Paul Weyrich: The Man Who Framed the Republican Party
Joan Bokaer printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Aug 09, 2006 at 05:54:43 AM EST
When Paul Weyrich joined the Young Republicans in the late 1950s, the Party was controlled by what he called "the Country Clubbers". "I" writes Weyrich, "came from the wrong side of the tracks."

While I was a useful ornament for the Country Clubbers to display, they were glad there were not lots more like me. They were not anxious to have the great unwashed as part of their organization.

One would think that a young man whose father tended the boiler at a Catholic hospital would chose the Party that favored the working class, but not Weyrich. Instead, he played a major role in transforming the Party of "country clubbers" into the Party of "traditional values."

This is the fifth article in a series on dominionism and the federal government.

As a strategist working for Republican Senator Barry Goldwater in his Presidential bid in 1964, Weyrich and other Goldwater conservatives had a rude awakening. Goldwater was soundly defeated. In fact, that presidential election was one of the most lopsided in U. S. history. Goldwater won only his native state of Arizona and five Deep South states that had been increasingly alienated by Democratic civil rights policies.

After Goldwater's defeat, Weyrich and his colleagues didn't waste any time. They formed the New Right and began the long, steady march to expand the base of their party. Weyrich focused on members of evangelical churches: a very large, mostly apolitical constituency that he vowed to bring into the Republican fold. Obviously, the New Right wasn't going to win over all evangelicals. Some were downright liberal. The New Right targeted members of fundamentalist, Pentecostal and charismatic churches.

Later, Goldwater was to become angry about what his Party had become. He lamented to a friend in 1994:

Our problem is with ... the religious extremists whose interpretation is very narrow, and who want to destroy everybody who doesn't agree with them. I see them as betrayers of the fundamental principles of conservatism. A lot of so-called conservatives today don't know what the word means.

Goldwater was speaking to journalist Bill Rentschler, when he said those words. Rentschler was another lifelong conservative. He had run the 1968 Nixon campaign in Illinois, and served briefly in the Nixon White House. He twice ran for the G.O.P. nomination for a U.S. Senate seat from Illinois, and lost both times. Rentschler sees in the politicizing of the Christian Right nothing less than the loss of democracy:
Prepare yourself, fellow Americans, for historic change, the most dramatic and far-reaching change in your lifetime, a sweeping metamorphosis that may alter radically the distinctive, time-honored structure of the fabled American experiment, which has endured for most of the last 225 years.

Goldwater's brand of conservatism couldn't win the White House because people liked the programs that President Roosevelt set up during the New Deal. They counted on receiving their social security checks in their old age. (President Bush discovered this when he tried to privatize social security.)  And without necessarily understanding the complexities of government regulation, people continue to favor protections for the environment, public health, and worker safety.

So Weyrich and his gang set about reframing the political debate. He founded the highly influential Heritage Foundation in 1973 to translate controversial, very conservative beliefs into policy positions.

He went on to found the Free Congress Foundation in 1977 which describes its mission on its website:

[O]ur main focus is on the Culture War. Will America return to the culture that made it great, our traditional, Judeo-Christian, Western culture? Or will we continue the long slide into the cultural and moral decay of political correctness? If we do, America, once the greatest nation on earth, will become no less than a third world country.

To fight the Culture War, Weyrich helped draft television preacher Rev. Jerry Falwell in 1979 to head a new political movement that Weyrich coined "the Moral Majority."  How do you politicize a constituency that is mostly apolitical? And how do you get members of that constituency to join the political party that least represents their economic interests? In August of 1980, Weyrich laid out his vision for a new America at a meeting of fundamentalist ministers:

We are talking about Christianizing America. We are talking about simply spreading the gospel in a political context.

So the Republican Party became the Party that would "Christianize America." (There is a very powerful 28- minute documentary made in 1982 that shows the rise of the Moral Majority and includes a scene of Weyrich making the above speech. If you haven't seen it, watch Life and Liberty for All Who Believe.)

The Moral Majority burst onto the political scene in 1979 like an earthquake, sending shockwaves throughout the United States. They made up the margin that got Ronald Reagan elected President in 1980, and they managed to defeat five of the most liberal Senators from the U.S. Congress that same year.

Weyrich is one of the founders of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and served as it's treasurer (1981-1992). ALEC is a coalition of corporate leaders and culture warriors. It will be the topic of a future post.  

Weyrich is also one of the founders of the highly secretive Council for National Policy where he has served on the Executive Committee. ABC news wrote a story on the CNP with the subtitle, Meet the Most Powerful Conservative Group You've Never Heard Of.

When Steve Baldwin, the executive director of an organization with the stale-as-old-bread name of the Council for National Policy, boasts that "we control everything in the world," he is only half-kidding.

Half-kidding, because the council doesn't really control the world. The staff of about eight, working in a modern office building in Fairfax, Va., isn't even enough for a real full-court basketball game.

But also half-serious because the council has deservedly attained the reputation for conceiving and promoting the ideas of many who in fact do want to control everything in the world.

