Matt Bai

The Gingrich Delusion

The irony of Newt Gingrich's run for President doesn't lie in the fact that he has about as much chance of success as Donald Trump (that is, none at all), but that he continues to justify himself through an undergraduate--even adolescent--view of history.  That he styles himself an intellectual and sports a PhD in history makes this rich.

Gingrich mistakes pattern for truth, and misunderstands "pattern" itself as applied to intellectual studies.  A pattern of any sort exists in part because we notice it.  That is, it is part of us as much as it is part of whatever we are studying.  As we are subjective beings and have contributed to the pattern, we had best be suspicious of any claims of its objectivity; we had best remove from our minds the possibility of full objectivity for the pattern.

Also, a pattern is not predictive unless it can be tested and the test reproduced--something not possible with history (the scientific method gets its name for a reason).  Identification of pattern can be useful to study in the humanities, but that utility is limited.  Any real historian--any real intellectual, for that matter--knows this.