The original Richard Hofstadter classic profiles the giants of American political history, showing how each man’s life story captured the political zeitgeist of the day in its own, idiosyncratic ways.
Herbert Hoover, for instance, represented the crisis of American individualism, and Abraham Lincoln the nineteenth century myth of the self-made man.
He knows his race-baiting backwards and forwards, and he has a knack for forming memes that burrow into the brain, capturing a whole complex of racist assumptions and anxieties in one pithy phrase.
His “food stamp president” line would undoubtedly make Lee Atwater and Sarah Palin proud.
What he wanted was power, not to raise or lower the tax rate by so many percentage points.
Newt, too, has chagrined activists on the right by claiming to be the one true conservative in the race (as signaled by the efforts of , evangelicals and others to coalesce support around other candidates).
He has been blasted for his opportunistic willingness to sit down with Nancy Pelosi and endorse action against climate change; another heretical act was his acceptance of the idea of a federal mandate to buy health insurance, a position that many other conservatives have abandoned since it became part of Obama’s hated healthcare reform legislation.
Nixon also considered a health reform plan that was not terribly different from the one Democrats passed in 2010.
While Mitt Romney has attempted to exploit racial tensions occasionally—with attacks on “sanctuary cities” sheltering immigrants, for instance—the robotic frontrunner has never really adopted the pugnacious style that many conservatives desire, especially after living under the tyranny of a militant black nationalist dictatorship for the last three years.
(Whether Romney’s “deficiency” in this area is a matter of temperament or merely a prudent decision not to make inflammatory statements that could hurt him in the general election is hard to say.) Newt, on the other hand, cut his teeth as part of the generation of ambitious Republicans who took out old-school Democrats across the South, winning election to a district in suburban Atlanta during the 1970s.