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

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