My Man Newt?

My Man Newt? November 23, 2011

I’ve watched the vast majority of the GOP debates during this primary season. I am not a party member, but I do hope to find a major party candidate I can vote for this election cycle. I’m not sure why, but I fear being apathetic in my misfit politics. I am willing to vote for a single issue, so long as it can be actualized in the form of a policy change that has real implications for real people, people I know.

Right now, as I see it, that issue is immigration. The Dream Act has been around for some time and has a history of support on both sides. In the current, nativist climate of the Right, it would be hard to pass something like this if it came from the Left. But it is equally hard to find a Republican willing to stand by it.

Until last night.

Newt Gingrich struck a deeply moderate (too moderate for my own, personal fancy) but humane chord on what to do about immigrant families who have roots in the US. He offered a hybrid idea of “legality without citizenship” that would avoid family separation and mass deportation. Quickly condemned by Romney, Bachmann and others who resorted to the usual rhetoric de jour, Gingrich stood firm. He said:

I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who’ve been here for a quarter of a century … [and] separate them from their families and expel them. I’m prepared to take the heat in saying: Let’s be humane in enforcing the law.

I was shocked. Newt has been the most well-informed and least scripted or predictable candidate in these debates, but I’ve never appreciated him as a possible candidate. Although Huntsman strikes a refreshing tone to me and Paul’s anti-war position is deeply appealing too, Gingrich’s performance last night filled me with a new sense of hope. At the moment when he had the most to lose, at the time when his status in the fickle polls was surging, Newt stood for a simple—and deeply Catholic— truth: to be the so-called “party of the family,” one cannot uproot US immigrant families. The law must be enforced and applied in a humane way.

Obama has been vocal about supporting the Dream Act, but he has failed to push it through. He has failed to make it a major issue during his term. Gingrich strikes me as someone who would actually work on this in a concrete way. By the way: I’ve come to learn that Gingrich has held this basic position consistently throughout his political career.

Voting in US elections is always a tragedy. In the classical dramatic sense: the political options presented are deeply imperfect, unideal but not totally equivalent. I will not call my position a “Catholic option.” Rest assured: I’ll be holding my nose on many, many other issues. Although I never thought the day would come, even though I’ve never imagined myself enthusiastic about an establishment Republican (or Democrat), I find myself—perhaps for the very first time—willing to consider rallying behind Newt Gingrich.

I come to this whole issue from a place of deep, personal concern. Here’s part of that place:

My college recruits top-notch students who cannot go to public institutions because of their status as undocumented. These are students who have lived in the US since their early childhood or infancy. Upon graduation, these bright students will receive a quality degree from a fine liberal arts college. But they will not be able to use that diploma in the marketplace. They will be  schooled, widely read, well prepared young men who will be unable to work, study, and live in this country as their peers do.

At Wabash College and many other privates colleges and universities, undocumented students are being given separate but equal treatment. This is intolerable. It keeps me up at night. I feel helpless as a person and, especially, as a teacher—their teacher. I am prepared to what I can, even at the expense of other, more abstract (to me at least) issues.

If Newt Gingrich will champion their cause—and can win the nomination by doing so—then, this November, expect me to be campaigning for my man Newt and, for the first time ever, voting for a major party candidate, a Republican to boot!

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  • Sam

    Look to Newt’s other policies and beliefs. For example, what do you think of child labor?

  • I know, Henry. It’s tragic. Nothing here is meant to be boastful or a “whole cloth”—no such fabric exists in our current political system.


    • I know one supporting candidate X doesn’t mean they agree with all X says. But, my own contacts with Newt (I’ve seen him in person) and what I’ve seen him do, makes me fear him as an opportunist and not as one who has a moral grounding. When I went to a lecture of his, he was talking about the need of the US to befriend China and work with China because China appears to be the future.

  • This is a justified fear, Henry. I’ll be watching as things progress, but, perhaps pessimistically, if things stay the same all things considered (which is pretty bad), but Dream Act or an equivalent gets passed, then, I’ll take those odds. But your caution is well founded.


  • Kurt

    I am not inclined to vote for him. However, I really hope there are a number of people (I would be particularly pleased if they were Catholics) who would become involved in his campaign, and volunteer at Headquarters and interact with other Gingrich supporters during which they would witness to the fact that they are Gingrich supporters because of the DREAM Act. This would do more good, I beleive, than whatever good come from a few votes properly cast according the the Catholic vote police.

  • Mark Gordon

    From my point of view, the very laudable Dream Act isn’t worth war with Iran, the restoration of torture, and making the Patriot Act permanent, but then I don’t share your experience, Sam.

