One afternoon last week, David Lane watched from the sidelines as a roomful of Iowa evangelical pastors applauded a defense of religious liberty by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. That night, he gazed out from the stage as the pastors surrounded Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana in a prayer circle.
For Mr. Lane, a onetime Bible salesman and self-described former “wild man,” connecting the pastors with two likely presidential candidates was more than a good day’s work. It was part of what he sees as his mission, which is to make evangelical Christians a decisive power in the Republican Party.
“An army,” he said. “That’s the goal.”
And Mr. Lane is positioning himself as a field marshal. A fast-talking and born-again veteran of conservative politics with experience in Washington, Texas and California, Mr. Lane, 60, travels the country trying to persuade evangelical clergy members to become politically active.
That’s what we’re facing.
What Mr. Lane, a former public relations man, does have going for him is a decentralized landscape in which a determined believer with an extensive network of ground-level evangelical leaders and a limitless capacity for talking on the phone can exert influence on Republican presidential candidates eager to reach evangelical voters.
I used to go to town council meetings in my little mountain town and sometimes almost burst into delighted laughter at seeing the hidden political mechanics in action. I HATED the sonsofbitches and what they were doing, but I marveled at the coordination, the deftness of manipulation of the public sentiment, the streamlined perfection of the lies.
Seeing it was a daily lesson in political strategy in a small town, and beyond.
Nothing they did was done for the people of the town or the surrounding mountain environment. It was purely extractive and manipulative — a roofied drink and a followup rape in every sense but the sexual. But damn, they were good at it.
I don’t want us to ever forget that this is out there, working day and night to take advantage with lies and subterfuge, to wrest the future out of our hands and make it theirs again. To wreak short-term profit by keeping the world as it is.