Sunday, January 22, 2012

Newt Gingrich, Chimpanzee Politician

Now that Newt Gingrich has won the Republican presidential primary in South Carolina, we have another chance to see how successful he can be in practicing the art of chimpanzee politics in the quest for alpha male dominance.  In his case, the similarities between chimpanzee politics and human politics have become part of his self-conscious strategizing.  When he became Speaker of the House of Representatives in 1994, he recommended that freshmen Republican representatives read Frans de Waal's Chimpanzee Politics as a good book for understanding Washington politics.  He identified himself as the dominant chimp, and many observers noticed the similarities between the Republican power-takeover in 1994 and de Waal's depictions of his power-striving chimps.

Since then, Gingrich has continued to show his interest in evolutionary science and primate politics.  In an interview a few years ago, he indicated that if he had not become a historian and politician, he might have become an evolutionary naturalist like Edward O. Wilson.

Gingrich's shrewd techniques in the televised debates show his understanding of how important dominance displays can be in challenging one's rivals.  This also shows how easily the demagoguery of a narcissistic bully can sway voters who are desperate for a leader.  We can only hope that the voters will eventually discover the dangerous consequences of following someone with such a reckless personality.

And perhaps Mitt Romney will need to study Chimpanzee Politics to learn something about the mistakes of being too timid in debates.   

The possibility of a chimpanzee political science has been a topic for various posts on this blog, some of which can be found here and here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"the demagoguery of a narcissistic bully"

That's a pretty good description of the discourse of the current president.

The above is not intended as a defense of Gingrich.