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Gingrich, a front-runner who deserves to come in last

Jonathan P Hicks | 12/16/2011, 2:16 p.m.
It's time to make youth unemployment the focus of our national attention

When Rick Perry became the next big thing among the Republican Party's presidential hopefuls, his star sank almost as quickly as it had risen. Other than his dismal debate performances and that family hunting lodge with the racially offensive name, there was scarcely any basis to evaluate his candidacy before he was relegated to footnote status.

In retrospect, Herman Cain represented a laughable political sideshow, a candidacy that few thoughtful people took seriously. However, before we got a chance to assess the foolishness of an economic plan known as "9-9-9," Cain was gone from the race in a whirl of scandal with an ever-growing list of women coming forward to air his dirty laundry.

That leaves us now with the Republicans' current flavor of month, a former speaker of the House of Representatives whose history and current pronouncements are both wrongheaded and chilling. If Newt Gingrich represents the direction that the Republican Party wants to embark upon, as his current front-runner status suggests, it is a route that is dangerous, petrifying and filled with peril for working-class Americans, particularly those who are Black and Brown.

This is a man who seems obsessed with a desire to victimize the poor, particularly in urban America. It is a part of his political DNA, going back to his days of being the champion of the draconian "Contract with America" of the 1990s. As an example of his fidelity to his red-meat, politically conservative base, he recently offered his view that unionized janitors be relieved of their duties and that young schoolchildren in poor neighborhoods be hired to take on their work.

It would be useful, Gingrich explained, because young children in urban American have "no habit of working." What's more, he explained, they see few examples of adults who do-except, of course, when conducting drug deals.

Never one to shy away from thinly-veiled, racist, coded language that decades ago made him the darling of his conservative Republican district in Georgia, Gingrich has recently taken to speaking of President Barack Obama in pejorative and insulting ways, dubbing him "the food stamp president."

What is most frightening about this candidacy is that he is conducting a campaign that appears to be lacking integrity or principle. This is a man who will say anything, no matter how divisive, to gain attention and notoriety. This, too, is not new. After all, this is the man who lambasted Bill Clinton for his presidential infidelity while carrying on his own extramarital affair.

But back to this year's campaign. His recent rant against the Palestinians is a sparkling example of Gingrich's comfort in the world of bitter, contentious discourse. The Palestinians, he said, are "an invented people." Gingrich, whose ancestors came to America from Germany and Scotland, went on to defend one of his previous comments calling the Palestinians terrorists. "The Palestinian claim to a right of return is based on a historically false story. These people are terrorists," he said. "They teach terrorism in their schools."

That the Republican electorate would enthusiastically support as their party's front-runner someone who is so brazen in espousing his George Wallace-like views of people of color, not to mention his wholesale condemnation of an entire ethnic group, is truly numbing. One can only hope that the Republicans ultimately come to their senses and place Gingrich in the position he rightly deserves.

Like those of Cain and Perry and so many others, this is a candidacy that deserves to go nowhere.