Newt Gingrich: On what we’ve lost

It’s back to the zoo with you, Gingrich.

A moment of silence, please, for the Newt Gingrich campaign for presidency. Sure, his shoot-for-the-moon candidacy has been on the ropes since at least Feb. 1 when his debate momentum  and surprise South Carolina victory were crushed in Florida beneath a mountain of Romney super PAC attack ads. But there was at least a short-lived moment when some — certainly the candidate himself — actually believed he could last all the way to the Republican National Convention in August. Now that dream is dead: Gingrich announced yesterday that he was “reassess”ing after his five-state loss on Tuesday. Campaign aides said he’d officially be out next week.

While there is certainly plenty to mock about the big man with a child’s heart, Gingrich was in some ways a laudable candidate. He was, to be clear, generally despicable. But also, when compared to the rest of the Republican field and that party in general, Gingrich could be occasionally refreshing as well.

In the context of his 2012 presidential run, the Gingrich paradox can be encapsulated in an event from May of last year, when he came out strongly against the Paul Ryan budget proposal, describing it as “right wing social engineering.” Party loyalty over the regressive Ryan budget — derided universally among Democrats, touted equally by Republicans — is just one example of the partisan nature of D.C. politics. Yet Gingrich called this faux solution a “radical change.” Then his party flipped out and he was forced to walk his comments back. But he did make them, and that counts for something.

Gingrich’s most enduring contribution to the campaign season, however, was his intense and obvious love of science. He took a lot of heat for it from his rival candidates, but he never dropped his insistence that America should strive to put another man on the moon. (A colony, actually.) Again, what set him apart was his willingness to be set apart. What does Romney think about manned space flight? Oh, we don’t know, how’s it polling? Gingrich seems to truly believe in his heart in the promise of technology and big ideas. In an environment where kowtowing to the party line dominates, Gingrich went his own way. In the end, it cost him. Still, we consider it commendable.

Of course, Gingrich also apparently thinks that poor kids should be janitors in their own schools, and was the king of the dog-whistle, using coded language like calling Obama the “food-stamp president” to appeal to racists, so maybe we’re taking this praise a bit too far. (And we don’t even have the space or inclination to get into all of his crazy hypocritical personal issues, which everyone already knows so well!) But what’s the harm? He’s out and Romney’s the guy. We’ve got bigger problems to worry about.

Follow Brayden Simms on Twitter @metropolitik

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