Newt Gingrich made a name for himself as the right-wing ideologue who led the 1994 "Republican Revolution."
What a difference the wholesale collapse of international capitalism makes.
Forget 9/11 -- everything changed on 9/14/08, when Lehman Brothers hit the skids. Millions lost their jobs. Millions more lost their jobs. And the government refused to help them.
The government's masters, the bankers, wouldn't let them. They wanted all that taxpayer money for themselves.
The system was finally exposed as the corrupt, inefficient, cruel pseudodemocracy that we on the Left had always known it was. More than three years have passed yet neither the political class nor its corporate bosses have found the wherewithal to sate the anger of America's roiling masses with the traditional bundle of social programs. To the contrary, the powers that be are calling for austerity, for gutting what's left of the safety net.
They're stealing the rope with which we will hang them.
Political disintegration is disruptive and painful. But it sure is entertaining.
The rise of the Republican primary season's Anti-Capitalist Brigades is the center ring of this circus of death. At the head of the anti-Romney cadres is one of Newt's well-heeled supporters, who is dropping a cool $3 million on an ad blitz that denounces Mitt Romney for engaging in slash-and-burn capitalism. (Is there another kind?)
"There's a company in The Wall Street Journal today that Bain [Capital, Romney's company] put $30 million into, took $180 million out of and the company went bankrupt," Newt Gingrich said on January 10th. "And you have to ask yourself: Was a six-to-one return really necessary? What if they only take $120 million out? Will the company still be there? Will 1,700 families still have a job?"
Good questions all. But the heartless beasts who populate Wall Street venture capital firms don't worry about the blood and tears they leave in their wake. Like all vampires they feast and flee. Their pet Republicans don't care either. Not usually.
"I think there's a real difference between people who believe in the free market and people who go around, take financial advantage, loot companies, leave behind broken families, broken towns, people on unemployment," the former speaker continued.
Not much difference. Not when you think about it. Still, this is a serious slap-the-forehead moment.
Bear in mind, Gingrich is still a man of the Right. A few weeks ago his proposal for forced child labor of impoverished waifs marked the Dickensianest moment of the 2011 Christmas shopping season.
Newt isn't the only Republican presidential candidate attacking capitalism's sacred right to loot and pillage. Texas governor Rick Perry, whose brain freezes and loutish yucks over his role as the nation's top executioner of lower-class misérables(and at least one innocent man) make his predecessor George W. Bush look like Adlai Stevenson, calls buyout specialists like Romney "vultures" who "swoop in…eat the carcass, and…leave the skeleton" of companies they target. Romney, he said, is a "buyout tycoon who executed takeovers, bankrupted businesses, and sent jobs overseas while killing American jobs."
"Governor Romney enjoys firing people--I enjoy creating jobs," added Jon Huntsman.
These are Republicans? What's up?
"For all the talk about this being a center-right nation, there's a realization that Americans are uncomfortable with excessive greed and the kind of ruthless, screw-the-workers style of capitalism Romney used to get rich," Steve Benen writes in Washington Monthly.
Greg Sargent of The Washington Post chimes in: "The leading GOP candidates are on record arguing that Romney's practice of [capitalism]--which he regularly cites as proof of his ability to create jobs, as a generally constructive force and even as synonymous with the American way--is not really capitalism at all, but a destructive, profit-driven perversion of it. Thanks to them, this is no longer a left-wing argument."
(Actually, destruction and profit-taking are the essential cores of capitalism. But why quibble? Everyone agrees that capitalism sucks. Yay!)
Times are changin'. According to polls, communism is more popular than Congress. So why isn't the party of the left jumping on the Wall Street-bashing bandwagon?
Throughout the 2008 campaign and his presidency Barack Obama has taken pains to reassure the 1 percent that if he's not exactly one of them he'll look out for their bank accounts.
Certainly he has enacted policies that have increased the gap between rich and poor while sucking the life out of the dry husk of the middle class.
Meanwhile, revolution looms.
Why don't the Democrats see it? Don't they understand that capitalism is discredited? Newt Gingrich does. So do most Republicans.
It comes down to a simple explanation: Everything has changed, but not the Democrats. They've always been slower than the GOP to recognize the shifting winds of American politics, slower to respond, inept when they try.
We used to be a center-right country. Now we're left-right. Soon we'll be left-left. Both the Dems and the Reps will be left behind. In the meantime, watch the dying Republicans make the most of an agenda that ought to belong to the dying Democrats: bashing the rich and greedy.
If nothing else, it'll be entertaining.