My father’s farm machinery business went belly up the year my mother began her long battle with breast cancer. In those days, John Deere tractors were called Johnny Putt Putts because of their ripping percussive exhausts. In those days, radical mastectomies ripped and ravaged feminine bodies stem to stern, with nonspecific chemical and radiological treatments completing the horrid humiliation.
Mom held on during seven zigzag years, cycles of fighting back and dashed hope funneling down to a final morphine-infused rasp.
Dad held on too, returning to the high school teaching job he’d left to take his father’s place at the dealership. Day and night, he soldiered on in his grinding support role. But that’s what you do, right?
Not necessarily. Enter Newt Gingrich. Similarly confronted, he filed for divorce within two years of the first surgery endured by his wife of two decades. Newt married a 28-year-old staffer scant months after the divorce was finalized. He would later deceive her during a six-year affair with yet another much younger staffer.
It seems the measure of this self-proclaimed great man can be fully taken with a stubby ruler. Often doing the same for more common folk like my father would require the Webb Telescope. It’s not that complicated.
But Newt had bigger fish to fry. Us. The U.S. All of us. Taking his lead from Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, masters of contorting the finest achievements of decent adversaries with vicious lies repeated until they seem true, Newt endeavored to turn the Republican Party inside out. His plan was as old as skullduggery at the crossroads. Speak with one voice. If the opposition moves to solve a problem, thwart them at every turn. Say the problem isn’t real or its cause is something else. Then vote against all constructive solutions.
Gingrich transformed the Republican Party into a power-grabbing machine at all levels of government. Awash in distortions, its core is trapped in Newt’s sphere of deceit, pledging blind loyalty to a cadre of hucksters, grifters, and worse. In lockstep, its elected officials thwart all attempts by competent lawmakers to create solutions addressing the most vital, most existential threats to all our families. Yet, the rest of us — roughly 70% — know through hard evidence and common sense the real threats unleashed on our families by Newt’s GOP. Basic rights for all women imperiled. Massacres in schools. Police, Capitol guards, FBI agents, our relatives in the armed forces at risk. A near future where our grandchildren struggle to survive underground against the onslaught of a haywire climate unleashed.
There’s more. Voting rights weakened. Our standard of living sapped unceasingly by the greed of a rising oligarch class. The Russian tragedy of mind-numbing criminality and staggering incompetence cloaked by propaganda repeated on our soil as more wannabe Putins brutally grind all decency and hope out of the American Dream.
Horrifying? Yes. Yet the way out of Newt’s sphere, his suffocating bell jar, is clear. Make the last Republican you voted for — your very last.
Vote. Donate. Volunteer. It’s not that complicated.
Rich Clikeman lives in Doylestown Township.
This article originally appeared on The Intelligencer: Guest Opinion: The dangerous legacy of Newt Gingrich's GOP