This is from a column by Dan Savage in the New York Times:
My favorite moment in Thursday night’s G.O.P. debate: Newt Gingrich angrily denying his second ex-wife’s account of the end of their marriage — “Let me be quite clear: The story is false!” — and the socially conservative South Carolinians in the hall rewarding the former speaker of the House with sustained applause.
Let me be quite clear: Newt Gingrich wasn’t denying that he had a six-year-long adulterous relationship with a Congressional staffer, a woman 20 years his junior, an affair that he conducted while overseeing the impeachment of Bill Clinton after his affair with a White House intern. Gingrich’s affair with a Congressional staffer is a long-acknowledged fact. That former Congressional staffer was sitting in the audience last night: her name is Callista, she’s the third Mrs. Gingrich, and she is — according to every profile written about her — a “devout Catholic.” (I was raised by devout Catholics. Devout Catholics are friends of mine. Devout Catholics do not have adulterous relationships with married men. Just sayin’.)
All Gingrich was denying with that “false!” was the allegation that he had asked his second ex-wife for an open marriage.
Newt Gingrich wants us to know that he did not ask his second ex-wife for an open marriage. An honest open relationship was never on the table. Newt and Callista’s six-year-long adulterous relationship was grounded in deceit and betrayal from the start, and Newt and Callista never wavered from the path of deceit and betrayal. Newt Gingrich was making an implicit promise to socially conservative voters: He did not ask his most recent ex-wife for an open marriage, and he will not ask any of his future ex-wives for an open marriage.
The lesson in Gingrich’s angry denial and the applause that greeted it: An honest open relationship is more scandalous, and more politically damaging, than a dishonest adulterous relationship. An honest, mutually consensual nonmonogamous marriage — which is not what Newt was proposing (you can’t negotiate an honest open marriage with your spouse six years into an affair) — is newer and somehow more threatening than the “traditional” cheating Gingrich engaged in.
"Traditional marriage" (to roughly quote John Oliver from "The Daily Show") has always been about powerful men doing whatever the fuck they want.
"Open marriage," as far as I know, is commonly understood to mean both members of a married couple may, ahem, explore their options. It’s kind of a hippie thing.
I’m not sure if Gingrich’s alleged “open marriage” request amounted to “I’d like your blessing so I can go fuck Callista on the side” or if it was more of a “let’s each play the field.” I see no reason whatsoever to think that Gingrich would have willingly allowed any wife of his to bang other dudes, but I really have no way of knowing.
In the subverted moral world of the pre-2012-election Republican party, of course it would be preferable for Gingrich to be an adulterer. That’s a familiar sin, one for which he claims to have made amends to his god, and which he claims was motivated by his love of country (pause for vomiting).
Sure adultery violates the 7th Commandment, but God forgives people, I hear.
Open marriage? Well, that’s hippie shit. That would give a modicum of equal status to both spouses if they agreed to go forth and fornicate. Can’t have that!
tl;dr - In today’s Republican party, it’s better to be a liar and a sinner than to be a hippie.