November was a month to remember — a time filled with major changes domestically and abroad. I’ll mention only a few examples of what’s happening abroad, though each event could be front and center in the 2012 presidential elections.
Britain recalled its embassy staff from Iran, a nation that may soon have nuclear weapons. Russia broke diplomatic relations with Finland. And NATO somehow attacked a border outpost, sending relations between Pakistan and the United States into a nosedive.
Moderate Islamists are winning elections throughout the Arab world. And in Egypt, hundreds of thousands of people, outraged at the deaths of 38 protesters, served the Army notice that military rule must go.
Our domestic politics have also experienced changes every bit as consequential. The so-called congressional “supercommittee” failed. The threat of automatic, draconian budget cuts — cuts that everyone agreed would force a settlement — had no effect at all. Thus, more than $1 trillion in cuts to both defense and domestic programs will begin in January 2013.
Occupy Wall Street, a movement protesting income inequality in the United States, has been expelled from public parks ranging from Los Angeles to Philadelphia without much public outcry. Will its participants regroup, or is this the end? Will its issues disappear? Nobody knows.
In the Republican race for their presidential nominee, conservatives continue to look for their version of Obama. They don’t trust Washington politicians. Republican voters want someone fresh, personable, exciting and with executive experience.
Mitt Romney is the choice of what constitutes the remains of the once-triumphant Republican establishment, but there is a strong ABR movement (Anybody But Romney). Some charge that Romney has twisted his positions on issues so often that he could make a corkscrew envious. While Romney seesaws in the polls against Obama, when pitted against a conservative Republican like Gingrich in South Carolina, he loses by double digits.
In early polls, Gingrich is besting Romney in South Carolina, a primary that can give a candidate momentum going into the super-primary contests. Pundits and journalists are pulling out an old chestnut to describe his rise: “Newtmentum.”
No one knows better than Gingrich as to how short-lived it can be. With the wholesale walkout in June of his key campaign staff, Gingrich’s candidacy was pronounced dead. Now that he’s a contender, we can expect the heavy artillery to start firing.
If Gingrich should become the nominee, we can expect a campaign of unparalleled partisanship and media skill. Gingrich is a pioneer of applying the scholarship of language to campaigning. Gingrich understands how to draw lines of clear distinction between himself and his opponent. He usually characterizes his opposite party opponent as having more than a nodding acquaintance with the Devil.
Gingrich also works at presenting clear contrasts for voters. Voters like this because it makes their job easier. He paints a picture of such stark contrasts that no one can whine about having to pick “the lesser of two evils.” It’s always good vs. bad.
An example of Gingrich using language to change voters’ perceptions of an issue is Gingrich’s claim that his work for the mortgage giant Freddie Mac was not lobbying. New York Times columnist Nick Kristof picked up on this and tweeted: “Gingrich says he’s not a lobbyist. But he took big fees to influence gov’t for clients.”
Donna Brazile is a senior Democratic strategist, a political commentator and contributor to CNN and ABC News, and a contributing columnist to Ms. Magazine and O, the Oprah Magazine.
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