obliterate all that modernism had created,” and were it not for his considerable failings, he might have succeeded—unfortunately, others have continued that project. After eight years of Gingrich versus Clinton, and after some serious missteps on the part of Clinton’s would-be successor, Al Gore, the electoral map took the form it bears now, with blue states north of the Mason-Dixon Line and red ones mostly below it—and with intractable differences that all but guarantee the impossibility of any future candidate’s winning by a transnational landslide as Ronald Reagan did.
Revealing reading to think about before the midterms heat up.