  • J. Pickett

    My dream is being fulfilled, Our current administration’s economic policies are such that many of the criminals, oops Illegals, oops, undocumented, scum is leaving due to lack of work. If this keeps up we’ll be moving to mexico for work. I believe identity theft, theft of services and breaking federal laws on immigration are criminal acts and therefore sinful. these people are not starving in Mexico, they simply never got around to making their own countries work. I contribute to charity. But I want them gone and the laws enforced. There are legal ways. They work for people from most countries, why should south of the border be exempt from this?

    • I’ve posted the above comment as a case study in the problem. It is self explanatory, obviously.


      • J. Pickett

        Bite me Sam. With all due respect, I disagree.

    • Mark Gordon

      What insuperable ignorance, not to mention bald-faced racism. Imagine any Christian referring to fellow baptized Christians as “scum” even while he’s self-righteously declares a legal misdemeanor to be “sin.” You want sin, Pickett? There’s a log in your eye with the word ‘hate’ scratched on it.

      And the comment, “they simply never got around to making their own countries work,” as if the United States hasn’t contributed decisively to the breakdown in Mexican society. NAFTA threw 2 million Mexican farmers off their land because they couldn’t compete with American industrial agriculture. The unquenchable America desire for drugs, combined with our ruinously expensive “war on drugs,” has handed criminal gangs in Mexico all the power they need to destabilize that society. We won’t even get into the decades of exploitation American corporations and their cronies in local power structures have inflicted on Mexico and Central America. Or the massive tracts of land we stole “fair and square” in our continental expansion.

      This comment marks a new low, even for Pickett.

      • “What insuperable ignorance,…” Sadly I have to disagree about “insuperable.” The pinnacles of ignorance and racism soar much higher yet, and in the video clip we see some of their favorite demagogues alongside Our Most Catholic Newt.

        While I agree that in this video clip Newt stands out as the Cro-Magnon among Neanderthals, I’d like to see some more evolved behavior over the course of a career before I throw full support behind a candidate. It disturbs me that all the candidates want aggressively selective immigration committees or hard-edged rules to pick out people exactly like me rather than people like you and your students for legalization.

    • J. Pickett,

      You obviously are speaking from a place of pain, fear, and misunderstanding. These students of mine are neither criminals nor scum. I pray that you meet a real person who you so uncharitably generalize about here and that you are able to see the serious limits and error of your assumptions on this issue. You ought to recall the words of Augustine, that Gingrich seemed to channel last night: “An unjust law is no law at all.”



  • Calgarian

    Sam, you indicate that you would be willing to act as a “single issue voter.”

    If that issue was the “Dream Act,” and the candidate that proudly used it for their presidential campaign was also staunchly “pro-choice,” would you still vote for them if they were up against a staunchly “pro-life” candidate opposed to the Dream Act?

    Just curious more than anything! :o)

    • Thanks, Calgarian. The proviso that solves this riddle goes as follows: “so long as it can be actualized in the form of a policy change that has real implications.” The Dream Act or similar acts have a real possibility to be passed and, if passed, have very concrete, real implications. The abortion wars are not. So, yes, I’d vote to the DA within a prochoice platform, just as I would do the same within a candidate who is open to war—as Obama and the GOP equally are. That proviso is re-stated towards the end when I wrote, “I am prepared to what I can, even at the expense of other, more abstract (to me at least) issues.” Abortion is one of those abstractions, in terms of actionable policy, I think


      • Thales

        The Dream Act or similar acts have a real possibility to be passed and, if passed, have very concrete, real implications. The abortion wars are not.

        What about the Mexico City policy, supporting/vetoing bills withdrawing federal funding of Planned Parenthood, supporting/vetoing bills prohibiting partial-birth abortion, supporting/vetoing abortion-conscience-clause legislation, appointing judges open to affirming or to rejecting restrictions on abortion as constitutional/unconstitutional?

        I consider those issues to be not abstractions, but acts that have very concrete, real implications on abortion. Now I know that some here on Vox Nova probably would disagree about the level of effect these acts actually have on abortion — that’s fine. I don’t want to highjack this thread into an abortion debate. Just wanted to register a short dissent that in my opinion (even though I know some here on VN would disagree), there are concrete, real actions that affect abortion policy.

      • Kurt


        I don’t think you made the strongest case for your position. Two very indirect issues; two that are already law, and then the complicated matter of picking judges based on an assumption how they will vote on a case not yet before them.

      • Thales

        Sorry, Kurt, I don’t entirely follow your comment.

