In the months following the election, there appeared a series of articles all carrying a similar theme: With the election of Barack Obama and a Democratic Congress, the Religious Right was all but dead.
I have to say I find this temptation from commentators to write the Religious Right’s obituary after every Republican electoral setback rather remarkable. For one thing, as we pointed out not too long ago, these sorts of pieces appear every few years, only to be overtaken a short time later with pieces marveling that the “sudden” and “unexpected” resurgence of the “values voters” crowd. In addition, despite the gloominess from the likes of Mohler and Deace, the Religious Right is more committed than ever to regrouping as a “resistance movement” to fight for its agenda and eventually regain its position as an influential and powerful political and social force.
And that day may come sooner than many realize. While it might seem at the moment that the Religious Right is on its way out, it is important to remember that the GOP has lost exactly one mid-term election and one presidential election and Democrats have controlled Congress and the White House for less than three months.
Doesn’t anyone else remember all the talk following George W. Bush’s election, and especially his re-election, about the “values voters” and coming of a “permanent Republican majority” which would give the GOP ironclad control over the reigns of government for decades to come?
Remind me again: how did that all work out?
The point is that political fortunes change … and often change rapidly. It is far, far too early to be declaring the Religious Right to be dead based on two elections and three months of Democratic government.
Well, guess what? After being declared moribund just a few months ago, the Religious Right has been miraculously resurrected, thank to the healthcare reform debate, declares the Washington Post:
The Christian right, facing questions before the presidential election about its continuing potency as a force for cultural and political change, has found new life with Barack Obama in office, particularly around health care.
As the president prepares to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night to press for health-care reform, conservative Christian leaders are rallying their troops to oppose him, with online town hall meetings, church gatherings, fundraising appeals, and e-mail and social networking campaigns. FRC Action, the lobbying arm of the Family Research Council, has scheduled a webcast Thursday night for tens of thousands of supporters in which House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and other speakers will respond to the president’s health-care address.
“It’s a busy time,” said Tom Minnery, senior vice president of Focus on the Family Action, the lobbying arm of Focus on the Family. He said donations to Focus Action have climbed beyond expectations, although he declined to say by how much.
[F]or the moment, conservative Christian leaders are riding high on opposing health-care reform.
“Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid and Henry Waxman have done more to energize Christian conservatives than any conservative leader could have done with this health-care package,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. “I, who never believed that we were dead, did not believe that it would happen this quickly.”
“We’re not having to build a grand new organization. We’re using the strengths of other organizations that understand the needs of their particular constituencies,” said Mathew Staver, dean of the Liberty University School of Law and an organizer of the Freedom Federation.
Christian right leaders say it is too soon to tell whether health-care reform will trigger a flood of donations, but they are encouraged by the response they are seeing in other ways.
Gary Bauer, who heads the socially conservative group American Values, said that the list of addresses to which he sends his daily e-mail alerts was down to 170,000 and that he was getting only 50 requests a week to sign up for it before the election. Now, he said, the e-mail list is up to 225,000, and he is getting 1,000 or more requests a week asking to be added.
“The passion that was so evident in the Obama campaign right now, at least, has shifted to our side,” he said.
The Post reports that “experts say the resurgent interest is proving that predictions of the death of the Christian right — widespread before the election — were again premature.”
And who exactly was making all those “predictions” about the “death of the Christian right”? It was the media that declared the Religious Right dead … and now it is the media declaring that they have been resurrected.
It is sort of like a doctor declaring a sleeping patient to be dead and then proclaiming it a miracle when the patient wakens while blaming others for “prematurely” writing their obituary.