The Present

Now that Weyrich's culture warriors have won control of both houses of the U.S. Congress, the White House, and hold four of the nine seats on the U.S. Supreme Court, is Weyrich retiring, sitting back in his rocker to enjoy the fruits of his work? Not at all. He is as active as ever. His Free Congress Foundation holds weekly briefing luncheons attended by many of the most conservative members of Congress, leaders of the most influential Christian Right organizations, and a top administration official from the White House. Time Magazine reported in April, 2001:

Each Wednesday Rove dispatches a top administration official to attend the regular conservative-coalition lunches held at Paul Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation.

Perhaps most disturbing of all is a strategy paper published by Weyrich's Free Congress Foundation. It is revealing of true Machiavelli and diabolical thinking. The Integration of Theory and Practice: A Program for the New Traditionalist Movement was written for CFC by Eric Heubeck.

Here are some samplings of what Katherine Yurica calls the most immoral political program ever adopted by a political movement in this country.

This essay is based on the belief that the truth of an idea is not the primary reason for its acceptance.

Our movement will be entirely destructive, and entirely constructive. We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity. All of our constructive energies will be dedicated to the creation of our own institutions.

We will maintain a constant barrage of criticism against the Left. We will attack the very legitimacy of the Left. We will not give them a moment's rest.

We will use guerrilla tactics to undermine the legitimacy of the dominant regime.

We must reframe this struggle as a moral struggle, as a transcendent struggle, as a struggle between good and evil. (emphasis theirs)

We hear a lot in the media about the "moral issues" and "values voters" as if opposing gay marriage and abortion define morality while lying to the American public, torturing political prisoners abroad, and destroying the environment are not "moral" issues. You have to give Weyrich's CFC credit for turning the term "morality" on its head.

On April 1, 2005, Weyrich wrote a memo to former Senator John Danforth (R-MO) who is also an Episcopal Priest. Senator Danforth wrote an OP-ED to the New York Times, March 30, 2005, criticizing the religious right.:

BY a series of recent initiatives, Republicans have transformed our party into the political arm of conservative Christians.

I am and have always been pro-life. But the only explanation for legislators comparing cells in a petri dish to babies in the womb is the extension of religious doctrine into statutory law.

The problem is not with people or churches that are politically active. It is with a party that has gone so far in adopting a sectarian agenda that it has become the political extension of a religious movement.

Weyrich's response is fascinating. This personal account of his boyhood in the Republican Party appeared on his Renew America website. He concludes by saying that without the "values voters," the Republicans couldn't get elected dogcatcher:

Do you want to return to the way it was before the religious right became part of the GOP coalition? If that happens, the Republican Party will be dead. Its majorities in both the House and Senate soon would evaporate and the party would be unable to elect a President.

Each new Senator elected in 2004 had the support of the religious right, even Johnny Isakson of Georgia who entered the race as a moderate and who now has pledged to support most pro-life and pro-family initiatives. There is no doubt that John Thune (Mo.), David Vitter (La.), Mel Martinez (Fla.), Jim DeMint (S.C.), Richard Burr (N.C.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.) would not be in the Senate today but for the strong backing of values voters. Would former Senator Danforth care to return to the time when no legislation backed by values voters was passed, even legislation the establishment salivates over, because liberals controlled Congress?

I admire Paul Weyrich for what he, son of a working class German immigrant, has been able to accomplish. And I, like conservative Republican Bill Rentschler, fear that the "sweeping metamorphosis" Weyrich helped bring about could "alter radically the distinctive, time-honored structure of the fabled American experiment, which has endured for most of the last 225 years."

Previous articles in the series on Dominionism and The Role of The Federal Government:

Dominionism and The Constitution in Exile Movement

House Bill Would Eliminate Most Regulatory Functions Of Federal Government

A Culture of Life or Death?

Follow The Votes

I posted a reply to this on my own blog that includes a story you are perhaps not aware of. In 1999, Weyrich actually tried to weaken our nation's military in order to get his theocratic views imposed and the rights of Wiccans destroyed. The man is not a patriot, he is an anti-patriot.

by Ed Brayton on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 12:04:18 PM EST
Would you say more about this or give us a link to your article?

by Joan Bokaer on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 03:04:24 PM EST

But here it is in long form: p

What I'm referring to is that in 1999, he led a coalition of religious right groups in urging Christians to boycott joining the military until they stopped allowing Wiccans to join. Thankfully, few listened to him, but that doesn't make it any less absurd or idiotic. 


by Ed Brayton on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 04:41:04 PM EST

