GOP readies for '96


Boston -- IF YOU LIKED the 1992 Republican National Convention, with its bashing of the un-Christian and the un-straight, you'll love the 1996 convention. Assuming, that is, that the party wins as big as it expects in tomorrow's midterm elections. Last time we had Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan. We had the Republican chairman, Rich Bond, warning that if Bill Clinton was elected, Jane Fonda would be sleeping in the White House "as guest of honor at a state dinner for Fidel Castro."

Next time the powerful new committee chairmen in a Republican-controlled Senate will surely be featured. Among them will be Jesse Helms, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Alfonse D'Amato, chairman of Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

The speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, will be on the platform, expanding on his theme that Democrats are "the enemy of normal Americans." But the star turn will be the charismatic new senator from Virginia, Oliver North.

Pat Robertson will be back, too. His Christian Coalition will have been the single most significant factor in the choice of Republican candidates in 1994 and in the election of many. As a notable example, it made Oliver North the Republican nominee over the objection of many party regulars.

Envisioning the 1996 convention after victory in 1994 makes one understand what has happened to the Republican Party. Across the country, in state after state, it has moved sharply to the right: to a conservatism of a kind distinct from the mainstream political right in Britain, France or any other developed country.

It is not Ronald Reagan's conservatism, whose central theme was lower taxes and the free market. Mr. Reagan talked about the so-called social issues -- abortion, prayer, the family -- but in office did little about them.

For the new forces in the party, they are the issues. No one knows exactly what legislation they would pass. But the kind of society they want is quite clear: a more Christian and more pious America, with women's right to choose eliminated and their struggle for economic and political equality turned back.

Many who have nothing to do with the Christian right are distressed by aspects of American society today: the romanticizing of violence and vulgarity, the rise of illegitimacy, the decay of responsibility. For me, those are fundamental challenges to a decent society.

Because those problems exist, and the Christian right focuses on them, I think a lot of people have paid too little attention to the real nature of its political gospel. They do not realize how strident and narrow it is.

Pat Robertson himself comes on these days as an unfrightening figure, but that is only because his real views are not generally known.

It took Michael Lind of Harper's magazine, writing last month in the Washington Post, to bring them to my attention.

In his book "The New World Order," published in 1991, Pat Robertson said a secret cabal of international bankers, Freemasons and occultists had brought about the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution and the Federal Reserve. Jewish bankers were especially active.

The Robertson book asserted that Jewish bankers on Wall Street, trying to create a "new world order," supported the Bolshevik government after the revolution.

Noting a report that Jews had been admitted to the Masonic order in Frankfurt, Germany, for the first time, it said that, if so, "we have discovered the link between the occult and the world of high finance."

A Robertson spokesman wrote to the Post saying that he supports Israel, which is true, and that the quotations were taken "out of context."

Well, here is another found by Mr. Lind: "It is my belief that John Wilkes Booth, the man who assassinated Lincoln, was in the employ of the European bankers."

That a person who would put those views in a book is a major force in the Republican Party today is not a trivial matter.

The Christian Coalition this past weekend distributed 33 million election guides to voters. The character of a great American party is changing, to the anguish of some who have been among its leaders. Attention must be paid.

Anthony Lewis is a columnist for the New York Times.

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