Freedom Writer - February 1995
Newt set strategy for Religious Right— 10 years ago!
"For us, AIDS is a great rallying cry." — Newt Gingrich
House Speaker Newt Gingrich set the agenda for the Religious Right
ten years ago at a politically important conference in the nation's
capital. On October 15-17, 1985, the Rev. Tim LaHaye's American Coalition
for Traditional Values (ACTV) held a "How to Win An Election" conference
in Washington, DC.
Under the banner of "Serve the Lord by running for public office,"
the conference focused on the Christian's "Biblical mandate" to run
for political office. During the conference, LaHaye referred to Newt
Gingrich, a fellow Southern Baptist, as "a minister of God."
"We need to challenge God's people to run for office," LaHaye said.
"If every Bible-believing, Christ-loving church would trust God to
raise up an average of just one person over the next 10 years who
would get elected, we would have more Christian candidates than there
Gingrich, the keynote speaker on the final night, said, "I think what
you're doing is very, very important." He said those "on the left
forgot just how freedom is delivered. From their standpoint, the Declaration
of Independence did not have a phrase that said, 'We're endowed by
our creator,' but rather said something like, 'being gathered together
as random protoplasm.'" Gingrich continued, "I think they misunderstood
the whole underlying spiritual drive which was key to the American
_The_Freedom_Writer_ first reported on the "How to Win An Election"
conference in its December 1985 issue. Speaking to over 300 Religious
Right leaders and activists, the future Speaker of the House laid
out a formula for religious conservatives to take over the country.
Calling it a recipe for winning, Gingrich said there are four layers,
one on top of the other. The first, he said, is vision. "What is your
vision of the world? One who is familiar with the Bible can appreciate
that," he added.
Strategy is second. "What is it you're going to try to do?" Operations
or projects is the third step. Gingrich explained that this is determining
the assignable tasks. "What are you going to do; how; and who's in
charge of doing it?"
Finally, he listed tactics. Tactics are "what you do every single
day." It is about how you carry out your strategy and projects. "Populist
conservative Republicans need to be very people-oriented," Gingrich
said. "My strategy is using bumper stickers instead of billboards."
Money can buy billboards, he noted, but people have to like you to
put your name on their car or truck. "That's particularly true if
you have a name as unusual as Newt Gingrich!" he said.
Newt Gingrich is an insightful opportunist. At the 1985 "How to Win
an Election" conference, Gingrich declared, "AIDS is a real crisis.
It is worth paying attention to, to study. It's something you ought
to be looking at."
"AIDS will do more," Gingrich predicted, "to direct America back to
the cost of violating traditional values, and to make America aware
of the danger of certain behavior than anything we've seen." He concluded,
"For us, it's a great rallying cry."
Newt Gingrich was probably the first to see AIDS as a political tool
for the far right. The thought wasn't lost on ACTV members such as
Pat Robertson, D. James Kennedy, Donald Wildmon, Jerry Falwell, Robert
Dornan, and Jesse Helms.
The ACTV "How to Win an Election" conference, though little-known,
is a political landmark. Under the direction of political strategist
Paul Weyrich, workshops offered specific guidance for candidates,
staff personnel, and "those praying about the possibility of running
for office." The sessions covered organizing effective campaigns,
raising money, framing the issues, and using the media.
ACTV has since dissolved, but the organization set the stage for the
advancement of other groups. Today, many former ACTV members are politically
active. Some, such as Gingrich and Robert Dornan, are still in Congress.
Others are active in the Christian Coalition, American Family Association,
Traditional Values Coalition, and Concerned Women for America (CWA).
In 1985, CWA, headed by LaHaye's wife Beverly, was considered ACTV's
sister organization. CWA is the largest women's activist group in
Constitutionally, Gingrich, as Speaker of the House, is next in line
for the presidency if something should happen to President Clinton
and Vice-President Gore.
"Pat Robertson is an extraordinary institution builder and visionary.
I believe when the history of the 20th century is written, there are
two preachers who, in fact, shaped much of the domestic/political
debate of post-World War II America. One was black. One was white.
One was Martin Luther King, Jr., and the other Pat Robertson. They
had an enormous, profound effect." — Newt Gingrich
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