        Two very indirect issues Are you talking about Mexico City and Planned Parenthood? That’s my best guess, and if you are, I disagree — I think they are more connected to abortion than you do.

        two that are already law Again, I’m not sure what you’re talking about, but regardless, you’re making my point for me: it’s probable that the law would have been different with a more pro-abortion President than Bush.

        complicated matter of picking judges Sure, it’s complicated, but if you think that you can’t generally predict a judge’s tendency with regard to abortion, then you are the only person in America., liberal or conservative, who has that view — after all, there is a reason why judge nominations are so contentious these days. And furthermore, that’s why I gave the concrete example of judge-picking: the partial-birth abortion case of Gonzales v. Carhart. Is there any doubt that the decision would have been reversed with 2 Gore-nominated judges in place of Roberts and Alito?

        So I stand by my point that a president can influence abortion policy with concrete, real implications. I think it’s undisputed that when ignoring every other issue and every other personal flaw of either president, Bush did more to influence abortion policy in a positive way than Obama did to influence immigration in a positive way (despite having a Democratic-controlled Congress) — which is why I suspect Sam is looking at Gingrich now.

  • Is Newt an unlikely “sign that is contradicted”? Stranger things have happened. Quite a Christlike moment if you ask me.

    Sam if you have a moment, I once wrote a small post called The Value of Contradictions

  • brettsalkeld

    Perry, Bachmann, and Cain literally blow my mind.
    Also, did anyone else feel like they were watching WWE when Wolf introduced the candidates? Completely surreal.

    As for Newt, on this issue he was eminently sensible. Good for him. Also, from what I could tell, he was getting more applause than his opponents. Good for the audience.

    Now if we can just squeak the rest of CST into the GOP . . .

    • Phillip

      “Now if we can just squeak the rest of CST into the GOP…”

      Actually a lot is. More than in the Democratic Party. Its just that most here disagree with the prudential applications that the GOP takes.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs

    If the Newtster is the new kind of Catholic convert you want to hold up as exemplary — and what else could taking him seriously for the highest office in the land mean? — then you have more problems with the Catholic Church than I do. At least I think there is something beautiful in it in the past. You want to put newt’s face on it. Yuck.

    • Peter,

      I’m pretty sure you didn’t read my post—or failed to understand it. But you’re not wrong that I probably have more problems than you do.


  • Peter Paul Fuchs


    Problems, schmoblems. You’re a terrific guy.

    Yo sueno que estoy aqui,
    Destas prisiones cargado;
    Y sone que en otro estado,
    Mas lisonjero me vi.

  • Given Newt’s history, both personal and political, I really could not imagine voting for him. But in the debates, he came across as vastly more reasonable than the competition, especially Romney, who seemed at pains to pander to the neanderthals of his party with a look that only a neanderthal might confuse with sincerity. I can’t help but remember that immigration reform was once a bipartisan issue, so maybe Newt will be the one to restore some sanity on the issue. In today’s political climate, however, I am not convinced sanity is even an option.

  • Peter Paul Fuchs


    You got the gist very well in this:

    “In today’s political climate, however, I am not convinced sanity is even an option.”

    And one might add, that is especially true with the recent history of the Republicans. But that leaves the only sane one truly being the last refuge in every age of the world-weary:
    “En el mundo de los ciegos, el tuerto es rey.”

    Originally coined, by the very. in the very Catholic Siglo de Oro…I believe.

    Adelante, tuertos!

  • Sam,

    You may be surprised (maybe even I’m surprised with the changing of my position on this issue) but I agree with Newt. I have been thinking about the whole immigration issue and while I still believe that we are a nation of laws which must be respected and followed I also have come to believe that kicking out hard working immigrants is morally unacceptable. Although, I do think the legislation needs to be multifaceted in addressing the issue of closing the border, making immigrants citizens, and providing an easier pathway for legal citizenship. Although, I do have some stipulations which I will hopefully post on soon, since immigrants did enter the U.S. without lawful approval.

    • I’m not surprised that we agree. And I plan on doing a follow-up on what the term ‘criminal’ means, in ordinary language. Thanks,


  • Rodak

    Has anybody above addressed the accusation being launched by progressives with regard to Newt’s seemingly charitable proposals concerning illegal immigrants, that what he is really doing is serving his corporate overlords by advocating the creation of a large population of permanently second-class citizens who can be exploited for cheap labor, but who will have no political power with which to help shape their own American destinies? In other words, Gingrich would have hordes of Spanish-speaking people allowed to fill a niche that has largely disappeared with the overthrow of the Jim Crow laws and the success of voters’ right legislation in the 1960s. I don’t, in my heart, believe Gingrich to be capable of doing anything good on behalf of any person who hasn’t the power to do something good in return for Mr. Gingrich. I advise well-meaning people like Sam to give a second and third thought before signing on to the Gingrich adenda.

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