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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Paul Weyrich RIP

Paul Weyrich, the legendary conservative institution-builder and avatar of what was once, in his heydey, called the New Right, died yesterday after a long illness.
I’m not the one to assess Weyrich’s career, and thus recommend Marc Ambider’s brisk summary of his triumphs back in the day and his long, ornery decline.
I can offer one personal anecdote that offers some insight into the man’s personality. One of his less-successful projects was a cable network, National Empowerment Television (later America’s Voice), that represented something of an earnestly amateurish dry run for Fox News. Virtually all the shows on NET featured call-ins, and viewers were about as rabidly conservative as you can get. I once appeared as a Token Democrat on Weyrich’s own show, back when I’d accept just about any media opportunity this side of the Sunrise Farm Report. The first caller made a snarky remark about my (then) long hair, and Weyrich proceeded to use much of the balance of the show lecturing his viewers about civility.
That was fairly typical of the man. He spent a good part of his long career appealing to and often speaking for extremists, but he didn’t much like his “friends” any more than his enemies. He was undoubtedly one of the Founding Fathers of the Cultural Right; he reportedly is the one who suggested the monniker “Moral Majority” to Jerry Falwell for his first-generation Christian Right group. But in every personal respect, Weyrich was wildly different from the slick, weasily hacks like Ralph Reed and Tony Perkins who eventually displaced him as the public faces of his own movement.
Paul Weyrich didn’t have a phony bone in his body. And though he very productively served causes I abhor for many decades, I have to say that his old-school style, which he pursued to the point of self-marginalizing eccentricity, is a trait that tradition-honoring conservatives ought to respect and miss every time they turn on Fox to watch and hear the automatons drone.

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