Postmodern Populism

by Victor Davis Hanson

NRO’s The Corner

Newt Gingrich soaring in the polls 90 days ago — with an inspired strategy of critiquing Obama, reprimanding the left-wing media during the debates, playing down his ego while showing mastery of the issues, and calling for an end to internecine bickering — stumbled for a while under the natural negative ads that always target the perceived front runner of the moment. Did he not expect that?

Then under the normal barrage he apparently got fed up, quit trying to offer a defense against the negative ads (which he could have done), junked his previously successful strategy, went ballistic — and reminded us why we once long ago had found him grating — and now in full-fledged Obama style is making the redistributionist case against excessive private profiting (“looting”) in the marketplace. A pretty amazing thing to see the entrepreneurial Gingrich playing Oliver Stone to Romney’s supposed Gordon Gecko — given that a magnanimous and above-the-fray Gingrich might well have ridden out the storm and gone the distance with Romney. What was considered a mistake of not striking back in virulent fashion was probably not, and what is now considered a belated correction in striking back virulently is probably a mistake.

As for the race as of now: On the one hand, we have a president, who is the largest recipient of Wall Street cash in election history (a favorite in particular of Goldman Sachs and BP), the first to renounce public financing in presidential general elections since the progressive law was established almost 40 years ago, whose three chiefs of staff (Emanuel, Daley, Lew) have made millions on Wall Street as fat-cat bankers (JP Morgan/Citigroup), much of it from the Fannie/Freddie housing bubble and collapse, who just hired another OMB/Citigroup revolving door retread in Lew, who is a golf/Martha’s Vineyard aficionado — and who is now advancing the populist argument that the 1 Percent have rigged the game and have money and lifestyles the rest of us are denied; on the other hand, arch-conservative Newt Gingrich, who has created a lucrative multimedia empire in D.C,, is trumping that argument by portraying Bain capital as a capitalist cancer.

Stranger than fiction.

©2012 Victor Davis Hanson

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