MINNEAPOLIS-An early hint of the Christian Right's resurgence in electoral politics came in the Minnesota spring caucuses. At the same time, the mainstream media's inability to understand the Christian Right became obvious.
Much to most observers' surprise, the Christian Right galvanized around a former state legislator, Allen Quist, who captured the party endorsement over the sitting Republican governor, Arne Carlson. Quist ignited the social conservatives, many of whom had never attended party caucuses before, with his vocal backing of school prayer and "traditional family" values and his adamant opposition to abortion.
Quist forged an alliance between his social conservative faithful-dubbed the Quistinistas-and the most conservative economic interests within the state, reminiscent of that put together by Ronald Reagan in 1980. He promised to cut $1 billion from the state budget by curtailing education and welfare programs, alienating some of the secular forces in the party.
Quist's religious beliefs became a major issue in the campaign and a focal point of news coverage. In an interview with The Twin Cities Reader, he stated that men have a "genetic predisposition" to head the family, making him a target of derision by the mainstream press and an object of veneration by his followers, who saw the press treatment as nothing less than persecution.
The cultural divide between the mainstream press and those who feel a lack of influence became obvious in this campaign. Any questioning on political grounds of the standard-bearer was interpreted as an attack on the followers-and often, in fact, it was.
Many Quist supporters were political neophytes involved out of their sense of alienation from political and bureaucratic institutions. Even wealthy and influential voters responded to the "outsiders" appeal of Quist and other Christian Right emissaries.