Last week Paul Weyrich, a true American hero, passed away at the surprisingly young age of 66. Weyrich was a political activist and commentator with an almost prophetic sensitivity to the trends of culture and politics. As a leading conservative he will be most remembered as a co-founder of the Heritage Foundation (a conservative think tank) and the idea man who gave Jerry Falwell the concept of the moral majority. Weyrich also actually helped to found many other organizations including: the Council for National Policy (CNP) (an organization strategically aligning social conservatives), the Free Congress Foundation (an association of conservative activist organizations), and National Empowerment Television (a cable TV network, also known as America's Voice, designed to mobilize the conservative grassroots).
Who will take his place? This is the first question that arises at the death of a national leader. This is often the wrong question, because pioneers are usually impossible to replace. A more important question is: who will continue his work in light of the gift that this great man has been to our world? In other words, how do we carry on the legacy of Paul Weyrich? I believe that the man who once advocated the abandonment of many of our basic, public institutions in order to set up values-based alternatives would tell us that it is time for conservatives to re-engage in grassroots politics. He would not encourage us to engage in politics for politics sake. He would urge us to make sure that the conservative voice does not disappear as we enter what many are calling “the most liberal, one party government in American history.”
I think that a recent op-ed (opinion-editorial) piece written just 10 days before Weyrich’s death carries the tone and spirit of the conservative great. “Keeping a Conservative Voice” written by Mike Pence of Indiana, newly elected chairman of the House Republican Conference, sets forth four necessary steps for conservatives to take if we are to carry on Paul Weyrich’s legacy.
Although Pence did not mention Paul Weyrich and was probably not aware of how close the leader was to death, his words are as hauntingly reminiscent of Weyrich’s work as they are instructive. Pence began his article by explaining that only 22% of the voters on November 4th described themselves as “liberal.” He is essentially saying, as Paul Weyrich did in 1979, that there is a moral majority among American voters.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.