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Dana Parsons

An American Revival With the Rev. Gingrich in the Pulpit

November 18, 1994|Dana Parsons

The esteemed Mr. Gingrich from Georgia believes the voters rescued the Republic last week. Apparently we were all headed for godless communism--if such a thing existed anymore--but our national slide has been arrested. We'll all be on the straight and narrow now, with a man named Newt as our spiritual guide.

The ringleader of our demise was that classic Marxist himself, Bill Clinton, from that hotbed of Marxism, Arkansas. Forget that the liberal wing of the Democratic Party has been flogging Mr. Clinton as if he were a galley slave for not rowing fast enough in their direction. Forget that, and you might be able to accept intellectually that Gingrich's argument makes sense. Otherwise, you're left to ask how someone can be pounded both from the left and the right. Someone's view of reality must be skewed.

My vote goes to Gingrich. The hunch here is that his gripe with Clinton is much more philosophical than personal. Not personal in the sense that he hates him; personal in the sense that he resents him and, who knows, may be jealous of him.

The tip-off came shortly after the election when Gingrich referred to Clinton and his wife, Hillary, as "counterculture McGovern-niks." I never attributed hipness to Gingrich before, but to be so far behind the curve as to coin that phrase said more to me about his psyche than it did his politics.

For those of you who have either forgotten about or never heard of him (which accounts for 99.9% of the American public), George McGovern ran for president in 1972. He lost. He was a historical footnote by 1974, not to mention 1994. It's safe to say that he is not exactly in the pantheon of 20th-Century Democrats. If Gingrich were looking for relevance, he might just as well have cited the Mugwumps as his political reference point.

And yet, Gingrich felt the need to remind us of McGovern and the "counterculture."

Why is that? Why the obsession with a concept as dated as the "counterculture"?

I think I know.

I remember a lot of Gingrich types in college, guys railing against the "counterculture" of the late 1960s and early '70s. In those days, being counterculture meant protesting the war in Vietnam, having long hair, maybe doing some drugs and, if you really knew what you were doing, getting lots of girls.

The Gingrich types came from good families and were taught to follow blindly what any authority figure told them. No matter how overwhelming the evidence may have been that authority could be abused, these personality types wouldn't budge. Following foolish or evil authority figures was always preferable to challenging them. In the '80s and '90s, these people all became homeowner association board members.

I'm convinced the Gingrich types from my college days hated the "counterculturists" because they thought they were having all the fun. Oh, the Newt Gingriches of the 1960s wanted that kind of fun, too, but they just couldn't bring themselves to go after it.

Imagine the resentment you could build for someone after seeing him coming back to the dorm at 2 in the morning, laughing and disheveled, while you were pulling an all-nighter for a biology exam. Imagine the hatred toward someone who constantly talked about how many girlfriends he had, while you were still dating the same girl you'd met in junior high. Imagine listening to someone's tales of mind-altering drug trips, while you were disgusted at the thought of someone spiking the punch with ginger ale.

We all know the type. Not content with doing what their consciences told them, they had to bother you with it.

I thought the country had had its fill of these behavior watchdogs.

Why do the names Bakker and Swaggart leap forth as if from some long-forgotten bad dream? Are we back already to being in the clutches of people like Charles Keating, who led anti-pornography crusades in their spare time while wiping out the financial futures of senior citizens during regular business hours?

Newt Gingrich has made it clear he expects to lead a fight to restore virtue and values to society. I could count on one hand the number of people who don't want virtue and value in their society, but Newt Gingrich?

Whoa, Nellie. Isn't this the Newt Gingrich who barely won his congressional seat in 1990 and barely won his own party's primary in 1992? Suddenly, he's our spiritual Sherpa guide?

Thanks but no thanks, Newt. Your politics may be one thing, but don't give me any sermons on morality. At least not until you've provided me with a complete psychological work-up on you and your buddies who seem to relish the notion of telling the rest of us how we should live.

Dana Parsons' column appears Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Readers may reach Parsons by writing to him at The Times Orange County Edition, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626, or calling (714) 966-7821.

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