IFAS | Freedom Writer | September/October 1991 | calgop.html

Christian right wields clout
at California GOP convention

By Frederick Clarkson

The California Republican State convention in Anaheim in September was a clear-cut demonstration of the clout that the Christian Right now wields in the party.

Syndicated columnists Evans and Novak had billed the event as a potential "GOP Armageddon" as the far right promised "blood on the floor." The right is angry at moderate Republican Gov. Pete Wilson because he raised taxes to finance a massive budget defic it, and is supportive of abortion rights and gay rights. Evans and Novak felt that party unity could be destroyed to the point that the Democrats could win both of the U.S. Senate seats in 1992.

In alliance with other conservative groups and leaders, the Christian right has largely taken over the party apparatus. They now control over half of the County Republican Central Committees, as well as the State Committee. The right, which had the votes to rule the convention, was determined to push through its agenda, and to humiliate Wilson. It took the intervention of White House Chief of Staff John Sununu to fashion an uneasy peace.

The convention rejected an effort to strip Wilson of his right to appoint delegates to the Republican National Convention. However, it did pass resolutions opposing abortion, and urging Wilson to veto a gay rights bill that had passed the legislature (whi ch would bar discrimination in employment). Also, when U.S. Sen. John Seymour's (R-CA) turn to speak came, almost half of the 600 delegates got up and left. And when Gov. Wilson spoke at the nearby Nixon Library, he was hung in effigy outside, and tarred and feathered by "conservative activists."

Meanwhile, the Christian right promises to field primary challenges in 1992 against moderate Republicans who do not conform to their views.

© 1998 Institute for First Amendment Studies, Inc.