Ron Paul's Fresh Faith Outreach in Iowa
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Dec 09, 2011 at 04:52:30 PM EST
The Religious Right vote is always split among various GOP candidates for president.  And every candidate has their own approach to maximizing their share.  As the critical Republican Iowa caucuses draw near Yahoo News has an eye-opening profile of Ron Paul's efforts to craft his own image as a Christian conservative, to reach out to conservative Christian voters, and how this is central to his campaign this year.  

One of Paul's senior advisers is faith outreach specialist Doug Wead who quoted his boss to a reporter for Yahoo News:  

"You know, the libertarians are just baffled by me.  They didn't think it was possible for someone to come this direction.  A person of faith."

The article also underscores how the Religious Right's theocratic policy agendas on reproductive and gay rights tend to emphasize national policy. And while Ron Paul's theocratic views are compatible, he insists that these matters should not be enforced via national policy but at the state level.   (Like leading Christian Reconstructionists, Paul emphasizes that generally government functions should be handled at the most local level possible.)  Interestingly, Yahoo News adds but does not detail how "Paul often articulates a biblical foundation for his economic policies."

Yahoo News further reports:  

In stark contrast to how he campaigned four years ago, Paul has made a concerted push during this presidential campaign to emphasize how religion has shaped his policy ideas.  Through public addresses, campaign advertisements and conversations with voters, Paul has engaged in an intentional effort to articulate the biblical roots of his philosophy.  These efforts are most on display here in Iowa, where most Republican caucusgoers align themselves with socially conservative views, and where Paul is building what has become a robust organizational machine to connect with them.

Two key people in the effort are: Wead, the man who advised two presidents, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush in their own efforts to craft an explicitly evangelical Christian political image and identity as detailed in Russ Baker's 2009 book Family of Secrets; and Michael Heath, his Iowa campaign director who has been a leading anti-gay rights activist in Maine.

I discussed the book's revelations about Wead's role in a review titled "New Book Reveals How Faith is Like a Covert Operation":  

The story of the reinvention of the religious identities of two presidents and their faith-based political strategy...  

emerges in the wake of the growth of the religious right political movement within the GOP in the early '80s. In this context, what was a starchy, Episcopalian heir to a blue-blooded Yankee political pedigree to do?  And what of his reckless, apparently non-religious, playboy son?  These were the intertwined questions faced by Vice President Bush and George W. in the 1980s as they planned Poppy Bush's run for president in 1988--and W.'s political future.

Baker's chapter titled "The Conversion" features startling revelations that challenge the well-known narratives of the Bush family's religious history-- including the way they crafted a strategy for winning over the religious right, and the creation of a conversion legend for George W. Bush.  The purpose of the latter was not only to position him as a religious and political man of his time, but to neutralize the many issues from his past that threatened to undermine his future in politics (and possibly that of his father as well).  The plan probably worked far better than anyone could have hoped.  "I'm still amazed," Doug Wead, a key architect of the Bush family's evangelical outreach strategy told Baker, "how naïve so many journalists are who have covered politics all of their life."

The story begins with Doug Wead, a former Assemblies of God minister turned what Baker terms a "hybrid marketer-author-speaker-historian-religious-political consultant," who by 1985 had apparently been vetted and groomed to shape the Bush approach to the religious right.  "Instinctively," Baker writes, "he [Poppy Bush] was uncomfortable with pandering to the masses, and uncomfortable too with ascribing deep personal values to himself.  For that matter, he didn't like to reveal much of anything about himself, which was partly patrician reserve and partly perhaps an instinct reinforced by his covert endeavors over the years."

If Poppy was going to be president, Wead advised, he needed to learn about "these people."  Eventually, Wead drafted a lengthy memo outlining a way for Bush to surf the rising wave of the religious right to the presidency.  "This was the beginning," according to Wead.

Of course that was then, and the times and the candidates are different.  But the task is no less significant as Ron Paul seeks to reinvent his public persona to better or at least differently reflect how his religious views relate to his politics. Indeed, he seems to be making it a central part of his effort to break out beyond his famous hard core of supporters that number under ten percent in most polls.

Paul's other point man on faith outreach is his Iowa state campaign director Michael Heath, best known as the veteran former anti-gay rights leader from Maine.  He was the longtime head of the Christian Civic League of Maine, which was and still is, the Maine political affiliate of Focus on the Family. Although there has been some reorganization of FOF's political operations since then, it is still a full member of the FOF political family.   (Heath supported Mike Huckabee, who won Iowa in 2008).  Heath's role underscores the political heterogeneity of the Religious Right, since The Family Leader, the Focus on the Family political affiliate in Iowa will not consider supporting Paul because of his state-based approach to abortion and marriage policy.  

It all remains to be seen of course, how well it all works for Paul.  But the Yahoo News piece, and the realities of his campaign should demolish any ideas that Paul is anything other than a candidate of the Religious Right.


What a thoughtful article on Ron Paul's devious theocratic appeal to so Libertarians and RRR people. I have several aquaintences who really like him and I am trying to show them what he really is.

by JerrySloan on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 02:36:10 AM EST
I do hope this story helps your friends sort through all this. Meanwhile, it will be fascinating to see if Paul's faith outreach strategy works for him in Iowa.

by Frederick Clarkson on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 08:36:30 AM EST

Thank you for the article.
It appears that after so many years of war those opposed to war in the U.S. are really getting tired of conflict and are willing to ignore pretty much everything else about Ron Paul's platform in exchange for ending the wars and even shutting down overseas bases. He really is the only one advocating such a national policy course.

Ron Paul is also the most popular candidate with the military : "In this campaign, Paul is getting more donations from people who work for the military than either President Obama or any of the other Republican presidential candidates. That analysis comes from Paul's campaign and was confirmed recently by Politifact, the fact-checking project of the St. Petersburg Times." on-paul-military-campaign-donations-/1#uslPageReturn

Maybe the evangelical officers corps might find in Ron Paul common ground with the soldiers and their families who are weary of fighting.

by COinMS on Sat Dec 10, 2011 at 02:36:04 PM EST

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