I have spent the last five years travelling across the northeast and Ohio. Every week I meet influential Christian conservatives, and for the last half-decade the song remains the same: “The Republican Party is not a conservative party anymore! We Christian conservatives have been used. We helped elect these people and they have not done a thing for life, marriage, or religious liberty!”
I completely understand their frustration. Christian conservatives first formed around the Moral Majority to help deliver three straight presidential elections between 1980 and 1988, as well as a Senate majority in 1980. When the Moral Majority vanished, the Christian Coalition arose and worked to produce one of the largest electoral victories in history in 1994, when the GOP took over both branches of Congress. The Christian Coalition’s influence faded once Ralph Reed departed for a checkered career as a lobbyist and politician. A loose network of conservatives then worked to fight for marriage amendments, which also helped to re-elect George W. Bush in 2004.
We still live under the horrendous Machiavellian Roe v. Wade decision, same-sex marriage advocates have made great strides, especially among 18 – 40 year-olds, and government continues to grow at a rapid pace. Thus, my fellow Christian conservatives feel tired, betrayed, and angry.
I don’t blame them. I feel the same way.
But I have to remind myself of a few things:
(1) We did pass the Partial Birth Abortion Ban, and it was upheld by the Supreme Court. I helped whip the original bill when then President Clinton vetoed it. This was a big deal.
(2) We now have four pretty conservative Justices on the Supreme Court, which means we need only one more to overturn Roe v. Wade and send the abortion issue back to the states. This will save hundreds of thousands of lives. Fortunately, nearly all of the potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates (Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan, etc.) are pro-life. We are extremely close to tossing Roe on the ash heap of history. Also, keep in mind that Hillary Clinton is not her husband. She is a poor campaigner and a mediocre speaker. She is not the candidate the Democrats hope she is and, if she secures the nomination, she will probably lose.
(3) We have won nearly all of the marriage battle fights, and if the Court upholds the California Marriage Amendment (and I think they will on standing grounds), we will have bought precious time. While it is true that most young people support same-sex marriage, those attitudes could very well change. Remember that many hippies became Reagan conservatives once they grew up.
(4) President Obama’s stimulus package took off like a wingless dove and has led a large number of Americans to begin questioning the size and scope of the federal government, hence the boom in young libertarians who rallied around Ron Paul last year (but then wrote off Mitt Romney).
(5) Starting a new party is fool’s errand. The two-party system has many flaws, but it is now so ingrained in our culture that it would take decades to build a new party, and it will rob us of the opportunity to overturn Roe and take advantage of the distaste for the excessive federal spending over the last few years. Conservatives are one group making up the Republican Party, and we don’t always get our way, but we still have a voice. We have to earn the right to speak with any authority within the GOP, but that’s simply politics. If we “take our toys and go home,” we will marginalize ourselves in the short-run and possibly in the long run as well.
(6) Great political victories normally take decades to win. It took William Wilberforce twenty years to overturn the slave trade, and that was with the enlightenment wind at his back. It took American abolitionists nearly a hundred years to outlaw slavery. Secular liberals understand this, and it doesn’t deter them. Gay rights advocates reshaped themselves around the game plan of the book After the Ball in 1989 when they suffered defeat after defeat, from Hawaii to DOMA to various state marriage amendments, but refused to quit. The ACLU lost case after case for decades before gaining ground. We need to be as tenacious, for the lives of preborn children, marriage, and freedom to preach the Gospel are simply too important.
(7) We are already winning victories, even if few news outlets, including Fox News, will report them. Alliance Defending Freedom won nearly 80% of their cases last year defending life, marriage, and liberty against groups like the ACLU.
As for Congress, state legislatures, and the GOP–Governor John Kasich once told me, when he was serving in Congress, “Young Mr. Rawlings, Congress is like Wal-Mart: if enough people want something, they will deliver it!” It is up to us Christian conservatives to make our case, organize, and apply pressure. We cannot just expect to get our way. We have to earn it every single day.
Marriage, children, and liberty are worth such an effort.
Matt Rawlings is an attorney, pastor, former Congressional aide, past music video director and prodigal preacher’s kid. Matt resides in Portsmouth, Ohio with his wife Emily, his son Jackson and his dog Duke (named after John Wayne not the university). Matt blogs regularly at www.pastormattblog.com