"A Gingrich presidency, if such a thing can even be imagined, would be a chaotic catastrophe. A Gingrich nomination would yield an Obama landslide."
-- David Frum
This is a pretty succinct assessment of Newt Gingrich's entire ego-trip of a candidacy, to say nothing of that candidacy's laughable recent elevation by a Republican party desperate to vote for anybody but Mitt Romney. From the same source that linked to the above quote -- a post in the Daily Beast -- Andrew Sullivan points out the most important element to Newt's sudden rise in the polls, and it speaks volumes about what's truly important these days: timing.
"His timing is pretty good: better to be on the rise a month before the voting begins rather than two months before. And the hardcore base doesn't have many other places to seek refuge."
It's true that if the GOP had a singularly fantastic candidate to get behind, it'd be less likely to play the field as if it were one of the Sex and the City girls, eventually awakening to the cold light of day and being forced to take a Sisyphean walk of shame, over and over again. But there might be a bigger point to be made about Republican indecision and what it says about us as a media-shaped culture. I've mentioned this before, but we now live in a world where our attention spans are shrinking rapidly, largely due to the rapid-fire nature of our media. News cycles are dwindling down to hours instead of days. Zeitgeists come and go seemingly in an instant. You can go from nobody, to viral sensation, to the target of a harsh backlash in the span of a couple of days. We no longer have the will to stick with a message that's longer than 140-characters.
We're constantly looking for the next thing, particularly if we're not 100% satisfied with the thing we already have.
I think what this means for politics is that it's no longer important to be steadfast as a candidate or in message; the most vital thing is to be constantly evolving and staying one step ahead of media obsolescence, and that's much easier said than done. The reality is that everything -- everything -- becomes old news after a very short time these days and even the most media-savvy can trip up and lose momentum or find that no matter what they do, it's not enough to hold the interest of a public suffering, en masse, from ADD. The end result then becomes that politics is a game of musical chairs: whoever happens to be on top of the media cycle when the music stops wins.
How do we know our attention spans are shrinking, that vast swaths of our culture have turned into Lenny from Memento? Newt Gingrich -- a guy who just a few months ago was declared DOA because of a series of monumental screw-ups, a guy with a long history of personal and professional baggage that should doom any political aspirations he might have from the very start -- is now the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination.