And Gingrich supported almost all the most controversial Bush-Rove policies!
He favored No Child Left Behind, an unprecedented federal intervention in education. He supported Medicare Part D, a brand new, budget-busting drug entitlement. He supported "comprehensive immigration reform," perhaps the most divisive-among-conservatives policy initiative of the aughts. He urged the passage of TARP. And he even spoke favorably about the infamous Harriet Miers nomination, a George W. Bush misstep that caused many of his most loyal supporters to rebel.
Tea Partiers pledged that if they had their way the GOP would never again have as its champion a federal government enlarging, entitlement expanding, amnesty urging, Bush-style Republican.
To do so just four years on would be a significant failure.
Another Tea Party talking point is its suspicion of Washington, D.C., insiders. For all Sarah Palin's flaws, the Tea Partiers who rallied around her could at least justifiably claim that she had authentic roots far from Washington and a record in Alaska of taking on corrupt political insiders who sought to enrich themselves at public expense. Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain -- all these flawed Tea Party favorites have at least some claim to outsider status.
But Gingrich? He is the epitome of the Inside the Beltway insider, and not only because of his long stint in Congress. After retiring, he profited lavishly off connections he made on the taxpayer dime, earning hundreds of thousands of dollars influence-pedaling. Most famously, he got $1.6 million from Freddie Mac, the very entity that many conservatives regard as most culpable for the financial crisis. And then he had the temerity to insist that he was paid as "a historian," an explanation so transparently farcical that it can justifiably be seen as an insult to the intelligence of GOP primary voters.
As if supporting such a man weren't incoherent enough already, a movement that valorizes Joe the Plumber, family values and hockey moms is now rallying behind a long-winded former academic turned career politician with an affinity for private planes, chauffeurs, and buying Tiffany and Co. jewelry for his third wife. It's as if Kanye West wrote a politician into his last album.
Runaway, Tea Partiers! Why don't you just runaway?
Ron Paul supporting Tea Partiers would be the first to bail from a coalition that reshaped itself around Gingrich. In Reason magazine, Jacob Sullum runs through some of Gingrich's appalling positions on civil liberties: that the War on Terrorism somehow makes null certain rights to free speech and due process; that the government should stop the construction of a mosque until the day when Saudi Arabia permits churches and synagogues to be built; the proposal to escalate the War on Drugs by executing drug smugglers; support for warrantless wiretaps; and extreme hostility toward the co-equal judicial branch. It's true that only a small subset of Tea Party voters actually care about civil liberties with any kind of consistency, but Gingrich will alienate them.