By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
By Alison Flowers
By Albert Samaha
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"For the longest time we blamed the politicians for stealing our rights," he says. "Then we finally woke up and realized that we hadn't spoken out when we should have, and said instead of complaining, let's do what is right as citizens and use our God to bring back to America the Judeo-Christian ethics it was founded on." Morris is especially concerned with social values. In a pamphlet, "The Battle for Our Children," he attacks Smurf dolls, whose magical games make them agents of Satan. "If the pulpit does a good job," Morris says, "the Christian community will always be involved in having a voice in government and legislating morality."
At the county convention in Des Moines in March, Christian activists distributed a set of principles that revealed how thoroughly they had thought out the political situation. "When you have control of a party," read one, "it might not be wise to place 'our' people into any and every position. Get the counsel of wise Christian politicians when in doubt."
As the Christian right's organizing drive in Iowa picked up steam, it made allies among nonreligious conservatives. Among them is Ian Binnie, a fiscal conservative, former member of the Des Moines school board, and secretary of the Polk County Republican party. "There is an evangelical vote in this area, and it is based on some very clear-cut issues," Binnie says. "I am not a religious conservative by any means, but I consider them natural allies . . . I diverge with them on the abortion issue. I wish it would just go away. I concede them the high moral ground." On prayer in schools: "I'm not sure it did me any good, but it didn't do me any harm. I can't get excited about the idea of a minute of silence."
"Robertson is a real force, but I don't see him as a viable candidate," Binnie says. "Kemp is not as strong here as theoretically he should be. These people are all for Reagan now, and Bush has a loyalty to Reagan. Bush is very powerful here."
Having successfully gained control of precincts in both counties, then asserting themselves at the county conventions, the alliance of newly active Christian fundamentalists and fiscal conservatives went on to easily dominate the district convention. By margins of two-thirds, they adopted social policy planks attacking abortion and pornography and endorsing family values. The Des Moines Registersaid the coalition fielded 400 of 450 delegates and attributed the large attendance to the evangelical turnout. Operating with the precision of a political machine, the fundamentalists sought to widen their coalition, supporting moderate Republicans for the party central committee and voting down audacious amendments from their own ranks (i.e., proposals to make committing an abortion a capital crime.)
Bob Dole, the Senate majority leader from Kansas, who is unofficially campaigning for president in 1988, was in Iowa during the county conventions last month. Seeking support from where he could find it, he embraced the Christian right; "the evangelical movement in the GOP is welcome," Dole said. "There is lots of room in the party . . . If we want to be the big national party, then we have to be diverse."
Christian fundamentalists around Des Moines believe their ideas are misrepresented by the press, which often depicts them as intolerant kooks. So it was with some uneasiness that Jim and Kathy Michael agreed to sit down with me over breakfast in their DeSoto home one recent Saturday morning. We sat in the kitchen over coffee and doughnuts and talked about politics, AIDS, communism, and Christian rock as an antidote for rock 'n' roll.
Kathy was brought up in the Baptist Church and, as a child, Jim attended Methodist Church. He left the church early, but became religious as an adult. Jim Michael works for the Des Moines power company. Kathy is a housewife, bringing up their five childrenfour boys and a girl. Both are fundamentalists and are active in Republican Party politics. Jim has served as a member of the DeSoto planning and zoning commission and most recently spent a four-year stint on the town council. Last year, he ran for mayor and came in third. Over the last four years, Kathy has been a poll-watcher at local elections. Both Michaels were active in previous precinct caucuses, but this year they ran as delegates and won. When asked who they'd support for the presidency, both said they hadn't made up their minds. "If they were running tomorrow, I'd be in trouble."
On abortion their views were similar to those of most Christian fundamentalists: "We recognize the amoeba as a primitive form of life," says Jim. "If scientists can do that, then what is their problem in recognizing that two cells are tying into one and creating life." Unlike some pro-lifers who oppose the death penalty as inconsistent with their support for sanctity of all life, Kathy Michael was adamant in her support: "An eye for an eye," she says. "I don't mean that if someone kills my child I should go out and take his life. I feel that we have laws and that people should abide by them."