Paul Weyrich Has Died

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.

About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting. I have degrees in fields of religious studies. I have an M.Phil. in the History of Biblical Interpretation from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio. I also have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University.
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19 Responses to Paul Weyrich Has Died

  1. Russell Miller says:

    The leaders of the conservative movement are dying off because the conservative movement as it currently is, is dead. As of Jan. 20th, the conservatives will have a choice – become relevant or take the place of the Whigs in history.

    The who, you might say? Exactly.

    It is no coincidence that most of the leaders of the conservative movement are rich, old, white men.


  2. James Pate says:

    But that’s what people said about the conservatives in 1964: they’ll go the way of the whigs. But they didn’t. They came back, in a variety of different forms: the new right, the neoconservatives, the religious right. Plus, Conservatives are more ideologically-committed than the whigs were.


  3. Russell Miller says:

    The thin is, it’s the whole “ideologically-committed” thing that’s destroying them.

    They have a huge blind spot that they are showing no tendency to try to work with – and that blind spot is the idea that a majority of people in the country may actually *not agree with them*. The very “ideologically-committed”ness that you are claiming is a good thing, is actually the very thing that’s destroying them, as people who are growing up and reaching voting age are rejecting what they have to offer in droves.


  4. James Pate says:

    The people are not rejecting conservatism in droves. Obama felt he had to talk like a tax-cutting, low government spending conservative to be elected. Prop 8 passed in California. Everyone has a bad election year. The Democrats have had several over the last decade! But a few bad election years don’t mean a movement is dead.


  5. FT says:

    Russell is still spot on! The Republican party needs to change or it will die. Colin Powell has made some comments and HE IS RIGHT! David Frum has a few ideas in his book Comeback and Reihan Salam has some good ideas in his book Grand New Party. If the Republican party can’t get with the program and get out of their narrow-minded cave, they deserve to be irrelevant! Plain and simple!


  6. FT says:

    Oh by the way,what about a tribute to Deep Throat (Mark Felt)? It took courage to show a President (Nixon, much as I like him and believe he was misunderstood but that’s besides the point)that if you are going to mess with the US Constitution, there are consequences.


  7. James Pate says:

    Change to what? The wishy-washy me-too party that existed before 1964? I don’t want to go back to the Wendell Wilkie days.

    On Mark Felt, I don’t really know much about him. I first heard of him when he revealed himself as Deep Throat. So I can’t write as sincere of a tribute for him as I can for Weyrich.


  8. FT says:

    Again, read David Frum’s Comeback and read Reihan Salam’s Grand New Party. Nothing wishy-washy there. Also I can live with Eisenhower Republicanism. It’s not as bad as you think: !


  9. Russell Miller says:

    I didn’t say they were rejecting conservatism in droves. I said they were rejecting what conservatives had to offer in droves.

    I’m all for conservatism – the real kind, not the “get in your face and tell you how to live your life” kind. Fractice fiscal responsibility and get government out of my life – in and out of the bedroom, and you’ll get my vote, even if you’re a conservative.

    That said, if you say you’re for all those things and call yourself a republican, you’ve screwed the pooch, I won’t vote for anyone with a (R) after their name ever again – unless they give me a REALLY GOOD REASON.


  10. James Pate says:

    I read some of what Eric Margolis said, Felix, and I’m shocked! Depart from ruralism? Christian conservatives are hicks and holy-rollers? Just who does Margolis want our base to be? The country clubbers aren’t going to take us over the top!

    This somewhat overlaps with what I want to say in response to Russell. You say that economic libertarianism is still in. I agree. But I don’t see any evidence that social conservatism is out the door. Prop 8 passed. Christian conservatives are here to stay, and they still vote in droves. I think conservatism will be around for years to come.


  11. Russell Miller says:

    There is some anecdotal evidence that Prop. 8 may have passed due to voting machine tampering. I give that about a 50/50 chance of being true. But even if not, there’s the fact that it passed by a very slim margin.

    If social conservatism were truly here to stay, someone like Huckabee would have been elected president. Over the past 8 years, Bush was elected on a social conservative platform, and each time, the margin of victory got smaller and smaller, until this year they lost, bigtime.

    This is because young people are reaching voting age and older people are dying.

    You’ll see that to be true by the graphs showing who won where. The Republicans only took the southern states with any solidity. Democrats won Ohio… Pennsylvania… Michigan… all the stronghold states that the republicans were counting on, they lost. Part of this was because Obama was a good campaigner, but part of it was people who are just tired of the social conservatives taking over and wrecking things.

    Sorry, I don’t buy it. Are they going to stick around, yell, and generally make asses of themselves for years to come? Sure. Are they going to stage a miraculous comeback? Not likely. We’re going to see democratic rule for years. And the more people row up and reach voting age, the more their power is going to wane.

    Not that that’s a *much* better thing. But it is better.

    BTW… I think it’s pretty likely that Prop. 8 is going to get overturned sometime next year.


