God at the Grass Roots: The Christian Right in the 1994 Elections

By Mark J. Rozell; Clyde Wilcox | Go to book overview

13
The Past as Prologue: The Christian Right in the
1996 Elections

Mark J. Rozell and Clyde Wilcox

The various case studies in this book show that the Christian Right was alive and vibrant in 1994. Christian conservatives controlled the party machinery in a number of states, and represented a sizable faction of Republican primary election voters. The second-generation groups are busy building broader, more inclusive religious coalitions, and the elites of groups such as the Christian Coalition almost universally are adopting moderate rhetoric. Based on these case studies, it seems safe to predict that the Christian Right will be a very active element of the Republican coalition in 1996.

Yet predicting the future of the Christian Right has proven difficult. In 1989, many journalists and a few scholars celebrated the demise of the New Christian Right. The Moral Majority was bankrupt and disbanded, and Pat Robertson's presidential campaign had been the most expensive in history but had failed to win a single presidential primary. It appeared to many that the Christian Right would once again fade into obscurity, as it had after its earlier manifestations in twentieth-century America.

Moreover, most scholars deemed the Christian Right of the 1980s a failure. Although Christian Right leaders had worked hard to elect Ronald Reagan in 1980 and 1984, as president Reagan had delivered policies to the economic and foreign policy conservatives, and only symbols to Christian conservatives. In 1989, after more than a decade of Christian Right activism, abortion remained legal, public schools could not begin their days with a prayer, and gays and lesbians continued to make slow, halting progress toward political and social equality (Moen 1992; Wilcox 1994).

In hindsight, many scholars saw the failure of the New Christian Right

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