In the Spotlight

News & Features
Election 1996
This is the script of a story aired on MPR news & information stations.

From GOP Convention: Christian Coalition in difficult position ... inside the Party.
Bob Collins, 8/14/96

For more than a decade, the Republicans have started their National Convention knowing how each would end. The last time it took more than one ballot to select a presidential nominee was in 1948 when Thomas Dewey was nominated.

What isn't as clear when a Convention opens is who wields the power. After two and half days in San Diego , that question's been answered. The Christian Coalition , formed in 1988 to get a voice in party affairs now has it and the power to use it

Minnesota Public Radio's Bob Collins reports the rise in the Coalition's powercoincides with the shift in the Minnesota delegation to one of the most conservative delegations in San Diego.

(open with music and stuff) The Christian Coalition has emerged from this Convention as a player and a power. It squashed the Dole forces at the platform debate last week on the abortion issue. (music 491) (bring up music and fade under quickly.. .leave it for the paragraph below and then fade ) ...and it celebrated the fact that its agenda is the Republican agenda this year with a combination religious service and pep rally at San diego's Balboa Park. The music disguised the fact that this year, theRepublican Party powers are marching t to a religious conservative beat....

Most of the Minnesota delegation was there. The state delegation has emerged with increased power within the Party not because its 33 votes are important to Bob Dole....but because the delegation is now among the most conservative in the nation. Delegate Ron Carey of Shoreview acknowledges the Christian coalition has spawned a more solidly conservative delegation than 4 years ago. He says this happened not so much because of a shift in political sentiment...but in a change in the people running the Party. The Coalition has told Christians to get out of the church and get into politics. And in Minnesota, they have.

(352) In Minnesota we have more support for Christian Coalition than other states. I think it comes back to our political pocess in th state. That with the caucus system it really promotes grassroots activis m Where in other states where they have primaries it's ore the establishmen in the states selecting who the delegates are. So there are people like us in other states that have primaries but because of the process they have no space...they're not able to get as involved in the political process. Eveyday Minnesotans are more able to get involved and come to a convention like this."

Conservatives are in power in the Minnesota party. But THAT may not fully reflect mainstreet Republicans in the State. It wasn't long ago that Delegate Alan Quist won the Party endorsement for Governor... but was defeated in the General election by the more moderate Arne Carlson.

And Vin Weber-a moderate-- is co-chair of the Dole campaign. He, like the campaign, is intent on keeping an alliance with the conservatives who are emerging as the political core of the party power structure. That core can deliver favors to candidates who need them. The veil of unity was endangered at this convention when some delegates opposed to a keynote speech by a woman favoring legalized abortion, threatened a walkout.

Carol Simmons, Minnesota's whip in the Christian Coalition, warned Minnesota's delegates to sit tight. They did. The orders had come from the national group that was spawned by the anti-legalized abortion protest! (189) "there's no wisdom in that. I don't think my and savior Jesus Christ would've walked out on Susan Molinari, do you?

The Christian Coalition was born from the movement to ban legalized abortion. Many of these delegates say their activism started with that issue... but as the Coalition has evolved into a political has their conservatism.

Alternate Delegate Troy Morgan of Northfield ... (426) Actually in MY case...I think the most important thing is education. I mean if we can't educate our kids well & I think in some ways we've got a very narrow NEA that decides to promote a certain ideological point of view and obviously you're going to get a lot of Democrats when you say this is the way to go."

At the so-called Faith and Freedom Rally, some signs protesting "home schooling" mirrored the Coalition's expansion from abortion issues. But signs that said "pro-life" far outnumbered them. At the amphitheatre in San Diego, those with the power were inside....those without it were outside where several dozen protesters tried to shout down the opponents of legalized abortion.

It was a metaphor for the Minnesota delegation. Those in power and those with conservative convictions are here...those without it...are back home. One of them is Mary Campo of theGOP Feminist caucus.

(stick in the Zman stuff here) Members of the Minnesota delegation insist their politics is the new Mainstream of the Republican Party. Many of them sought to downplay the abortion issue this week; understanding that attracting more women to the Party while maintaining a committment to the roots of the Christian Coalition is the biggest challenge facing them.

The Coalition's leader-Ralph Reed-has had to walk that minefield. But before these delegates on Wednesday.. .there was no backing down...

(554) let me see those signs...let's show the whole world, we're not going to walk away from the unborn child....... Reed wanted to see the signs from the podium...but apparently he didn't want anyone to see the signs in the back of the amphiteatre. As several people held a sign showing an aborted fetus, Coalition security forces tried to move them out ... (566) "do you have a smaller sign you can put up? We're not blocking anyone's view's a safety issue...we'll just stay back ...blah blah blach At the Faith and Freedom Rally at the Republican National Convnetion in San diego, I'm Bob collins, Minnesota Public Radio. Sound out-