Tuesday, August 14, 2007

History of the "Religious Right"

As a matter of curiosity, I've been digging through recent history to find starting points in sweeping shifts of ideology and redefining "movements", as opposed to brief political trends and short-lived superficial phases. This eventually led, of course, to the "Moral Majority" movement that grabbed hold of the GOP decades ago, and has yet to release it's authoritarian grip on both conservative politicians and constituents alike.

I found this little tidbit of historical trivia interesting:

A group of Republican strategists who had worked on Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign were worried. Goldwater had been soundly defeated, and the strategists feared that the base of the Republican Party -- primarily southern segregationists and the very wealthy -- was too narrow. So they set out to expand the base calling themselves the New Right. Goldwater was not part of the New Right.

One member of the New Right, Republican Strategist Paul Weyrich, founded the Heritage Foundation in 1973 -- a think tank to promote the ideas of the New Right. Weyrich also founded ALEC, The American Legislative Exchange Council in 1973 to coordinate the work of Religious Right state legislators. ALEC initially positioned itself as a counterweight to liberal foundations and think tanks, focusing on social issues like abortion and the Equal Rights Amendment, but became a magnet for corporate lobbyists.
ALEC gives business a direct hand in writing bills that are considered in state assemblies nationwide. Funded primarily by large corporations, industry groups, and conservative foundations -- including R.J. Reynolds, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute -- the group takes a chain-restaurant approach to public policy, supplying precooked McBills to state lawmakers. Since most legislators are in session only part of the year and often have no staff to do independent research, they're quick to swallow what ALEC serves up. In 2000, according to the council, members introduced more than 3,100 bills based on its models, passing 450 into law. Ghostwriting the Law, Karen Olson, Mother Jones, Sept.Oct. 2002
In 1979 Weyrich coined the term "Moral Majority." Their goal was to politicize members of fundamentalist, Pentecostal and charismatic churches - a constituency that had been basically apolitical.
Even more interesting was this depiction of covert stealth tactics used as the Christian Coalition went underground to gain even more influence over policy.


1 comment:

  1. This explains why the same state-wide franchising bill keeps popping up in so many legislatures.