This morning, in his appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Newt Gingrich continued to develop a theme he hinted at last night: That he represents neither Washington nor Wall Street, but the American people.
Toward the end of his appearance, Gingrich positioned himself as an outsider candidate, willing to cut spending and take on the establishment, much like, he said, former President Ronald Reagan. It was a tricky move, considering Gingrich’s long-time residency in Washington and his former leadership role in Congress.
“I represent the largest amount of change of any candidate,” he said. “I’m not representing Wall Street or the politicians in Washington.”
Will voters buy it? Given his high unfavorable ratings nationwide, it seems doubtful. Better for GOP voters to face it: None of the remaining contenders are “outsiders.” Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul have all spent their careers in politics. Mitt Romney gladly would have, and, at any rate, has run for president long enough to have polished away any raw taint of “outsider” he might once have had. The “outsider” shtick didn’t even work for Rick Perry, who has never been in Washington but who has been a career politician nevertheless.
It’s insulting to voters’ intelligence when these men claim to approach political problems as one unfamiliar with the behind-the-scenes realities of politics would. At the same time, though, it’s a mystery to me why none of them can find a way to turn their “insider” status to their own advantage. Yes, the nation has been in an anti-incumbent mood since at least 2008 and wary of political “insiders” who look to their own advantage ahead of the good of the American people, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want our representatives in Washington to possess the strategic savvy to thwart unwanted legislation and advance desired legislation. Why doesn’t Gingrich (or any one of the others) just say plainly, “I’ve spent enough time in Washington [or politics] to know the ins and outs of business there — but I’ve been out of Washington [or politics] long enough to remember to keep my finger on the pulse of the people. I’ll take XYZ steps to ensure that I’m listening to at least as many ‘ordinary’ Americans outside of Washington as ‘experts’ inside of Washington.” It would come across as a far more honest self-assessment and reassure anxious listeners far more.