It is of course a preposterous thought indeed that we mere mortals could ever fully comprehend the inner wonders that propel the inexpressible goodness and awesomely big ideas of presidential he-can-he-really-can-candidate Newt Gingrich. But I must say, last week he stumbled on one wonderous idea that I think we can all fathom (not in its gingrichy metaphysical wholeness, naturally, but in significant part) and possibly learn to love.
It's about his "campaign," which is to say, he hasn't one. And I like that.
I'm serious now, don't laugh. I admire Newt's conceptual, Zenlike approach to non-campaign campaigning, if we assume the traditional definition of campaigning, which is that of slogging through the climatological extremes of Iowa and New Hampshire for two years and sipping bad tea and weak coffee with Christian fundamentalist bluehairs and assorted philistines of Yankee Babbittry.
Screw it. Who needs it? I mean, do we really need that? Does sharpening one's retail political skills better enable a future president to answer Hillary's 3 a.m. phone call? To read a budget? To recognize that Eric Cantor is an insufferable assclown?
Of course not. Presidential candidates, in our primary system of gauntleted desensitization, may learn how to better tolerate ordinary America's living-room mobocracy, but all that press-the-flesh insincerity and all those moments of rehearsed soundbite glory make them a better chief executive not. I'd rather they invest their time reading Gibbon or something.
Now, that's Newt's big idea. True, it likely came about only out of necessity: that is, his wife wouldn't let him go play with the other president-wannabe boys and girls of Republican mediocrity and smallness. But let us not quibble about that; the invention is the thing. And here, I do believe that Newt is on to something authentically Big.
By all means we can proceed with the state-by-state or regional primary system of party-nominee selection. I do mean by all means; preferably, however, with a manifest emphasis on one: the one in which plausible candidates travel the entire land, without geographical focus, debating, jousting, probing one another in freewheeling candidate forums, unfurling policy papers at equally freewheeling press conferences, addressing all the voters in all the states simultaneously, and all it of nationally televised -- in other words, macro-campaigning.
We've more than 300 million interested parties. The age of micro-, retail campaigns -- launched on the less than universal profundity of ethanol subsidies -- should be mercifully euthanized.
Something along these electoral lines, I gather, is the idea that Newt has in mind. And it, finally, at long last, is a genuinely Big one. To be sure, it is also not, in reality, all that new. Nonetheless, Big it is. And I couldn't agree with him more.