The Nation: Right On for the New Right

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New Rightists are also attempting to link up with blue-collar and ethnic groups they used to shun. Typical is Mike Thompson, the publicist for Anita Bryant's successful campaign against the homosexual antidiscrimination ordinance in Dade County. On the basis of overlapping economic and life-style issues, he is putting together what he hopes will be a "new majority" of Republicans, blue-collar Democrats and Jewish voters. "We will bring together people who have never been politically involved before," he says, "and they will go on to work together for other issues and candidates."

These tactics have paid off handsomely this year in special congressional elections. In three out of four races, Republicans have won upset victories over their Democratic opponents. In each case, the winner was helped by vocal and skillful conservative support.

In Washington State, G.O.P. Challenger John Cunningham found out that resentment against environmentalism was the biggest issue, so he made it his campaign theme. He won by splitting blue-collar Democrats worried about their jobs from liberal intellectuals preoccupied with the environment. Says Stanford Sociologist Seymour Lipset: "This is the kind of thing they are doing very well—looking from place to place, from region to region to find out what the discontent is."

These days the leaders of the New Right are not talking seriously about forming a third party—the idea is too impractical. That leaves them only one way to gain national power: by taking over the G.O.P. Clearly it is far too early to say whether or not they will be able to succeed, but even if they do, they would still have problems. Although they are more pragmatic about techniques these days, the New Rightists tend to be just as purist as the old right on the issues. Hewing a hard ideological line would be no way for the beleaguered G.O.P. to boost its membership: it now commands only 20% of the national electorate.

To build a coalition on the national level, the conservatives would have to learn to compromise on issues—something that has always been difficult for them. Otherwise, the New Right would soon have the faded look of the old right—and just about as much appeal at the ballot box.

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