WASHINGTON -- It's official. The moral majority is dead. That's the word from Paul Weyrich, the conservative broadcaster who first suggested that televangelist Jerry Falwell name his famous political organization "Moral Majority."
Those were happier days for Mr. Weyrich, who is president of the Free Congress Foundation. Now, in an open letter to conservatives in the wake of President Clinton's acquittal, Mr. Weyrich is raising the surrender flag.
"I believe that we probably have lost the culture war," he writes in a letter posted on his organization's Web page, and he no longer believes "there is a moral majority."
"Americans have adopted, in large measure, the MTV culture that we so valiantly opposed just a few years ago, and it has permeated the thinking of all but those who have separated themselves from the contemporary culture," Mr. Weyrich writes.
What next? Mr. Weyrich praises home schooling as a model for what he wants to do: "We need to drop out of this culture, and find places, even if it is where we physically are right now, where we can live godly, righteous and sober lives."
Frankly, I find Mr. Weyrich's call to "turn off, tune out and drop out of this culture" somewhat puzzling. When, I wonder, did he and his followers ever drop in?
I offer, as an example of their continuing otherworldliness, the recent "Teletubbies" affair.
In case you currently lack the special pleasure of having young children at home, let me clue you in. "Teletubbies" is a PBS children's show that stars four cute little fuzzy and pastel-colored critters named Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa Laa and Po. A British import, "Teletubbies" is so cutesy sweet that it makes Barney look like Masterpiece Theater.
Nevertheless, Mr. Falwell's National Liberty Journal recently issued a "PARENTS ALERT" on its Web page warning all decent folks that "Teletubbies" actually is subtly promoting homosexuality -- and on taxpayer-supported public television, too.
The culprit, the newsletter says, is Tinky Winky. Sure, he might look perfectly innocent to you, but don't be fooled by that impish little smile.
First, the little guy is purple, which, as everyone is supposed to know, is the color of the gay pride movement. Plus the little munchkin has an antenna, of sorts, on top of his head that happens to be shaped like a triangle, which, as everyone also is supposed to know, is the gay pride symbol.
Also, Tinky Winky sometimes runs around with a satchel slung over his shoulder that looks like a purse.
Despite this clear and convincing evidence, the backlash against Mr. Falwell's warning has been so feverish, even from conservatives, that Mr. Falwell has tried to laugh it away in television interviews, but noticeably without giving the charge the ridicule it so richly deserves.
Contrary to news reports and late-night comedians, Mr. Falwell says, he has never commented on "Teletubbies" because he has not seen it. Still, in public appearances on CNN and "Politically Incorrect" over the past week, he treated the "Teletubbies" charge as if it still was worth investigating, in light of the large amounts of time children spend in front of TV.
Right. There are many reasons why we parents should steer our kids away from too much TV, but the subliminally gay message of "Teletubbies" is not one of them.
Still, Mr. Falwell, his friend Mr. Weyrich and the rest of their comrades like Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition cannot acknowledge such realities of common sense until they join the rest of us on this planet.
Mr. Weyrich correctly recalls a long series of conservative political successes from Robert Taft's defeat in 1952 to Barry Goldwater's nomination in 1964 to Ronald Reagan's election in 1980 and the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. But he has failed to learn history's most valuable organizing lessons of coalition building.
Mr. Reagan did not win because he joined only with those who bought all of his agenda, but because he pulled together a winning coalition of people who agreed with at least part of it.
Now that his wing of conservatism has won electoral battles but failed to win the culture war, Mr. Weyrich is pouting and threatening to "drop out." Be my guest, my friend. But, don't expect to be missed.
Clarence Page is a syndicated columnist.
Pub Date: 2/23/99