By Nancy L. Cohen
WeNews guest author
Sunday, January 29, 2012
Newt Gingrich may score his second win in Florida Tuesday, all the more reason to reflect on his role in the Clinton-Lewinsky uproar, as Nancy L. Cohen does in this excerpt from her book "Delirium: How the Sexual Counterrevolution is Polarizing America."
The American people responded to the Lewinsky affair by turning against Republicans. Polls showed consistently throughout the year that two out of three Americans did not want Clinton to resign; did not favor impeachment; thought the affair with Lewinsky was a private matter; disapproved of the GOP-controlled Congress's handling of the Clinton scandal; and thought Starr's investigation was partisan, not impartial.
The 1998 November midterm elections gave the American people an opportunity to register their disapproval of Republicans. Democrats won five House seats, lost only one incumbent and defeated two GOP Senate incumbents--Clinton-hunters Al D'Amato and Lauch Faircloth. Not since 1822 had a political party fared so poorly in a similar point in the electoral cycle as the GOP did. The GOP congressional majority, touted just four years earlier as evidence of a permanent Republican realignment, fell to a precarious 11 seats in the House.
Following the lodestar of the sexual counterrevolution, Starr, Gingrich and the Republican Party had overreached and found themselves rebuked by the American voter. Neither the economy, nor the president's standing, nor other matters that typically determine voting behavior came into play in the 1998 race. Impeachment was the sole and most important issue influencing the vote. As political scientist Alan Abramowitz summed up the results, "It's Monica, Stupid."
In the end, Gingrich, not Clinton, fell victim to the sexual fundamentalists. Three days after the election, Gingrich resigned the speakership. In January, amid revelations that for six years he had been engaged in an extramarital affair, Gingrich resigned his House seat.
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Nancy L. Cohen is a commentator, historian and Huffington Post contributor. She is the author of three books, including "Delirium: How the Sexual Counterrevolution is Polarizing America" and "The Reconstruction of American Liberalism." Her writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, Business History Review and elsewhere.
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