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The Traditional Values Coalition's
Election 2000 Battle Plan

By Bill Berkowitz

Last fall, Rev. Pat Robertson launched the Christian Coalition's "Countdown to Victory" campaign. In mid-March, former Moral Majority head Rev. Jerry Falwell announced his "People of Faith 2000" crusade. Now, Rev. Lou Sheldon has jumped into the fray with his "Election 2000 Battle Plan." The Rev. Lou Sheldon

Now we have three of the most prominent Reverends in the Christian Right basically lining up to campaign for George W. Bush.

When Bush's brain-trust designed his campaign strategy they had two things in mind: rake in unprecedented amounts of money; and send W. around the country with his "compassionate conservatism" mantra. Sen. John McCain's victory in New Hampshire, and the necessity of winning South Carolina forced them into rethinking their approach. That's when they called in their Christian Right allies. They won South Carolina and proceeded to handily capture the party's nomination. Now, at least for the moment, they are stuck with the baggage that folks like Robertson, Falwell and Sheldon bring to the party.

To most Americans, Rev. Sheldon is not a household name. However, it is clear from the record that he is one of the hardest working guys on the Christian Right. His Anaheim, California-based Traditional Values Coalition (TVC)-- with offices in Washington, D.C.-- has been in the forefront of anti-gay campaigns and lobbying for more than two decades. And although he doesn't possess the mediagenic and madman-like qualities of someone like Rev. Fred Phelps of Topeka, Kansas--who's often seen picketing funerals of prominent gay figures-- Sheldon has earned his fair share of major media coverage.

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Rev. Sheldon got his start around the same time that Anita Bryant was peddling orange juice and anti-gay opinions. He has had a whole lot more staying power. In the 1970's, according to a 1994 New York Times profile, Sheldon "campaigned unsuccessfully against repeal of California's anti-sodomy laws and [in 1978] worked with State Senator John V. Briggs on an initiative [which failed] that would have required the dismissal of teachers who were openly homosexual."

Over the years Sheldon, founder and chairman of TVC, has become an expert at conducting wedge-based political campaigns. In 1993, TVC was one of the major distributor of the especially vicious video Gay Rights, Special Rights, which was aimed at attracting support from African Americans by stirring up anti-gay resentment. At that time Sheldon, who had no record of supporting civil rights initiatives, appealed to African Americans by saying that "the freedom train to Selma has been hijacked" by gays.

In 1994, when the Gingrich "Revolution" brought the House under Republican control for the first time in years, the Times noted that Sheldon could now call on some of his friends in high government positions - including Trent Lott, who was featured in Gay Rights, Special Rights. The Times called Sheldon a "tireless crusader...[against] rules and regulations that confer equality on homosexuals."

In 1995, Sheldon, who had boasted in a fund-raising letter that he had secured a commitment from Gingrich to hold congressional hearings on how federal funds were used to teach sex education and HIV/AIDS awareness in public schools, got his day in Congress.
Former Rep. Newt Gingrich found himself in the Speaker's chair partly thanks to Sheldon and the Traditional Values Coalition

In 1998, TVC became actively involved in the campaign to undermine the nomination of the openly-gay Jim Hormel as U.S. envoy to Luxembourg. And in a recent campaign aimed at convincing Latino elected officials in the Central Valley in California to vote against AB222, which would have added sexual orientation to a bill providing for a safer environment for school children, Sheldon once again played the wedge card.

A mailer depicting a black man kissing a Latino man and warning "Protect the children against homosexual assault" was an open invitation to anti-gay violence. This winter, TVC worked tirelessly to ensure the passage of Proposition 22, this year's anti same-sex marriage initiative.

Now, Rev. Sheldon has unveiled his ambitious "Election 2000 Battle Plan," -- " a proposal to fill America's highest elected offices in 2000 with leaders who are committed to the traditional moral and Biblical values that made America great."

In order to achieve "nothing less than 100% Christian voter participation in the 2000 Elections," Sheldon's three-prong campaign aims to raise an estimated $12 million in order to:

1) Ensure an Informed Christian Vote -- 50 million voter guides ($750,000); TV, radio and newspaper advertisements ($930,000); the Internet ($450,000);

2) Identify 15,000,000 brand new Christian voters -- Christian Voter I.D. Project ($2.5 million); TV, radio and newspaper ads ($450,000); Mobilize TVC's network of 43,000 churches ($660,000);

3) Generate a record-breaking Christian voter turnout - voter contact, mail & phone ($3.3 million); building a transportation infrastructure ($1.2 million); vote at home program ($1.3 million); holding "Christian Action" and "Candidate Training" schools across America ($680,000).

As it now stands, Robertson, Falwell and Shedon are out mining the grassroots for money and support for their election year activities. Theses ambitious campaigns are focused on cleansing Washington of the Clinton-Gore years, and electing "moral leaders who believe in Biblical principles."

They have decided that Bush is such a leader. Meanwhile, the Bush campaign must figure out how to gracefully move away from these fellows and glide toward the middle of the political spectrum, a place W. needs to be in order to win in the Fall.
Bill Berkowitz is the editor of CultureWatch, a monthly publication tracking the religious right and related conservative movements, published by oakland's datacenter. subscriptions are $35 a year. contact him via phone: 510-835-4692, ext. 308, or by e-mail:
For a free sample copy, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to: CultureWatch, 1904 Franklin St., Suite 900, Oakland, CA 94612.

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