Newt Gingrich & the Inherent Danger of Populism
The war on drugs, I admit, is worrisome. The surveillance of American citizens without a warrant is troubling. Holding people not charged with any crime for an undetermined period of time is deeply disturbing. And yet as chilling as I find those realities, none of them frightens me to the degree that this idea does:
“During an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Gingrich suggested the president could send federal law enforcement authorities to arrest judges who make controversial rulings in order to compel them to justify their decisions before congressional hearings… When host Bob Schieffer asked how he would force federal judges to comply with congressional subpoenas, Gingrich said he would send the U.S. Capitol Police or U.S. Marshals to arrest the judges and force them to testify.”
Gingrich – the current GOP front-runner – also promised that as President he would “abolish whole courts to be rid of judges whose decisions he feels are out of step with the country.”
And they say Ron Paul is the dangerous crackpot in this primary race.
The Washington Post article does note that many right-wing judicial experts were “critical” of the former Speaker’s idea. (Mind you, I suspect that those same establishment figures are privately critical of Gingrich being in the race at all.) And as I’ve said before here, barring some Tom Clancy-esque, dime store novel set of unforeseen circumstances, Newt Gingrich will not be elected president. But none of that makes Newt’s declaration any less disturbing.
For one thing, I think there is a very good chance that this idea will actually be amazingly popular with the GOP base that is pushing Newt. And if it does poll well among the red-meat crowd, it’s hard to see most of the other primary challengers having the stones not to give a hearty “Me too!” Sure, it’s hard for me to see Paul or Huntsman sign on to such lunacy. But Perry, Santorum or Bachmann? I say they push it in a heartbeat if it gets any kind of ground support. And with his recent calls of “treason,” I am starting to think that even Romney would happily go down this road if it meant a secured nomination.
This, then, is the dangerous side of populism. Stir up enough people with the boogeyman that the country is being turned into Salinist Russia by nefarious traitors, and it’s just a matter of time before those same people demand their very own Politburo. Those same folks that declare that there is nothing so sacred and divinely inspired as the U.S. Constitution will think little of scrapping the entire checks and balances it demands in order to “win.” And they’ll call Obama the tyrant as they do so.
Of course, I might be proven wrong. Those tea party supporters who gave such a primal scream over the thought of being forced to pitch in and insure the poor may well turn on Gingrich in the next day or two, and push his poll numbers back down to the 1-to-2 percent level where they belong. And if so, I will be the first to admit I was wrong about them. But I’m not holding my breath.
When people question me for saying that I can’t stand either the GOP or the DNC, but worry far more about today’s GOP – this is why.