“Donald Trump is the grizzly bear in The Revenant,” Newt Gingrich told the crowd at a Heritage Foundation event on Tuesday. “If you get his attention, he will get awake … he will walk over, bite your face off, and sit on you.”
While the left was still reeling from Trump’s choice of ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his next secretary of state, Gingrich was promising conservatives the president-elect would continue setting fire to the status quo.
The former House speaker’s speech was billed as an examination of the “Principles of Trumpism.” Gingrich led the original Republican Revolution in 1994, when the party took control of the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. His “Contract With America” detailed all that House Republicans planned to do, including lowering taxes, shrinking government, and reforming welfare.
On Tuesday, conservatives gathered to hear him prophesize about Trump’s presidency, but Gingrich avoided policy specifics and instead focused on the vague tenets of the new revolution he believes Trump has a mandate to lead, one that involves draining the D.C. “swamp” and waging war on political correctness. Gingrich’s explanation of “Trumpism” seemed to boil down to a phrase he repeated again and again: “Donald Trump’s gonna kick over the table.” And the audience responded with applause and murmurs of agreement each time.
It didn’t look like the typical Trump rally. The crowd was largely white, but there were no lewd t-shirts and only one “Make America Great Again” hat in sight. The audience members were mostly Beltway types, a sea of dark suits and candy-red dresses. The women wore heels; the men had shiny shoes and clean-shaven faces. They sat in tidy rows in an auditorium at the headquarters of a powerful conservative organization, steps from the Capitol. An establishment of the establishment.
And they clamored to tear it all down.
Only Trump can wrestle the country away from the swamp-dwellers and return it to its rightful owners, Gingrich said, while members of the audience “mmhmm’d” and nodded vigorously along. But no one I spoke with afterward was able to elaborate on what that table-kicking might entail.
“I just think his temperament is a great temperament for what is going on now in this politically correct government,” Regina Minor, a former commercial-property manager from the Washington area, told me. Minor said she was initially incensed by Trump’s comments about former rival Carly Fiorina’s appearance during the Republican primary, but now she’s excited about his impending presidency. “I have overlooked the offensive comments that he made,” she told me. “I believe that he will stand up, as Speaker Newt mentioned, and kick over some tables!”
Plus, she added, “Two of his wives have been incredibly beautiful, world-class models, and maybe he just doesn’t have a true understanding of what an average woman looks like.”
During the hour-long speech, Gingrich touted Trump’s propensity for violating campaign norms: how the president-elect used Twitter and Facebook to speak directly to voters; and how, at his campaign events, he peddled Trump wine, Trump water, Trump steaks. “Yeah, he once went bankrupt, but he’s gonna kick over the table,” Gingrich said. “[He’s] been married three times? Yeah, but he’s gonna kick over the table.”
Despite the crowd’s enthusiasm, few attendees seemed to want to talk to reporters. The man wearing the “Make America Great Again” hurriedly crossed the room when I approached him for an interview.
I asked one woman what, specifically, she wanted from a Trump presidency. “All of it,” replied Mary Toman, a local who once worked for the Department of Commerce. “Just all of it. … Trump is man of action, the whole package.” Another woman, who declined to give her name, called him “the reincarnation of Hyman Rickover.” As she helped her husband, a retired Naval officer named Robert Small, put on his coat, she explained that Hyman “did the job that everybody said was impossible.”
“I expect Trump to do what he says he’s gonna do … to make America great again,” Small chimed in. “If I have to tell somebody what that is, they don’t even know what I’m talking about.”