Eight Reasons Newt Gingrich is Emerging as the Religious Right's Anybody-but-Mitt Candidate
Rachel Tabachnick printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 04:12:14 PM EST
It appeared that the contest for anybody-but-Romney might swing Rick Santorum's way following support of major Religious Right leaders at the Texas conclave last weekend. But news quickly leaked out of the continuing division among the attendees of the Texas gathering, including charges that the published results did not accurately reflect the strength of Ginrich's support.  Following are seven reasons why the thrice-married Newt Gingrich has much more support among the Religious Right than might be expected.
1. Gingrich has been courting Religious Right leaders for decades, but with increased intensity in the last few years.  

In 2009, Gingrich and his longtime aide Rick Tyler founded Renewing American Leadership (ReAL), with the mission to "preserve America's Judeo-Christian heritage"  and promote the involvement of conservative evangelicals and Catholics in politics.  The religio-political organization is led by emerging power brokers of the Religious Right including Jim Garlow, who spearheaded support for Proposition Eight in California, and David Barton, the former vice chair of the Texas Republican Party and the nation's most prominent promoter of Christian nationalist history narratives.

2. Gingrich is best positioned to receive the support that has been cultivated across the nation through years of Pastors Policy Briefings.  

Many thousands of ministers and their wives have attended these seminars to hear the featured GOP candidates and Religious Right leaders.  The core message of these events has been captured in a DVD for church and house parties distributed by United in Purpose/Champion the Vote, a well-financed campaign to register conservative evangelical voters.  Although the Pastors Policy Briefings have included a number of GOP candidates over the years, the current "One Nation Under God" DVD includes only one candidate - Newt Gingrich - along with James Dobson, Samuel Rodriguez, and other Religious Right leaders. (Video excerpt and full two-hour video.)

Some of the Pastors Policy Briefings and media have promoted Gingrich's 2006 book titled Rediscovering God in America.

3. Gingrich is best positioned to tap in support built through the related The Response prayer event and networking.

Rick Perry's campaign was kicked off with The Response in Houston on August 6.  The stadium prayer event was financed by the American Family Association (AFA) and led by an array of apostles and prophets of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR).  The AFA receives funding from Ken Eldred, one of the funders of United in Purpose/Champion the Vote, and has partnered with Champion the Vote in the Pastors Policy Briefings. (Eldred's funding of the AFA and NAR activism is covered further in Bruce Wilson's article on the Champion the Vote DVD.)

Rick Perry's campaign was a devastating failure, wrecking any plans of unity for the array of Religious Right leaders who attended and endorsed his event.  Perry finished his campaign with another The Response prayer event in Greenville, South Carolina on Tuesday and on Thursday endorsed Newt Gingrich.  Although Perry was drawing only a small percentage of voters in polling, his immediate endorsement of Gingrich sends a message to those in the networks of the leaders involved in The Response, including the 50-state apostolic networks of the NAR.  In the 2008 election these networks had aggressively promoted Sarah Palin, who has also endorsed Gingrich.

4. Gingrich's past history may be forgiven and may even enhance his "redemption" testimony.

Rick Perry's endorsement of Gingrich was perhaps one of the most eloquent moments of his otherwise disastrous campaign.  He dealt firmly with Gingrich's Achilles heel, stating,

"Newt is not perfect but who among us is? The fact is that there is forgiveness for those who seek God. And I believe in the power of redemption, for it is the central tenet of my Christian faith."

A message of redemption from a life of debauchery resonates among conservative evangelicals.  Bill Dallas, the head of Church Communication Network and chief executive of United in Purpose also narrates the DVD "One Nation Under God."  Dallas, a former real estate developer convicted of embezzlement, regularly speaks about his redemption, including  in an Christian Broadcast Network interview titled "Sanctified at San Quentin."  

Many of the testimonies of conservative evangelical leaders are filled with stories of their previous drug use, sexual sins, and more.  Some of the popular speakers on the circuit claim to be former Muslim terrorists, saved in dramatic conversion experiences.  

Gingrich's three marriages and other personal issues may not be as big of an issue as might be expected. There was a similar miscalculation in the 2000 election, since George W. Bush's alcoholism and previous lifestyle was seen by many conservative evangelicals as a validation of the power of his redemption experience. In 2007, Gingrich confessed his sins on James Dobson's radio show.  Ironically, Dobson has been one of the leading voices speaking out against Gingrich in the past week.

Gingrich's challenge will be to overcome the current gender gap seen in polls with more support from evangelical men than evangelical women.

5. Of the remaining candidates, Gingrich best verbalizes the politics of resentment.

Photobucket His expertise was on display last night when he received a standing ovation for the tongue-lashing he gave CNN's John King.  Gingrich turned his most glaring fault into a positive by going on the offensive and claiming that the press was smearing Republicans in order to help President Obama.  

After many years of work with the Religious Right, Gingrich has the capability to tap into the fears that Christian America is under siege from a Marxist/homosexual/Islamic conspiracy.  Gingrich spoke at John Hagee's Cornerstone Church in 2011, telling the audience that his grandchildren could end up living in a

...secular, atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.

