Sunday, August 27, 2017

Book Review: Citizen Newt: The Making of a Reagan Conservative by Craig Shirley

Many of us will remember the Republican revolution that brought GOP majorities to the house for years. Newt Gingrich back then was considered the author of this revolution and a celebrated house speaker. Private affairs, but also a temperament that did offend likely one too many people in the GOP spelled an early end to his career in DC. Now Newt is more affiliated with the Trump campaign than seen as a thought leader of the GOP.

So when Shirley's book is promising a biography of "one of the most important, provocative, and visionary political figures of our time", it summarizing the lasting image of Newt Gingrich to many voters in the USA. In his second book focused on Gingrich, Shirley writes a comprehensive biography of this political phenom that is Gingrich. He starts at his childhood in Pennsylvania that despite not being political still laid the groundwork for his later foray into politics as well as his approach to winning votes and majorities, culminating in the Contract with America. This contract, even though many bills never made it into law, was characterized by a belief in a Reagan brand of conservatism and Gingrich was considered at the time its most vocal proponent. Very few people remember that other politicians, such as Dick Armey, contributed to the proposal. This was Gingrich's proposal and the subsequent Republican majority in the House became his victory. As such, Shirley does not question the leadership of Gingrich, something I would have like to have seen in this book.

This book is a comprehensive biography that follows the life of a still controversial, but also influential figure in American politics from his childhood to an academic career that ended up with a relatively quick rise in politics. After a quick fall, Gingrich is now gaining importance again as a spokesperson for the new administration, an early follower that has so far stayed away from official DC roles, he is nevertheless still influential and, by his own account, traces his roots back to the GOP of Reagan. It is fitting that Shirley, who also covered Reagan in his books, is now depicting Gingrich as yet another important, but also divisive figure in US politics, but also within the GOP itself.

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Disclaimer: I received a free sample of the book in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third party.

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