Paul Weyrich, Genius of the Right

Paul Weyrich, conservative organizer par excellence, died today at his home in Washington DC after a long and painful illness which he bore with heroic good cheer. He was just 66. A tribute is here. History will recognize him as a giant of the American right. The vaunted successes of the Democracy Alliance for liberal goals in recent elections are really just a mirror of the way Weyrich's visionary institution-building and networking since the early 1970s set the stage for Reagan's presidency in 1980 and Gingrich's takeover of Congress in 1994.

Paul helped found both the Heritage Foundation and the Free Congress Foundation. He pioneered the weekly center-right coalition gatherings that continue to wield vast influence in the form of Grover Norquist's Wednesday Meeting. He was among the earliest players in conservatism's move into cable television, demonstrating the potential for what is now Fox News Channel.

We could not have created the Independence Institute in 1985 as a force in Colorado policy and politics, simultaneous with similar state startups in Illinois, Washington, and South Carolina, without the national template for think tanks that Paul Weyrich and Edwin Feulner -- financially backed by Joe Coors -- provided a decade earlier at Heritage and Free Congress.

So it can be said that State Policy Network, now encompassing free-market institutes in some 45 states, also owes its existence to Weyrich's genius, drive, and hard work. Conservatives in the Colorado General Assembly, as in state legislatures across the country, also benefit from his legacy as one of the founders of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The Republican Study Committee of Colorado, a legislators caucus, imitates yet another brainchild of his, the House Republican Study Committee in DC.

I was honored to know Paul as a friend for many years. He was a mentor to me as to countless others. As a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, he anticipated celebration with the angels when death finally came. I trust that's what this faithful servant is experiencing right now -- an early Christmas in heaven. But we on earth will sorely miss him.