He’s been divorced twice, while committing adultery; is the consummate Washington insider; paid a large fine for ethics violations; has been squishy on abortion; supported efforts to counter climate change; favored national health insurance that looked much like what is now called Obamacare; and lobbied for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Oh, and he’s Catholic, historically suspect by evangelical Southerners, and a convert at that. So what makes him the candidate of the (evangelical) values voter?
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about how Corey Robin, in The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin, describes conservatism as being defined as a reaction to something that the conservative cherishes and is being taken away. Robin adds a layer to the discussion when he writes about Edmund Burke and his The Sublime and the Beautiful. He describes Burke as noting that curiosity, which at first enraptures the curious, soon “exhausts” itself. Pleasure “quickly satisfies; and when it is over, we relapse into indifference.” Quieter enjoyments lead to complacency, indolence, and inaction. Even love “carries the self back to a state of internal dissolution.” While conservative souls claim to be pleased by the familiar, this leads to “lethal ennui.”
Quoting Reagan, Goldwater, Thatcher, and Churchill, Robin describes conservative politicians as activitists, dreaming big dreams, rallying the troops, talking of “causes, struggles, enthusiasm, and devotion.”
Returning to Burke, the conservative “needs to be aroused by an experience more vital and bracing than pleasure or enjoyment.” Pain and danger supply this, a call to arms arousing us from our torpor.
Thinking back to George Lakoff, the highest goal of the conservative is to preserve the moral order. This order is threatened by Obama and the Democrats, and the conservative voter, in South Carolina the values voter, responds to the muscular pugilism of Newt Gingrich. The values voter is not voting his values on a superficial level; he is voting for the warrior who can go toe-to-toe with the enemy, who this year, is Barack Obama.
Robin continues by saying, “In the face of the sublime, the self is annihilated, occupied, crushed, overwhelmed; in the face of the sublime, the self is heightened, aggrandized, magnified.” Who is better described by this “simultaneity of–or oscillation between–self-aggrandizement and self-annihilation,” than Newt Gingrich?