Among the leading contenders for Donald Trump's general election running mate is former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Ironically, an 'Outsider' Trump-Gingrich ticket would only be possible because of a political revolution led by Insider Gingrich.
Trump supporters have had their core in mostly-white Southern working class Americans who felt disenfranchised in the wake of civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s. This group grew substantially in the 1980s and 1990s as large employers, particularly in the Midwest, began shutting down plants, sending jobs overseas, devastating entire communities and rippling through the economy. Economic refugees joined with southern conservatives, conservative Catholics and evangelicals across the country.
And with their backing, the GOP won a majority in the U.S. House in 1994 for the first time in 40 years. The Gingrich Revolution that followed brought profound changes in the way business was done in the nation's capital. Any practice or pretense of bipartisanship was verboten. The legislative process had one goal: winning. And winning meant accomplishing one party's political agenda or, in the alternative, blocking the other party from accomplishing theirs.
The revolution included carefully-crafted messages. The mainstream news media became the "liberal media" or "media elites." All guns were trained on one of the slowest, fattest, easiest-to-hit targets in American politics: The United States Government. Everything bad was the fault of Washington bureaucrats, usually faceless.
The Gingrich approach took root and spread -- some say metastasized -- as Republican revolutionaries in the House began to run for and win election to the Senate. And today, a new generation of highly partisan and ideological candidates has been elected to the "World's Greatest Deliberative Body," shaking the U.S. Senate to its stately roots.
Partisanship evolved into hyperpartisanship. The evening of Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th President of the United States, a group of Republican House and Senate leaders began planning a campaign to oppose virtually everything the new president proposed. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell underscored the agenda, telling the Heritage Foundation, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president."
Congress pretty much ground to a halt as nearly every piece of legislation offered or backed by Democrats was voted down or blocked from consideration. Republicans even opposed legislation they had previously favored. And in return, using the 60-vote threshold required in the Senate, Democrats were able to stop Republican legislation. The result became gridlock in the Legislative Branch of the U.S. Government.
The paralysis did not escape notice. Over time, the anti-government, anti-Washington fervor that had been courted and nourished by the GOP grew deeper and broader. But now the disenchantment and distrust were aimed at both parties. Finally, in 2009 and 2010, the new conservative electorate had enough, and the Tea Party was born. Well-organized and well-funded, they showed up by the thousands in front of the Capitol to protest. They became a potent political force, and in the next few years, knocked off a few moderate Republican members of Congress in their own party primaries and totally terrified the rest. And, while the Tea Party has lost some of its initial steam, the broad dissatisfaction with Congress remains.
This evolving dynamic, along with a television news environment that focuses more on sensation than substance, helped make the unlikely presidential candidacy of Donald Trump possible. He's been described as the P.T. Barnum of his time; the ultimate self-promoter and huckster. He is much, much more. He's a smart, shrewd businessman; a master manipulator who can instantly read a crowd and tell them exactly what they want to hear; and tell them loudly and frequently. An indifference to research or even basic facts doesn't seem to slow him down or bother his supporters. Behavior researchers tell us these folks are neither motivated nor deterred by such niceties. They're attracted to a candidate who has no fear of being politically incorrect or even wrong because he's getting in the establishment's face, and he doesn't often back down. "Tell it often and tell it loud!"
And now, the master outsider may be joined by Newt Gingrich, a master insider, whose grand strategy to recast the national government into a highly partisan political entity has opened the door to one of the most outside political forces in history. The revolution continues.