Faithful on the move

Curry, Tom

WITH ROBERTSON IN IOWA FAITHFUL ON THE MOVE THE GOP WONT BE THE SAME hanting "Go for it, Pat!" with his fellow Robertson supporters as they crowded into the Iowa State University basketball...

...some, like Chuck Hurley, plan to run for the state legislature...
...What the visiting reporter does not expect is the passion in the voices of Robertson supporters when they talk about grourtdwater being contaminated by fertilizers and herbicides...
...A permanent Robertson infrastructure is being built in the Midwest...
...The Register gives former Republican National Chairman and veteran Iowa Republican Mary Louise Smith two pages to answer in the affirmative...
...The Michigan GOP establishment filed a suit to overturn the central committee's decree and won a court decision on December 4. Robertson forces were expected to appeal...
...Although many of the Robertson foot soldiers are evangelical Christians taking part in their first political campaign, the Robertson strategists have been at pains to make the preacher more palatable to the electorate by de-emphasizing his religious background...
...There is no idea of the greater good of the party...
...She expertly dissects the inequities of the tax system: a $1440 childcare tax credit but only for mothers who leave their children and go out to work...
...Oil we can live without, but water we can't.'' Perversely, the federal agriculture programs that pay farmers to take land out of production encourage them to more intensive chemical use on the land still in production...
...TOM CURRY Tom Curry is a reporter/researcher with Time magazine...
...Iowa Republicans have traditionally been of the moderate, fiscally responsible vari18 December 1987: 727 ety...
...The numbers at the straw poll at Ames, Iowa on September 12 shocked many political observers: of the 3,843 Iowa Republicans voting, Robertson received 1,293 votes, or 34 percent, Kansas Senator Bob Dole got about 25 percent, George Bush 22 percent, with the rest of the field finishing well back...
...He's abandoning the people who've worked hardest to get him this far," complains Rev...
...The demographics show why the party should welcome the influx of Robertson voters, say the evangelist's supporters...
...If they are not stopped, Smith warns, the party will self-destruct...
...As expected, the Robertson faithful disdain establishment Republicans who soft-pedal the abortion issue...
...The newly-enrolled Robertson activists talk eagerly about unseating arch-liberal Senator Tom Harkin...
...The fundamentalists, laments Smith, "see the party only as a means to an end...
...They rail against history books that give space to feminism but don't explain Who the Pilgrims were thanking on Thanksgiving...
...That, more than the procedural guerrilla warfare, is the real significance of this season's Republican race in Iowa...
...We can not afford to trash our groundwater," says Hurley...
...He could see that the Bush people were affluent, well-dressed . . . and were snickering at him and his comrades...
...Mahaffey worries that this year the Democrats will carry the state...
...For some Iowa evangelicals, the camouflaging of Robertson's religious roots has succeeded too well...
...They started looking at each other with a sort of amazed look on their faces.'' Hurley recalls...
...Mahaffey says sadly: "Many of them were young people who would have tended to be Republicans" especially go-getter entrepreneurs of the Reagan-Kemp persuasion...
...Robertson has predicted that ultimately he'll win about forty-five of the seventy-seven delegates to the national convention from Michigan...
...Having mastered the details of canvassing and dominating the caucuses, most of the Robertson initiates will work in the party in the years ahead...
...Robertson has made no statements about the issue...
...A Robertson-Kemp coalition seized control of the Michigan state central committee last February and then, by procedural fiat, disqualified many likely Bush delegates to the state convention...
...His wife Chris chooses to stay home and raise five children...
...with his fellow Robertson supporters as they crowded into the Iowa State University basketball arena, Chuck Hurley found himself shoulder to shoulder with the George Bush contingent...
...Des Moines County GOP chairman Kaytee Davis attended a recent Robertson rally on her home turf, West Burlington...
...As they witnessed the dimension of their defeat, the Bush people sat bolt upright with a look that said,'' What right do these people have to be here...
...Instead, the Des Moines Register splashes across its op-ed pages the question: "Will religious fundamentalism destroy the Republican party...
...The party has room in its ranks for Congressman Jim Leach, an advocate of a nuclear test ban and a staunch opponent of aid to the contras...
...In recruiting supporters, Hurley looks for people who share the same views: "people who love kids, love the family...
...The Robertson foot soldiers argue that, on the contrary, they are broadening the base of the party to include disaffected Democrats and the previously apolitical...
...But no matter: a thoroughgoing pro-life, pro-family insurgency with a touch of environmentalism and populism thrown in is stirring in the Iowa GOP...
...Ray Block of Webster City, noting that Robertson advance men have been "very belligerent" in insisting that campaign events not be held at Block's church, for fear of identifying Robertson with the evangelicals...
...Thanks to the Robertson grass-roots soldiers, the party won't be the same again...
...The bitterness of the Michigan battle has bubbled over into Iowa...
...The mass of white shirts guaranteed that Robertson would win the straw poll, one of the key tests of the Republican political season leading to the February 8 Iowa caucuses...
...Sure, says Hurley sarcastically, we had to get rid of the slavery issue in 1854...
...a deduction for two-earner married couples but none for husbands who support their wives who stay at home to care for the kids...
...So goes the nasty battle for the soul of the Republican party in the two earliest states in the Republican cycle, Michigan, which elects the first group of delegates to the national convention on January 30, and Iowa...
...her car carries the bumper sticker "Motherhood: A Proud Profession...
...Its most popular statesman is Senator Chuck Grassley, best know for his denunciations of Pentagon waste...
...Exactly to the point, say establishment Republicans, who charge that the Robertson zealots are not and never will be the kind of real Republicans who vote loyally for the GOP in state and local contests year after year...
...But demographics don't favor the GOP...
...the measly $ 1080 dependent deduction that would be five or six thousand if it had kept up with inflation...
...Of the two-hundred and fifty people there, she knew only six...
...With a net decline of sixty-thousand in the state's population since 1980, State Chairman Mike Mahaffey notes that Iowa's young people are leaving the state because so few jobs can be found...
...Among the biggest applause lines in Robertson's stump speech are his denunciation of new-fangled teaching methods (simulation games, values clarification) and his call for a return to teaching reading by the phonics method: not precisely the stuff of a national campaign, but Robertson gives the faithful the promise of transforming the quirky local agenda into a national one...
...Says Marshall County organizer Paul Gassman, "Pat will have a very broad appeal to moderates and Democrats...
...But most of the evangelicals are devotedly working for Robertson, learning the skills of door-to-door canvassing and 728: Commonweal telephone persuasion like Chuck Hurley, a lawyer who organizes for Robertson in northeast Iowa...
...As the arena filled, it became apparent that the Robertson forces, plainly identifiable in the white tee shirts handed out by their organizers, outnumbered the partisans of any of the rival candidates...
...Davis gripes that the local Robertson coordinator is a registered Democrat...
...At the 1984 Iowa Republican state convention, recalls Chuck Hurley, Mary Louise Smith got up and said "We've got to get rid of this issue it's splitting the party...
...You don't just sweep something like that under the rug it's too close to our hearts...
...Iowans have gone Republican in eight of the last nine presidential elections, but Reagan's winning percentage in 1984 in Iowa was only 53 percent...
...They don't understand this concept of coalition...
...The Iowa Republican establishment fears the hijacking of its party by single-issue fanatics...
...After a while they came to realize what was going on the numbers and it shocked them...
...The Robertson activists will tell you that if the traditional family is to be saved the public schools must be a battleground...
...I hear story after story of Democrats who are supporting him and are switching their registration to Republican so they can vote for him in the caucuses and perhaps switch back afterwards...

Vol. 114 • December 1987 • No. 22


 
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