This statement was ridiculed in the press, but makes perfect sense to those who have been indoctrinated in a worldview in which the combined forces of socialism, secularism and Islam are working together to intentionally destroy Christian American patriots.

Gingrich is a former history professor and has a Ph.D., but he often rallies audience with  opposition to the intellectual elites he claims are destroying American society.  In the "One Nation Under God" DVD, Gingrich is on a stage flanked by two large screens advertising Renewing American Leadership.  He tells the audience of pastors that he can't imagine having an atheist president and then continues,

I for one am tired of the long trend toward a secular atheist system of talk dominating our colleges..

...Half of what is taught in American colleges and universities is false.  It is a lie.  We ought to take it on head-on.

Gingrich also understands how to tap into the dualism of the Religious Right and the need to portray the opposition as not just wrong, but as literally evil.  A  New Yorker article about Gingrich states,

In 1990, when he was not yet Speaker, he pressed a memo on Republican candidates for office, instructing them to use certain words when talking about the Democratic enemy: "betray," "bizarre," "decay," "anti-flag," "anti-family," "pathetic," "lie," "cheat," "radical," "sick," "traitors," and more. His own vocabulary of contempt has grown only more poisonously flowery. President Obama's actions cannot be understood except as an expression of "Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior." Liberals constitute a "secular-socialist machine" that is "as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union." There is "a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us" and "is prepared to use violence."

6. Gingrich has a long history with Christian Zionists and Jewish organizations that object to a Palestinian state.  

The linked video is a clip of Newt Gingrich speaking at the 2nd annual Christians United for Israel summit in 2007, at which he stated,

If George W. Bush wanted to send a signal to Hamas tomorrow morning, he could move the embassy to Jerusalem tomorrow...

At the Republican Jewish Coalition 2012 Candiates Forum, Gingrich declared he would move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in the first two hours following his inauguration.  

The Republican National Committee appears to have abandoned any pretence of supporting a two-state resolution in the Israeli -Palestinian conflict.  A unanimously adopted resolution was produced at the RNC meeting in New Orleans last week and states,

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the members of this body support Israel in their natural and God-given right of self-governance and self-defense upon their own lands, recognizing that Israel is neither an attacking force nor an occupier of the lands of others; and that peace can be afforded the region only through a united Israel governed under one law for all people.

The rest of the resolution is filled with bible verses and references to the land as "God-given."

Many Jewish Republican leaders have been outspoken in their support for Mitt Romney, despite the fact that he has little appeal to Christian Zionist voters and has no record of participation in Christian Zionist activism.

Rick Santorum as also been a CUFI speaker and a regular in the Islamophobia speaking circuit, including his  2007 speech during  "Islamo-Facism Awareness Week"  in which his answer to Islam was to,  "We must educate, engage, evangelize, and eradicate." However, Gingrich has a more direct pipeline into the intersection of Christian Zionism and its right-wing Jewish partners.  Evidence of this is the influx of cash from Sheldon Adelson to the Winning our Future Super PAC which resuscitated Gingrich's campaign.

Gingrich and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have a long and parallel history, with Gingrich attempting to make the kind of come-back that Netanyahu achieved.  During the Clinton administration Netanyahu and Gingrich worked together to counter Clinton's efforts to advance the peace process.

7. Gingrich has an understanding of the GOP's need to increase its populist appeal.

This can be seen in his success in going after Romney and his role in Bain Capital.  Some Religious Right leaders hesitated to support Mike Huckabee in 2008 because they were concerned that he was not sufficiently dedicated to what would now be described as a Tea Party economic and anti-government message.

Gingrich has been able to appeal to Tea Party leadership while simultaneously going after Rommey's "crony capitalism." Navigating the message of right-wing populism requires an ability to adhere to the gospel of godly capitalism while portraying a small segment of the business and financial world as villains. Furthermore, the select chosen scapegoats must then be portrayed as a product of liberal, secular humanist evil.  Gingrich has had exposure to some of the best in the business at portraying economic calamity as products of left-wing demonic conspiracies, including John Hagee.

Gingrich has also worked closely for years with David Barton, as described in #1, which leads to the final point.

8. Gingrich is the remaining candidate most involved in the GOP's effort to recruit Hispanics and African American voters.

This point may be hard to believe considering his performance in the debates, including his latest sparring with Juan Williams during the Fox News-sponsored debate.  As counterintuitive as this sounds, Gingrich's message aligns with the narrative being used to appeal to Hispanic and African American voters.  This point requires some explanation.

David Barton and other Religious Right leaders are traveling around the country with a narrative that portrays the Democratic Party as the source of racism throughout the nation's history.  By omitting the "Southern Strategy" and shifts that have taken place in the parties, Barton presents an elaborate narrative that credits Democrats with racism from the Civil War and Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Era and into the present.  

In these narratives, a straight line is drawn from the Democratic Party of the past to the one of today, with today's Democrats engaging in a diabolical plan to enslave minorities through government programs and a slow genocide through abortion. For religious audiences, this narrative also includes a claim of the Democratic Party being under the control of demonic influence.

