Rick Santorum possesses some vile views on gay rights and abortion (like thinking rape victims who get pregnant should just accept this “gift from god”), but he seems like such a brutally strange and damaged person that I’d pity him if he weren’t in such a position of power. Ron Paul seems sincere and I don’t disagree with his anti-war and anti-war-on-drugs stances, even if some his other positions bug me (not to mention his ugly newsletters, the racist content of which he’s never explained satisfatorily). Mitt Romney has the nonplussed cheesiness of a local news anchor.
All members of this trio possess varying degrees of harmlessness, as far as I’m concerned. So with Rick Perry out of the race, Gingrich stands above all of them as, hands down, the worst human being of the bunch.
Among them, Gingrich is the most eager practitioner of Bully Politics. This has been a feature of the Republican arsenal ever since Barry Goldwater and part of the general pushback against New Deal/Great Society ideals we’ve seen since those days. However, it’s never been practiced more brutally than now, and never more gleefully than by Newt. When he talks about making kids work as janitors, there is vengeance, and almost glee, in his voice. When he sneers at Juan Williams during a debate, he all but invites the riled-up audience to attack his outnumbered questioner and seems not too concerned about the consequences. He is never happier than when he attacks those can least defend themselves.
When Gingrich called Obama a “food stamp president,” it was an obvious dog-whistle statement. (Subtext: “Remember, guys, he’s BLACK. And he’s gonna give YOUR money to OTHER BLACK PEOPLE.”) But apart from the badly disguised racism, it was also part and parcel with the delight he takes from attacking the least of us, joyfully positing that the poorest among us are the most deserving of our scorn and ridicule.
Hearing this, I had an immediate, visceral, infuriated reaction, for reasons I couldn’t quite articulate at first. Yes, it was a reprehensible attitude, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on exactly it bothered me so much. And then it all flooded back to me, a memory I’d done my best to bury: My family was once on food stamps.