The leaders of the ideological conservative movement -- perhaps the most loyal and longstanding supporters of President-elect Ronald Reagan in the country -- have been seeing an awful specter floating around their former hero these last two weeks: moderate Republicanism.
They're seeing names like Henry Kissinger, Alan Greenspan, James A. Baker III and George Shultz -- names that represent to them exactly what Reagan ran against in 1976 when he, and they, lost out at the GOP convention to Gerald Ford -- appearing in articles and columns speculating on the staffing of the Reagan administration, and it doesn't make them happy.
"Sure, I expected to see an occasional liberal Republican in there," says Richard Viguerie, the direct-mail expert who is perhaps the leading figure in the loose confederation of hardline political action committees, religious organizations, publications and single-issue lobbying groups that goes by the name New Right, "but the names we're seeing now do make us nervous. It looks like it might be old home week for the Nixon-Ford administration."
"The American people didn't vote for moderation," says John T. Dolan, executive director of the National Conservative Political Action Committee. "I think it would be absolute political stupidity for the Reagan administration to copy Ford. They're trying to co-opt him."
New Right leaders initially reacted to the election results with jubilation and a heady sense of their own power. On the morning of Nov. 5, for example, Paul Weyrich, executive director of the Committee for the Survival of a Free Congress, publicly warned George Bush to get right on abortion and school prayer. Dolan announced his group had already targeted 20 of the 33 senators up for reelection in 1982.
But last Wednesday, about 30 conservative leaders held a private luncheon at the Hyatt Regency, in part to discuss what they considered the excesses of Viguerie, Dolan, and Weyrich -- none of whom were invited. Following that and other conferences, the New Right apparently decided to trim its sails. Weyrich now calls his statements about Bush "arrogant." Viguerie says that "conservatives will try for a while to keep their disagreements private."
Conservative sources say one reason for the New Right's low profile is a fear that public threats will drive Reagan -- to whom, in truth, the New Right was closer in the 1976 campaign than in 1980 -- into the arms of the moderates. Another is poll results that show Reagan and the new conservative senators owe their victories more to concerns about the economy and defense than to New Right issues like abortion.
But while senators like Gordon Humphrey of New Hampshire, Jeremiah Denton of Alabama, and John East of North Carolina are plainly men of the New Right, Reagan isn't.
The conservatives' agenda for the transition, then, is roughly as follows:
Fight hard to keep what they call "Nixon-Ford retreads," especially Kissinger and Shultz, out of the Reagan Cabinet. These are the only appointments that New Right leaders hint could cause a real break between themselves and the administration. This week's issue of Human Events, the right-wing weekly, says "there is a good deal of news that is quite discomfiting to those who backed the president-elect," and carries a major and critical story on Shultz; next week, subscribers to Conservative Digest will receive an issue whose lead editorial is headlined, "Please, Mr. Reagan, No Henry Kissinger."
Push for the appointments of John B. Connally and William Simon -- also retreads but more acceptable to conservatives -- for secretary of state and secretary of the treasury. Other names conservatives often mention approvingly are those of Richard V. Allen, Reagan's foreign policy adviser; Frank Shakespeare, the president of RKO General, and former Navy secretary J. William Middendorf.
Try to place as many conservatives as possible in the middle and lower ranks of government, in order to create a vast Franklin Roosevelt-style network of ideological soulmates who will stick around for decades.
In that last respect, the hopes of the right lie with Edwin Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, an organization founded by Weyrich in 1974 with its principal financial support from Colorado beer mogul Joseph Coors. Feulner is the only prominent New Right figure who has compiled extensive policy suggestions and lists of possible conservative appointees for the new administration, and he personally delivered them to transition chief Edwin Meese III at a dinner at the Hay-Adams Hotel last Thursday night.
But to most New Right leaders, it is obvious that they'll be spending the next four years where they spent the last four: on the outside.
One reason why is that the New Right is led by people whose profession and avocation is political agitprop, not government. "Conservatives haven't operated at the seat of power," says Viguerie. "We're good at getting people elected." Except for Feulner, nobody from the New Right has a detailed agenda for the new administration.
Moreover, the passion that truly motivates the New Right is a moral one that is magic with segments of the electorate but doesn't translate well into government policy. New Right leaders talk most animatedly about restoring "values" to American life in the form of required school prayer, a constitutional ban on abortions and getting sex out of the movies and television -- not reforms likely to be at the top of any president's list of things to do.
On economics, movement conservatives have generally supported the "supply-side" philosophy that calls for substantial personal income tax rate cuts and a return to a gold or silver standard. Specifically, most conservatives go along with the supply-siders in endorsing Reps. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.) and Dave Stockman (R-Mich.) and New York financial consultant Lewis Lehrman for high government positions. But most supply-siders are privately uncomfortable with the New Right. "They deal with symptoms, not causes," says Jude Wanniski, a supply-side economic consultant. "They have a different style from us."
The New Right and the supply-siders are united, however, in their hatred of the moderates. Both groups think the Nixon and Ford administrations, under Kissinger's leadership, wrongly pushed accomodation with the Soviet Union and other communists. Both groups are hostile to big business and to organized labor, which the moderates aren't. Both favor a raw, stir-up-the-masses brand of populism that would bring radical changes in American society. The moderates don't.
To ideological conservatives, people like Shultz and Greenspan represent the Wall Street internationalism that they have fought against in the Republican Party since the days of Wendell Willkie, Thomas Dewey and before. To the conservatives, Reagan appeared in the early '60s as if heaven-sent -- someone who could articulate their views in a way that would appeal to a mass audience. For years Reagan has signed New Right fund-raising letters and spoken at New Right banquets.
Now, suddenly, they're not so sure about him. "When I look, I don't see the hard-core Reaganites around Reagan," says John D. Lofton, a conservative columnist and editor of the Conservative Digest, which Viguerie publishes. "There are even moments when I wonder how much of a hard-core Reaganite Reagan is."