Religious Right's New Mandarin
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If Bauer-backed conservatives win in the Illinois primary races held March 17, pro-abortion-rights GOP activists predict the Republican old guard will spring into action to try to prevent the pattern from repeating throughout the primaries. "He's ruining the Republican Party," complains Lynn Grefe, head of the Republican Pro-Choice PAC.Skip to next paragraph
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Bauer maintains the social-conservative agenda is the winning agenda, and that the Republican Party just needs to find its voice on these issues. Exhibit A is his old boss, Ronald Reagan, who he says won election twice on these issues, while President Bush and Bob Dole soft-pedaled social issues and lost.
"A trend has developed in recent years where good Republican senators and governors and congressmen will come to an event out at Focus on the Family or at the Family Research Council or at the Christian Coalition, and they'll give great speeches on values and the sanctity of human life," Bauer says. "But then you see them on 'Meet the Press' or at the Detroit Economic Club, and these things are all forgotten."
So far, Bauer's not impressed by any of the Republicans laying the groundwork for a presidential campaign - not even Sen. John Ashcroft of Missouri, who has won early support from Christian Coalition state chairs. By the end of the year, Bauer will decide whether to jump in.
His would be an unorthodox candidacy, not so much because he's never held elective office, but because some of his proposals buck standard GOP views. Bauer opposes privatization of Social Security, arguing that it would be difficult for low-income families, in particular, to know what to do in the stock market.
He proposes instead an immediate 20 percent reduction in the payroll tax, and the option to use that money however one sees fit, including possible investment in stocks. Upon retirement, a person's Social Security benefits would be lowered by 20 percent.
Bauer, too, wants to put more pressure on the Chinese government over human rights than either major party is prepared to do. The prevalent GOP thinking on China is "scandalous," he says. "I believe in free trade, by and large, but not at the expense of doing business with people who are engaged in slave labor and persecuting Christians."
The No. 1 issue of a Bauer candidacy, of course, would be abortion, "the premier moral issue of our time."
"What more important issue does the Congress of the United States have than the issue of whether or not the Constitution and Declaration of Independence apply to our unborn children?" he asks. "That is more important than the funding level of the NEA or whether Medicare ought to be $200 billion or $208 billion or any number of other things they spend hours a day debating."
Bauer's family, so far, seems game for a possible presidential run. His wife, he says, is "excited that people would even talk about this." Eleven-year-old son Zachary's only worry was whether he'd be able to put a basketball hoop in the driveway at the White House.
In a way, Bauer has much in common with President Clinton. Both grew up in Southern working-class families, in towns where gambling and prostitution were apparently rampant. Both had alcoholic fathers; both have degrees from Georgetown University. But as political players, the two could hardly be more different. If Mr. Clinton is the consummate insider, ready to compromise to cut a deal, Bauer is the ultimate outsider, lobbing bombs into the tent rather than being inside it.
Compromise, says Bauer, is not the goal of a great movement.
"Nobody's going to put on your tombstone, 'He had a place at the table.' The thing you want on your tombstone is, 'He liberated the slaves' or 'He stopped the slaughter of the innocents.' That's what men and women of faith in both parties ought to be involved in."