“Saturday Night Live” hit the nail on the head this past weekend with its Bobby Moynihan caricature of Newt Gingrich. Asked for opening comments, Newt stated simply: “I love the ‘90s.”
So it seems fitting that the news of his impending presidential candidacy surfaces just as MTV is returning to showing music videos — well, after midnight on Sundays, anyway. Yes, the ‘90s are back, with reinforcements! I’ve seen people marching around in Keds. I could have sworn the other day that I passed someone in shortalls, but it might just have been some sort of hideous side effect of a medication I was taking. We’re all suddenly awash in misplaced nostalgia for an era when the Internet was a mystical place where you could sell anything to anyone, using sock puppets, and no one knew what the meaning of “is” was.
We’re all about retro, these days. The GOP slate looks like a roster of “Then That’s What We Called Presidential Candidates.” Everyone feels vaguely dated. Romney? 2007! Palin? 2010. Jimmy McMillan? 1868! And those are just the ones with enough name recognition to merit a parody on “SNL.” Trump is the only one with any reviving freshness, and that’s odd, because it looks like someone just embalmed him. For Romney and Palin, it’s increasingly looking like the ship has sailed. When you’re just out of style, you’re dead in the water.
But Newt Gingrich is so out that maybe he’s come back into fashion — like polyester, or those weird gelatin shoes.
So I’m a little concerned about the news that he will announce that he is running for president on Wednesday – via Facebook and Twitter.
I know Newt has millions of followers — more than, say, Palin. But Palin arose in the era of social communications! We’re used to her tweets and their bizarre neologistic logic. But try as he may, Newt still seems too much like that lady from your mother’s book club who tries to become your Facebook friend. You want to pat him on the hand and offer him a pager. If this were a sci-fi movie, someone would show up, tap him on the shoulder, and gently insist that he return to his own time.
And maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing. There were many things about the ‘90s that seem nice in retrospect. There was the prosperity! There was the music, which sounded as though it were being piped down from a pleather-upholstered spaceship. There was the hinky old dial-up Internet. There were exposed midriffs and flared jeans. There was all the technology we thought was cutting-edge that turned out to be silly, slow and instantly dated.
And that’s where the Newt conundrum comes in.
Newt is like a mobile phone: bulky, oddly endearing, and in the ‘90s, we thought it was The Last Word in Everything.
Sure, it’s updated. It’s on all the networks. But I don’t care how many expansion packs you get or upgrades you impose on it — it’s still the same old device. You wouldn’t use one to Tweet or Facebook unless you didn’t really understand the concept.
So stop trying to pretend you’re hip and relevant, Newt! It’s almost embarrassing. You have only 124,419 Facebook fans, at the time of writing! That compares unfavorably with the number of people who belong to the page for Telling Sarah Palin She’s Full Of Crap! Why go there?
You need to embrace the source of your appeal: You’re vintage! You’re the ‘90s model, the Hamster Dance of Politics. If you said that you were announcing via mix CD from the set of “TRL” that you were running for president, I bet you’d see a bump.
After all, we loved the ‘90s, too.