In the last few days, a few Republican presidential candidates have broken with party orthodoxy in order to state what would seem to be obvious truths.
I’m not a meteorologist. All I know is 90 percent of the scientists say climate change is occurring. If 90 percent of the oncological community said something was causing cancer we’d listen to them.
Then former House Speaker Newt Gingrich stunned Republicans by daring to attack the current Republican budget proposal, which dismantles Medicare in favor of a voucher system. On “Meet the Press” Gingrich said “I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering.” Gingrich also called it “radical change” and “too big a jump”.
When these two statements came out, I was initially pleased. It was the first time in years I had seen any Republicans attempt to break away from the hive mind. Republicans had tied themselves so tightly to their more radical elements that there wasn’t any chance of them appealing to enough moderates to win a presidential election. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that Republicans pledged to absolutely protect Medicare, which is a very popular program with older Americans, who make up a significant portion of Republican voters. It is hard to imagine any Republican candidate having any chance of being elected president if they want to radically change the Medicare system they promised to preserve.
Unfortunately, my initial pleasure was misplaced. The voices of Republican orthodoxy struck back quickly and fiercely. American Spectator accused Huntsman of falling for the man-made climate change scam. Jonathan Tobin said “If Huntsman is serious about wanting to be the GOP nominee, he is going to have to start thinking and talking like a conservative.” I guess if you believe in science, you can’t be a conservative.
The reaction to Gingrich was even more severe, with multiple Republicans claiming that he has killed his chances for the Republican nomination before he even started campaigning. As the conservative drones piled on the attacks, not a single prominent Republican dared defend Gingrich’s comments. And Gingrich himself responded by backpedaling furiously, issuing a personal apology to House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan and telling Fox News “I made a mistake”.
But what makes this ironic is that by making Ryan’s budget plan and Medicare overhaul “the ultimate conservative litmus test” the real winner is Obama.
UPDATE: More about the deep hole that Gingrich has dug for himself.
UPDATE 2: The Daily Show sums it up hilariously: