The Conversation

Readers respond to our November 2018 stories and more.

Newt Gingrich Says You’re Welcome

Newt Gingrich turned partisan battles into a vicious blood sport, wrecked Congress, and paved the way for Donald Trump’s rise. As McKay Coppins reported in November, the former speaker of the House is now reveling in his achievements.

I couldn’t help noticing that the lessons Newt Gingrich takes from nature are only those that reinforce his particular worldview. Thus the usual nods are made to survival of the fittest, and women are expected to bow down before the obvious superior strength of dominant males, but no mention is made of the nurturing behaviors of countless animals or instinctual traits that help ensure the survival of groups. The ecology of our planet is so much more complicated than Gingrich’s filtered view, and while I don’t know whether we necessarily ought to be basing our political decisions on any examples from nature, what I see is just one more wealthy white man using any means to justify a position of power. What a pity that he was able to influence our country.
David Ohannesian
Seattle, Wash.

There’s no question that Newt Gingrich was an important figure, but he was an inevitable important figure. If Gingrich hadn’t ended Democratic dominance of the House, someone else would have. There were tensions in the Democratic coalition that could not be avoided. The Democratic hammerlock on the House was out of step with the composition of the American electorate. The tidal forces of cultural conflicts launched decades before were going to tear apart Congress in the same way they’d torn apart campuses and caused conflict at kitchen tables.
So, no, Gingrich didn’t break American politics. But he did help break a progressive monopoly on the House, which the GOP has controlled 20 of the 24 years since. And given the aggression and incivility they overlook on their own side, it’s clear that for many commentators on the left, ending Democratic dominance is Gingrich’s truly enduring sin.
David French
Excerpt from an article on

People who think Newt Gingrich “turned politics into a vicious blood sport” clearly don’t know enough about Lyndon B. Johnson. He wantonly destroyed reputable people for the benefit of the oilmen who bankrolled him. Power-hungry politicians of both stripes have done plenty to destroy civility.
Paulette Arnold
Evanston, Ill.

Was Gary Hart Set Up?

What are we to make of the deathbed confession of the political operative Lee Atwater, newly revealed, that he staged the events that brought down the Democratic candidate in 1987? In November, James Fallows asked this question.

The saddest part of this story: Lee Atwater, confronted by his own looming death, realized that his brand of campaigning by lies, innuendo, and distraction was harmful to American democracy. But his repentance was too little, too late. In the years since, these techniques have become the stock-in-trade of political operatives.
The poisonous, dangerously fractured political landscape we now have to deal with has been manufactured by Atwater’s disciples.
Howard Schmitt
Green Tree, Pa.

It would also be interesting to ponder what would have happened without a Lee Atwater. Probably because of my age, I tend to think of Atwater as the original gremlin. I once naively thought that his deathbed show of conscience and regret would be impactful. But we’re now besieged with evil gremlins copying and amplifying his dirty deeds. One dies, and 10 more pop up.
Are we capable of hitting the reset button? Or are we stuck with this political savagery until the planet explodes?
Tanya Hilgendorf
Ann Arbor, Mich.

Will Beth Moore Lose Her Flock?

The Bible teacher Beth Moore gained her following by teaching scripture to women—and being deferential to men. Now her outspokenness on sexism could cost her everything, Emma Green wrote in October.

I heard Beth Moore speak in 2017 in Orlando, Florida. I was blown away by her sincerity and truthfulness. This article perfectly captures what I saw and heard that day, and much more.
I am one of those Christians who feels sort of stuck between the cracks of the current atmosphere—not at all in agreement with my fellow Christians who seem blind to the character flaws blatantly displayed in both the White House and the Church, but also understanding their cry for some feeling of control over the flow of secular liberalism, which now dominates American culture. I think their hope is sadly misplaced in the present administration.
This article has let me know that I am truly not alone in my feelings and thoughts. Sometimes a voice in the wilderness is all the Lord God needs to change the world. Go, Beth Moore, go!
Pastor Ron Barnes
Word Place of Northern California
Sacramento, Calif.

Until 2016, I considered my foundational belief system to be in line with the evangelical movement. I, too, voted for a third-party candidate and no longer identify with evangelicals because of the very same attitudes Beth Moore is describing. I now call myself a “Christ follower.” I am 58, a woman, working, white, with a master’s degree. I still have strong Christian core values but cannot tolerate the “good old boy” system apparently tolerated by evangelical Christians.
Terri Simpson
Little Rock, Ark.

This is a well-written identification of a significant shift that is largely going unnoticed. For so long, the conservative platform has taken its Christian voters for granted, much as the Church has often taken for granted the reticence of its women.
I’m so thankful for Beth Moore’s intelligent and humble fearlessness—a powerful voice for an often unheard and underled population.
Angela Hougas
Delavan, Wis.

Thank you for writing about Beth Moore. She spoke at my church’s women’s conference, and I had the pleasure of hosting her. You find out a lot about a person behind the scenes. She is the real deal: a kind, compassionate Jesus lover.
Emma Green writes, “Christians of color have expressed rage over what they see as abandonment by their brothers and sisters in the faith; many have even left their congregations.”
The problem is much larger than you state, and it’s not just people of color who are leaving the Church. People of all races who proudly call themselves “exvangelicals” have left the Church not only because of its tolerance for sexism but also because of its silence on matters related to racial discrimination.
As a person of color, I wouldn’t say the Church has newly abandoned me. Instead, I would say that the Church has persisted (since slavery) in its dismissal or denial of matters of importance to people of color. Throughout the years, people learned to grin and bear it and just “focus on Jesus,” which supports the concept of Christian business as usual. That is changing as we acknowledge that real unity and fellowship extend far beyond Bible study and into care for the lives of the people you say are your brothers and sisters in Christ.
Jocelyn Williams
Sacramento, Calif.


“Newt Gingrich Says You’re Welcome” (November) misstated Callista Gingrich’s age at the time she began her relationship with Newt Gingrich. She was not 23; she was 23 years younger than Newt.

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