The New York Times has reported that Paul Weyrich has died (see Paul Weyrich, 66, a Conservative Strategist, Dies). Weyrich was a pioneer of the New Right in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Actually, I vaguely recall reading in William Martin’s With God on Our Side that Weyrich (a Catholic) was a key figure in making opposition to abortion a part of the conservative platform. Before, it was mainly the Catholics who were pro-life, while many conservative Republicans wanted to keep government out of the abortion issue.
I had heard of Weyrich for a long time, since I used to read Conservative Digest as a high school student when I went to the Indiana State University library (my mom was a student there at one point). But I first heard him speak when I was an intern at a conservative organization. I watched a lot of political action videos, and one of them was a speech by Paul Weyrich that rallied the troops. I had to laugh at his reference to “that so-called conservative Orrin Hatch,” as well as his statement that his wife asked him, “When are you going to get a real job?”
When I was at Harvard, I read an article by Weyrich in Christianity Today, in which he said that maybe politics was not the way for Christians to solve the nation’s problems. I vaguely recall him wanting Christians to take a separatist stance in relation to the world. But that was before George W. Bush came to the White House. During the Bush years, Weyrich was one of the people Karl Rove tried to appease.
At the same time, Weyrich wasn’t entirely in the Bush camp, for he was a critic of the Iraq War and the extravagant government spending under the Bush Administration. Weyrich also differed from many conservatives in his support for Amtrak.
So we lost a great man today. The leaders of the conservative movement are dying off too fast. We need a new generation of leaders, people who are not only Republicans, but principled conservatives, like the ones of the 1970’s and 1980’s.