Michigan: Veering to the Right
Corwin Smidt and James Penning
Although Michigan is a relatively urban and industrialized state, its history reveals a periodic influx of conservative, populist forces. In 1972, for example, George Wallace won the Michigan Democratic presidential primary, and in 1988 supporters of Pat Robertson threw the Michigan GOP into a state of chaos with their aggressive efforts on his behalf. According to one study, Michigan's GOP continues to have a "substantial" level of "religious right" strength within its state organization (Persinos 1994, 22). 1
This chapter will analyze the 1994 election in Michigan to see what role groups of the religious right played. A variety of religious right groups have organized in Michigan over the past several decades and have become politically active, generally working on behalf of conservative GOP candidates. What factors have contributed to their rise? How active were they? What was the nature of their activism? What was their political impact?
To answer these questions, we begin by examining the changing political context which has contributed to the emergence of such groups. We then discuss the historical context of the 1994 Michigan elections. We conclude by examining the 1994 election and assessing the nature of the impact of such organizations on election outcomes within the state.
Over the past decade, political analysts have frequently written the obituary of the so-called religious right. This was particularly true after Jerry Falwell, in June 1989, announced that the Moral Majority was to be dis