Julian Zelizer: Newt Gingrich is No Outsider

Roundup: Historians' Take

Julian Zelizer is a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University. He is the author of "Jimmy Carter" (Times Books) and author of the forthcoming book "Governing America" (Princeton University Press).

Princeton, New Jersey (CNN) -- Newt Gingrich likes to fancy himself a counterestablishment rebel. He has attempted to tap into the anger of tea party Republicans by reminding voters about his glory days as a maverick conservative in the House of Representatives, which culminated in the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," he said, "In Florida, my case is going to be very simple. You have a clear establishment candidate in Mitt Romney. ... And you have somebody whose entire career has been a Reagan populist conservative."

The trouble is that Newt Gingrich is about as establishment as one can get. The thinness of his claim to be some kind of populist outsider exposes the myth that many conservative Republicans promote when they distance themselves from the power they actually wield and claim that they are still outside the political system.

Gingrich's personal history shows how conservatives successfully entrenched themselves in Washington and learned to love the trappings of power, as well as the electoral benefits of government. Throughout his time in Congress, Gingrich played a key role in moving conservatives from being outsiders to insiders over the course of the 1980s and 1990s....

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