There will be no shortage of after-the-fact election analysis following Newt Gingrich’s win in South Carolina’s Republican primary on Saturday, and instead of examining what the candidates’ campaigns did, or did not, do right, it is helpful to look at why voters gave Gingrich their votes. Willard Romney’s loss is stunning to many pundits and observers, but there were ominous signs Gingrich would prevail based on his inflammatory statements about the media, African Americans, children, and his views toward women.
Exit polls reveal that Gingrich’s debate performances earned him late-deciding voter support as well as religious right evangelicals’ votes; there is a connection between the two that cannot be denied. It is possible that one voter summed up best the reason nearly three-quarters of evangelical voters supported Gingrich over the rest of the pitiful Republican field. An 85-year-old man said, “I think we’ve reached a point where we need someone who’s mean,” and Gingrich, the man said, “was the only one mean enough.” About two-thirds of voters surveyed at different South Carolina polling places said Gingrich’s debate performances were the most important aspect in their decision to choose him, and that he distinguished himself, in part, by assailing debate moderators for their questions. However, Gingrich gave voters plenty of meanness during the debates besides lambasting moderators, and his mean-factor resonated with equally mean and racist evangelical voters.
It is now in the permanent record that Gingrich regards African Americans as lazy people who rob white Americans of their wealth and enjoy living in opulence subsisting on food stamps. Gingrich further displayed meanness evangelicals revere when he proposed forcing poor children to work cleaning toilets of affluent children in schools, and he upped the ante by demeaning school janitors, cafeteria workers, and office help as a waste of taxpayer dollars. But it was Gingrich’s attitude toward women that evangelicals, especially male evangelicals, may have appreciated the most.
Back in late November, a conservative talk-show host, Steve Deace, compared Gingrich to biblical King David who, like Gingrich, contrived to commit adultery and won forgiveness by begging for compassion. Of course, god forgave David and allegedly Gingrich as well who followed some unsolicited advice from a Southern Baptist Convention lobbyist who told him, “You need to make it as clear as you possibly can that you deeply regret your past actions and that you do understand the anguish and suffering they caused others including your former spouses. Make it as clear as you can that you have apologized for the hurt your actions caused and that you have learned from your past misdeeds.” That is the beauty of the Christian religion for men; commit adultery, beg forgiveness and you are a heroic figure. For women though, the pain and betrayal of an adulterous husband is not washed away by phony confessions and acts of repentance; but that is the price for belonging to a patriarchal, mean religion.
The Christian religion’s avatar of light, Jesus Christ, did preach charity, forgiveness, love for fellow man and peace, but in the final analysis, non-compliance results in everlasting burning in a lake of fire. For the past three years, the religious right supported Republicans who assaulted women, gays, the poor, and Muslims because they do not conform to Old Testament rules that are inherently harsh and punitive. Christian Dominionists and fundamentalists floated the idea of death for homosexuals, stoning women for having sex before marriage, and punishing proponents of same-sex marriage by presidential commission. Now, one might think that evangelicals stoning non-compliant Americans is harsh, but according to scripture, when Jesus returns, he will resurrect those dead sinners and condemn them to burn in everlasting Hell. There cannot possibly be a meaner religion, and the religious right found an equally mean candidate in Newt Gingrich.
There is a reason Gingrich ramped up the mean factor in South Carolina by attacking the poor, gays, the media, and African Americans; he knew there was an abundance of mean-spirited, racist, religious right voters searching for a mean candidate to implement their brand of theocracy. Gingrich promised to pack the courts exclusively with graduates of Liberty and Regent University if elected to “assault the judicial dictatorship” and return America to its previous glory after courts replaced Christian America “by legalizing abortion, driving God out of public life, and making same-sex marriages become legitimized.” Liberty University School of Law, for example, pressured students to disobey U.S. law if it conflicts with what they believe is god’s law and evangelicals hardly recognize any law except for the bible. The last thing Americans need are Dominionist, religious right judges enforcing biblical law. Unfortunately, evangelicals are not content following god’s law in their lives and seek to force every American to conform to the religious right’s interpretation of “god’s law” and, apparently, they believe Newt is mean enough to make it happen.
Gingrich is hardly a good Christian; or any kind of Christian but he is mean and South Carolina voters rewarded him for his meanness. America doesn’t need a mean president, they need a compassionate president, and it is highly probable the religious right detests President Obama because he has compassion for all Americans; not just religious right fanatics. Not all Christians are mean. It is heartening that many Christians assailed the religious right for opposing health care for all Americans, supported cutting programs for the poor, seniors and children, and attempting to eliminate organizations like Planned Parenthood.
Newt Gingrich is a perfect fit for the religious right and it is not surprising they found their mean candidate after his contemptuous display during the South Carolina debates. Gingrich epitomizes hate and it is obvious why hateful religious right voters rewarded him with a primary victory. Florida is rife with mean-spirited, religious right voters and it remains to be seen if Romney can challenge Gingrich for the meanest candidate title. It is notoriety decent men would avoid like plague, but then again, the Republican field is devoid of decency. They do, however, have an abundance of mean candidates and South Carolina’s religious right picked one of the meanest men as their champion.