  12. James Pate says:

    I’m not convinced that McCain lost due to social conservatism, though. Pundits pulled this in 1992: Bush I lost because the Republican Convention is Houston was TOO right-wing and scary. I don’t think so. He lost because the economy was bad, as did McCain. If people are scared of social conservatives, then how did Reagan and W win?

    Also, another piece of evidence that social conservatism is alive and well is Obama’s position on gay marriage: he thinks marriage should be between a man and a woman.

    One more point: Christian conservatives have kids. Lots of them. Unless they rebel from their parents, they can very well form the base of the future Republican Party.


  13. Russell Miller says:

    Yeah, that whole “fundamentalists having kids” thing scares the crap outta me.

    Also makes me feel real sorry for the kids. Lived that life, did the rebellion, better off for it.


  14. Anonymous says:

    OR….kids will go to the “other side” because they are forming their own identity, which is a GOOD thing. I’m liberal. My sons are conservative. An acquaintance is conservative (ultra). His son is liberal. I’ve seen this happen more times than not, even when the parents are very far-left or far-right…
    There will always be extremes, and hopefully, there will always be more than just one ideology, liberal or conservative. There must be balance, and SOMEONE has to be on the far end of either side. The rest of us are just somewhere on the spectrum.


  15. Byker Bob says:

    The economy and the war certainly had some influence on McCain’s defeat, but we do need to give Obama credit for a campaign well conducted. Most voters would never have given him a snowball’s chance in besting Hillary. Frankly, I believe we’re better off with Obama than we would have been with Hillary.

    There are many voters, who, while they are not religious per se, do pattern their secular ethics basically after Christian ones. Such people do not equate the religious right with fundamentalist Islam, know what the USA was like during the Christian era, and are not afraid of returning to what was once the status quo.

    Ever since the Reagan years, certain groups have been spreading fear about the religious right. Like them, I was once afraid of such people as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, and I considered myself to be a charter member of “the Immoral Minority” Most of my political opinions in those days were based on what I heard on my FM rock stations, and what I read in Rolling Stone and Easy Riders. Attempting to raise a son in Southern California, perhaps the most liberal state in the union, changed many of my opinions though. That’s when you become critically aware of all the bad influences over which a parent has no control. By the beginning of the ’90s, I had become very conservative, both socially and fiscally.

    I believe that something needs to happen to restore the USA. Many of the factors and moral issues associated with the fall of ancient Rome are present with us right here, right now, today. While you can’t legislate morality, you can set a general tone. It’s a very complex problem with no simple answers. Instead of all the political infighting, leaders need to come up with a comprehensive bipartisan plan to reverse the downhill slide we are currently on.

    Personally, I’d have no problem with a spiritual revival, but there are a lot of folks who would find that undesirable.



  16. Russell Miller says:

    BB, the “status quo” was neither different nor better. They were just much, much better at hiding things.


  17. Byker Bob says:

    Russell, I agree with you that such things as homosexual activity were concealed. From what I understand, the rate of homosexuality in the general populace has remained fairly constant throughout history.

    However, you can’t make the same case for certain violent crime statistics, drug abuse, gang activity, the abortion rate, the divorce rate, children born out of wedlock, and other key indicators of the health of our society.

    When I was in high school, it was a very unusual occasion when the parents of one of my peers got divorced. I didn’t know anyone who used drugs or even smoked marijuana. The two girls who became pregnant dropped out of school, went to a girls’ home to have their baby where it was given up for adoption, following which the girl would return to school. We also had no gangs at school. We lived in a large metropolitan area.

    Some of my years in high school I was on student council, actually leading assemblies. The last two years, I smoked in the boys room, and drank in the parking lot. So, believe me, I knew of all the bad stuff that was going on. But, there were still well defined lines that we wouldn’t cross. Those all imploded in about 1967-68 when the hippies started questioning everything, doing dope and practicing free love. It took a few years to build up a head of steam, but societal problems became horribly exacerbated from that time forward. Nobody has been able to squeeze that toothpaste back into the proverbial tube since. Adios, Ward and June Cleaver.



  18. Russell Miller says:

    Yes, those things have gotten worse. You are blaming them on hippies. I think the “war on drugs” shares a great deal of blame.

    You also don’t know if the abortion rate has gone up – when those kinds of things are concealed, there’s no way of keeping track.

    Some of the things that you think are indicators of the health of a society don’t have the same import to me. They’re just things people do.

    I guarantee you – legalize marijuana and certain other ileal drugs and crime rates will go down, drug abuse (not use, abuse) will go down, prostitution will go down, a lot of the things that you’re blaming on hippies would… maybe not disappear, but get a whole lot better.


  19. Byker Bob says:

    Russell, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that some things have actually improved since the 1950s. I fully support the advances that women and minorities have made over the past decades.

    I just wish we could get back to being a bit more civilized as we were back then.

    The only ways to obtain abortions back then were the back alley method, or expensive trips overseas. Since they were illegal, a legitimate physician would have faced serious charges, loss of license, or both for performing them. I feel fairly confident that prior to Roe Vs Wade, abortions could not possibly have been anywhere near as prevalent as they became thereafter.



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