Oklahoma: The Christian Right and Republican
Nancy L. Bednar and Allen D. Hertzke
On November 8, 1994, Oklahoma Democrats were stunned by an unprecedented GOP tide in the midterm elections. Just two years before, the Democrats had still looked like the majority party: they held the governor's office, a 5-3 majority in the congressional delegation, and huge majorities in the state legislature. On Wednesday morning they woke up to a new reality. Republicans swept the offices of governor and lieutenant governor, picked up seats in the state legislature, and seized a remarkable 7-1 majority in the congressional delegation. Not since the 1920s had the Republicans sent a majority to Washington, and never by such a margin.
Of equal significance is the nature of that congressional delegation. All five of the victorious Republican House members and both of the senators have ties to the Christian Right and received strong backing from conservative evangelical voters. The lone surviving Democrat is conservative representative Bill Brewster. From the standpoint of the Christian Right, therefore, the elections were a smashing success; Oklahoma's delegation to Washington will be highly sympathetic to their policy goals.
What produced this outcome was a fortuitous blend of discontent, resources, and opportunity. Successful social movements need resources to channel discontent and favorable opportunities to exploit. All those came together in Oklahoma. Discontent with the drift of secular society, accentuated by deep displeasure with President Clinton (who embodied the "counterculture" in the White House), galvanized conservative evangelicals. In turn, this discontent was channeled by sophisticated Christian Right leaders and fueled by expanding resources (money, media outlets, and a volunteer corps). Finally, Christian Right activism