MY mom's joined the army. Not the U.S. army. My mother just joined the "invisible army" of former televangelist Pat Robertson.
By now you've probably heard of Robertson's renegade band of GOP activists. Earlier this month, they ambushed Vice President George Bush in lowa, outdistancing the national frontrunner to take second place behind Sen. Robert Dole. In Hawaii they delivered 82 percent of the vote for Robertson. Quite an accomplishment for a man who claims to have diverted hurricanes and has supported a deficitcutting measure to defy all others--declaring "a year of jubilee," in which all debts would be forgiven.
So why is mom supporting the Reverend? She defies the media's stereotypical portrayal of Robertson-backers. She is not an illiterate--she has a bachelor's degree in history from North Texas State University. She's not a political novice--she's a Republican precinct committee member and has held county-wide office. And she doesn't spend much time watching television evangelists or Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. But, come May and the less-than-crucial Oregon primary, mom will be casting her ballot for the television broadcaster from Virginia.
Mom thinks there's something wrong with the federal government. She thought so in 1980, when she cast her ballot for California Governor Ronald Reagan. Reagan promised to reduce the bureaucracy and cut government spending, but he didn't deliver. She worried about the national debt in 1980. Reagan vowed to balance the budget, but he ran up more debt than all of his predecessors combined.
She hoped Reagan would cut out the graft and corruption on Capitol Hill. But Reagan's buddies--Lyn Nofziger, Michael Deaver, Edwin Meese, and a couple dozen others--have been less than ethical. She wanted honesty in government--instead she got the Iran-contra scandal. She wanted a hands-on president--instead she got one who slept through Cabinet meetings and delegated decision-making to junior staff members.
Mom is a social conservative. She wants a return to "traditional family values," and she opposes Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion-on-demand. She wants a candidate who will do more than pay lip service to the Pro-Life movement, as President Reagan has done.
George Bush is pledging to continue the "Reagan Revolution." Mom doesn't want four more years. And she doesn't think Bush is telling the truth about the Iran-contra affair.
Dole says most Americans want an "insider," a president who knows how to cut deals with Congress. Perhaps Dole is right. But mom wants a president who will confront the Washington bureaucracy and the liberals in Congress. She is not looking for a great compromiser, but a great reformer.
Jack Kemp isn't at the top of mom's list either. Kemp doesn't seem very concerned about the deficit, and he lacks charisma, she says.
MOM supports Pat Robertson because he's very conservative and will make sure the GOP platform stays that way. Bush and Dole pledge to broaden the base of the Republican party. But mom fears they'll compromise Republican principles in an effort to attract moderates. Robertson is broadening the base of the party, too--but he is signing up thousands of evangelicals and born-again Christians, a move mom supports. He is also wooing thousands of conservative Southern voters, who are switching party affiliation so they can vote in the GOP primaries.
Robertson promises to bring "moral strength" to the White House. He vows he'll never pander to special interests, and he boasts that he doesn't owe anybody any favors. "Nobody has any hooks in me," Robertson says. This is a grassroots campaign. He has raised more money than any of the Democrats and nearly as much as George Bush. But the money hasn't come from Washington insiders, Wall Street bankers or Political Action Comittees. Simple people are sending small donations--they're the reason Robertson has an enviable campaign war chest. Mom thinks Robertson won't have to spend his entire term repaying favors. And he won't have to worry about special interests when he slashes spending and government waste.
Mom is confident that Robertson would be a competent president. His Yale degree proves he's no intellectual slouch, she says. And while the politicians have been making deals Washington, Robertson has been running one of the nation's largest cable networks. He is no hatchet man. And mom says he's friendly, with no Dolelike dark side.
A month ago, mom did not believe that Robertson could compete with the other Republican candidates. His second place showing in lowa convinced her that Robertson can take on the Republican presidential field--and maybe even win.
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