A return to moderation

November 05, 1998|By Arnold Rosenfeld

COUNT on it, there will be many on the far right who will attribute the Republican decline in Tuesday's national election to lack of zeal and belief in the old-time religion. But that will be a hard point to make.

The election, as it turned out, was not a referendum on President Clinton or Monica Lewinsky. It was a referendum on that blandest of human attributes, moderation. The public would like more of it, less of name-calling, fewer hare-brained ideas like shutting down the government for the fun of it.

The root of the Republican decline since the party's immense victory in 1994 has been a terrible misreading of the public mind. The public was looking for something different. They sought a Republican evolution, not a Republican revolution. Liberal was already a dirty word. And so, quickly, was moderation. You were nothing if you did not loathe blindly.

A lot of people were frightened. They began to imagine being on someone's hit list. Still, some good may have come of it. On Tuesday, a lot of African-American and Hispanic voters, the most endangered of us, finally may have been convinced that their votes count for something. Welcome, at long last, to America.

Newt Gingrich blames the media for ignoring his most heartfelt agenda and wallowing in Monicagate. If House Republicans are smart, they'll raise a lot of hell, then let Mr. Clinton cop a plea. If Mr. Clinton is smart, he'll take it.

Arnold Rosenfeld is editor-in-chief of Cox Newspapers. His e-mail address: arnold.rosenfelox.com.

Pub Date: 11/05/98

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