It certainly wasn’t what had been predicted. Mrs. Willke and I weren’t too hopeful when we went to San Diego the week before the Republican Convention where my wife Barbara was an Ohio delegate. At the time, pro-lifers were scoring a resounding victory with the platform, a must-win. Yes, now we hear from the dominant media that win means very little, and that some of the principals “haven’t read it”. But think of the damage to our movement if we had lost! It would have been a front-page story repeated for a week or more.
Another significant factor during the week of the Platform Committee meetings was the pro-life sweep of primary elections in three states. In four Republican Senatorial contests, where a pro-life candidate opposed a pro-abortion candidate, the pro-lifer won. These could mean an increase in pro-life strength in the US Senate next year.
Dole’s choice for Vice President was looking better, because most of those on the publicized short list were pro-lifers. Still, none had much flash and one never knows.
On Friday, the news of Kemp leaked, and on Saturday it was confirmed. Our reaction could only be called jubilant. Jack Kemp is great on the pro-life, pro-family issues. At the time of the Kemp announcement, I was making two presentations, one on euthanasia and the other on the Istanbul UN Conference, to pro-life, pro-family leaders. Several of these leaders did not know Kemp’s position on abortion. Since I had interviewed him three years ago, I circulated copies of that interview. We have also run highlights of the interview in this issue.
With Kemp on the ticket, the total climate changed. Instead of the pervasive pessimism, it was as if giant floodlights had suddenly gone on. Everyone we talked to was delighted. We didn’t hear any negatives. At a meeting of Christian Coalition leaders on Sunday, a straw vote was taken to find that approximately 480 (mostly new delegates) were pleased with Kemp, and only about 20 were not.
And so the convention began. One of my first interviews was with the Washington Post. “Wasn’t I upset that Powell was going to speak?” “No,” I said. “Wasn’t I upset that Molinari was going to speak?” “No, it’s O.K.” He couldn’t comprehend this. “Why was I not upset?” I simply smiled and said, “We won the big one.
We’ve got the Vice President.” That interview was not published, as it was not the reaction he wanted. The interview was prototypical of the press approaching pro-life people throughout the entire convention. They knew there would be a bad fight over abortion. They knew pro-lifers would wreck the Republican Party. They knew that we would boo, walk out, etc. They had been predicting it for months, and now it must happen. But in fact it did not.
There was only one episode of a faint smattering of boos in one section (see “Media Bias”, page 7). But except for that, pro-family people totally confounded the all-knowing media by not fighting.
On Sunday night Barbara and I were pleased to meet briefly with Bob Dole. “How’s it going?” he asked. “Bob,” I said, “you just didn’t hit a home run, you hit a grand-slam with Jack Kemp.” I told him of the straw vote above. He was very pleased. Later in the Convention, I had occasion to speak with many governors, senators, as well as Steve Forbes, Alan Keyes and others. That, along with my acquaintances among office-holders and in the media, made for a constant swirl of meetings, interviews and discussions. Everywhere there was a mood of buoyancy and optimism. That mood only increased as the Convention progressed.
Truly these are history-making times in which we live. Exhilarating and depressing, but certainly exciting. Who knows what will happen. All we know is that we are part of it.
We certainly are at a turning point in the history of the United States. Barbara and I continue to be thrilled to be activists in these tumultuous times in which we live.