WWW Talk To Action

Why Is Bishop Robert Finn Still In Power?
As I reported in September 2014, Bishop Robert Finn, head of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Missouri has been under Vatican investigation to......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
Thus It Was Prophesied in 2012: Ted Cruz Will Be VP, Or a Supreme Court Justice
This is a transcript, of pastor Larry Huch and Rafael Cruz, father of U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, from an appearance Rafael Cruz made at......
By Bruce Wilson (1 comment)
Crusin with Cruz
Ted Cruz threw his hat into the ring, announcing his bid for President in the worship center at Jerry Falwell's University last night.  Mother......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)
Ted Cruz: Born From The Heart of the Dominionist Christian Right
[welcome, Thom Hartmann Show fans, here is a short introduction to my past coverage on Ted Cruz and the dominionist Christian right] Did you......
By Bruce Wilson (1 comment)
Coming Soon to Utah: An International Festival of Bigotry
An international network of some of the world's most vitriolic Religious Right activists and self-proclaimed orthodox religious leaders is holding its ninth global conference......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Bumpy Lane: Religious Right Operative Seeks To Build (Another) Church-Based Political Machine
Here's what the country doesn't need right now: another zealot aiming to mobilize right-wing pastors to become a force in electoral politics.Yet that's what......
By Rob Boston (1 comment)
Team Jeb Bush's Liaison to Religious Right Is Hardcore Culture Warrior
In 2008, Senator John McCain's campaign recognized that he needed to shore up his credentials with the Religious Right, which was skeptical about his......
By Bill Berkowitz (2 comments)
American ISIS: Christian Reconstructionists And `Biblical Law' In America
Every now and then, while scanning the day's news, I come across a headline that's hard to believe.Like this one: "California lawyer proposes ballot......
By Rob Boston (3 comments)
Will our Prisons Overflow with Christians this Summer?
Many leaders of the Christian Right, from megachurch pastors like Rick Warren to the top prelates in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, have......
By Frederick Clarkson (3 comments)
Say You Want A Christian Nation?: Let's Try This One
Last week an article began circulating on social media claiming that 57 percent of Republicans in a recent poll said they believe Christianity should......
By Rob Boston (3 comments)
Are The Fundamentalists Winning?
We missed Evolution Weekend, which was held February 13-15 this year.   This worthwhile effort, which began the same year as Talk to Action,......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
Mario Cuomo's Memorable Lesson on Challenging the Political Authority of the Church
It is never too late to remember. Here is a reposting of a column I did following the death of former New York Gov.......
By Frederick Clarkson (0 comments)
The Legacy of Francis Bellamy
"We assemble here that we, too, may exalt the free school that embodies the American principles of universal enlightenment and equality; the most characteristic......
By wilkyjr (2 comments)
The Inquisitional Urge Gets the Better of Bill Donohue (Again)
Bill Donohue is at it again. The Catholic League president went apoplectic over President Obama’s seemingly innocuous comments at the February 5th National Prayer......
By Frank Cocozzelli (2 comments)
John Dorhauer Recommended to Lead United Church of Christ
I am very pleased to report that John Dorhauer, who joined us early on at Talk to Action has been recommended by a national......
By Frederick Clarkson (3 comments)

Evangelicals Seduced By Ayn Rand Worship Crypto-Satanism, Suggest Scholars
[update: also see my closely related stories, "Crypto-Cultists" and "Cranks": The Video Paul Ryan Hoped Would Go Away, and The Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand/Satanism Connection Made Simple] "I give people Ayn Rand with trappings" -......
Bruce Wilson (9 comments)
Ted Cruz Anointed By Pastor Who Says Jesus Opposed Minimum Wage, and Constitution Based on the Bible
In the video below, from a July 19-20th, 2013 pastor's rally at a Marriott Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, Tea Party potentate Ted Cruz is blessed by religious right leader David Barton, who claims......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Galt and God: Ayn Randians and Christian Rightists Expand Ties
Ayn Rand's followers find themselves sharing a lot of common ground with the Christian Right these days. The Tea Party, with its stress on righteous liberty and a robust form of capitalism, has been......
JSanford (3 comments)
Witchhunts in Africa and the U.S.A.
Nigerian human rights activist Leo Igwe has recently written at least two blog posts about how some African Pentecostal churches are sending missionaries to Europe and the U.S.A. in an attempt to "re-evangelize the......
Diane Vera (1 comment)
Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (0 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (0 comments)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (3 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (5 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (5 comments)
Mississippi Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Yes, that's right. We have totally lost our religious freedom in Mississippi and it must be restored by our legislators. ......
COinMS (2 comments)
Bill Gothard accused of harassing women and failing to report child abuse
Surprised no one's mentioned this, but one of the longest-standing leaders of the religious right is in a world of trouble.  Bill Gothard has been active in the fundie movement for over half......
Christian Dem in NC (2 comments)
Eugene Delgaudio may lose his day job as Virginia county supervisor
Surprised no one's noticed this, but one of the nation's most virulent homophobes is in a fight to keep his day job.  Eugene Delgaudio is best known as the head of Public Advocate......
Christian Dem in NC (1 comment)
Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents
This caught me by surprise. I guess times are a changin in Dixieland. ------------------------------------- Cross posted from the HRC blog. Starkville Becomes First City in Mississippi to Pass Resolution Recognizing LGBT Residents January 21,......
COinMS (1 comment)

More Diaries...

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.