The narrative credits conservative religious leaders with providing the impetus to end slavery and promote the Civil Rights Movement.  Martin Luther King, Jr. is claimed to have been a Republican supporting conservative positions on social issues and the KKK is described as a weapon of Democrats against Republicans.

Photobucket This is the narrative that has been used by David Barton and leading NAR apostles in outreach efforts to African American churches in Texas.  Apostle Alice Patterson and Rev. C.L. Jackson stood next to Rick Perry as he spoke at the August 6 prayer event in Houston, as silent representatives of the message of recruiting minorities into the GOP.

Another major player in promoting this narrative and the view of government as the oppressor of minorities is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) Samuel Rodriguez. Rodriguez, a New Apostolic leader, was one of the founders of the Oak Initiative, a religio-political entity founded in 2009 which promotes minority outreach while literally demonizing a claimed Marxist/homosexual/Muslim conspiracy. (Rodriguez resigned from his position with the Oak Initiative in late 2011, when articles by this author presented him as something quite different the "moderate evangelical" persona he has in press.)

Rodriguez's has officially partnered the NHCLC with United in Purpose/Champion the Vote to register Hispanic voters and is one of the speakers on the "One Nation Under God" DVD and also participated in Rick Perry's Houston prayer event.  Rodriguez encourages white evangelicals to abandon their anti-immigrant stance and embrace Hispanic immigrants as a bulwark against the Islamization of America.

As a board member of the Affordable Power Alliance, he has challenged the validity of global warming and argued against the need to regulate mercury emissions.   Rodriguez is one of the most prominent figures among evangelical leaders who have been able to promote a right-wing anti-government and anti-regulatory message and religious supremacism under the banner of "social justice" for poor and minority voters.

This effort to embrace minorities and immigrants is not uniform in the Religious Right by any stretch of the imagination, but it is taking root in the growing Charismatic and Pentecostal sectors and with the apostles and prophets of the New Apostolic Reformation.

Thus far, Gingrich's Spanish language advertisements in Florida have focused on a Romney gaffe in 2007 and Romney's position on immigration.  But the Religious Right has laid a foundation that Gingrich can build upon with their evil-secular-government-oppression-of-minorities message and a shift away from the typical GOP anti-immigrant position.

Gingrich has won the coveted Chuck Norris endorsement announced in this WND article.


Norris has a second career defending the US from "anti-constitutionalists inside our country."  He is a board member of the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools and was a supporter of Mike Huckabee's 2008 campaign for president.

by Rachel Tabachnick on Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 05:57:29 PM EST

And these "religious" people can do this with a straight face? I understand "redemption", but how do these people feel about the patently unconstitutional ideas he's brought up? Unbelievable.

by Edski on Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 07:35:44 PM EST
All of these Christian Nationalist types are against the Constitution/Bill of Rights as we understand it. They all claim it was really Biblically based and have been perverted by that same bugaboo of "nefarious Secularist/Islamist conspiracy" they have made a scape goat of evil. Now that Gingrich has a big boost in S.C. it will be interesting to see how things go from there. Unlike Romney, Gingrich has passion an that sells whatever he's peddling to people. If you come of a dispassionate or unemotional it is a turn off for nearly everyone. Willard does it all the time, he comes off as a mannikin, no depth just smarm and falsity.

by Nightgaunt on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 09:41:08 PM EST

Do any of these photo-op ministers' congregations or parachurch organizations grant budget review access to evangelical or other financial accountability organizations?  

I have to wonder whether the ministers are getting something tangible, in addition to an ego massage. Maybe not, but.....

by NancyP on Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 08:23:39 PM EST

And what a nasty piece of work he is...
_ _ _

Chip Berlet: Research for Progress - Building Human Rights
by Chip Berlet on Fri Jan 20, 2012 at 10:52:05 PM EST

I have often been skeptical of the intense lobbying that right-wing groups have done on behalf of the home-schooling movement. I know that not everyone who home-schools does so for religious or political reasons, but it seems as though we are beginning to see the effects of badly skewed and deliberately false curriculum for the religious/political home-school crowd playing out in our elections. If not the young people themselves just yet, their parents certainly seem to have replaced whatever good, solid, factual information they learned in public school with the biased hokum David Barton and his ilk have created. Gingrich is riding an advanced wave of what's to come.

My hope is that whomever the nominee winds up to be, the extremists have pulled him too far right to recover for the general election and thus some semblance of a loyal, middle right opposition will arise in the years to come. We don't do well as a country when either party is at the extreme.

by RevRuthUCC on Sun Jan 22, 2012 at 02:57:52 PM EST
The only problem is that the effective propaganda machinery of the right wing Xian extremists has had the effect
of pulling the so-called center over into their direction. This dilutes the perception of their extremism. And things that were once considered beyond the fringe become part of the norm.
(David Barton's counterfactual histories seem to have gained a lot of traction amongst the general public for example.)

The occupy movement appears to be the only source of a successful counter-narrative to the right wing Xian/Tea Party mentality. The democrats really need to get on board and encourage an alternate populist mentality, as expressed by occupier movement, if they want to effect a course correction and pull the center back to a more rational position.

by PastorJennifer on Mon Jan 23, 2012 at 07:20:21 AM EST

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