For Christian Right strategist Paul Weyrich, the failure of the impeachment
drive prompted an exasperated admission of defeat in the electoral arena.
In late 1997 Weyrich had been squeezed out of the NET television network
he had founded, apparently for his divisive behavior in attacking GOP
pragmatists. Weyrich, dubbed by the New Republic the "Robespierre
of the Right," was known for his doctrinaire views. In a widely-circulated
and debated letter, Weyrich promoted a separatist post-impeachment strategy:
"I believe that we probably have lost the culture war. That doesn’t
mean the war is not going to continue, and that it isn’t going to be
fought on other fronts. But in terms of society in general, we have lost.
This is why, even when we win in politics, our victories fail to translate
into the kind of policies we believe are important."
"Therefore, what seems to me a legitimate strategy for us to follow
is to look at ways to separate ourselves from the institutions that have
been captured by the ideology of Political Correctness, or by other enemies
of our traditional culture."
"What I mean by separation is, for example, what the homeschoolers
have done. Faced with public school systems that no longer educate but
instead 'condition' students with the attitudes demanded by
Political Correctness, they have seceded. They have separated themselves
from public schools and have created new institutions, new schools, in
"I think that we have to look at a whole series of possibilities for
bypassing the institutions that are controlled by the enemy. If we expend
our energies on fighting on the "turf" they already control,
we will probably not accomplish what we hope, and we may spend ourselves
to the point of exhaustion."
This view is not, in fact, new. In 1996 militant Protestants and Catholics
unhappy with the pragmatism of the Christian Coalition began to question
the legitimacy of electoral politics, the judiciary, and the government
itself. These groups began to push openly theocratic arguments. A predominantly
Catholic movement emerged from this sector to suggest civil disobedience
against abortion is mandated by the primacy of natural law over the constitutional
separation of powers which allowed the judiciary to protect abortion
rights. An example of this theocratic movement is the newspaper Culture
Wars with its motto: "No social progress outside the moral order."
Christian Right ideologues such as James Dobson, and Carmen Pate, president
of Concerned Woman for America, rejected Weyrich’s call. A debate quickly
emerged among Christian Right leaders with comments and roundtable essays
appearing in the evangelical media. Weyrich clarified his meaning in
several printed responses where he said he never meant to suggest giving
up. In the influential evangelical magazine World he wrote:
"…when critics say in supposed response to me that ‘before striking
our colors in the culture wars, Christians should at least put up a fight,’ I
am puzzled. Of course they should. That is exactly what I am urging them
to do. The question is not whether we should fight, but how."
"…in essence, I said that we need to change our strategy. Instead
of relying on politics to retake the culturally and morally decadent
institutions of contemporary America, I said that we should separate
from those institutions and build our own."
Weyrich was proposing a separatist strategy as a way to build enclaves
with parallel institutions such as "schools, media, entertainment,
universities" from which to continue the culture wars—essentially "creating
a new society within the ruins of the old." This idea also surfaced
at the 1998 Christian Coalition "Road to Victory" conference.
The workshop on education included two panelists Marty Angell and Marshall
Fritz who argued in favor of expanding separate, parallel Christian school
systems. Fritz blasted the idea of state-funded public schools. Cal Thomas
and Ed Dobson wrote a book suggesting that evangelicals had compromised
their piety by pushing too far into electoral politics, opening another
line of public criticism.