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Running Against Sodom and Osama

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The Durability of the Christian Right

The strategy laid out at the Values Voter Summit and Liberty Sunday is for Christian Right activists to fly under the media radar and contact potential voters in the evangelical community who are already inclined to vote Republican, and motivate them to actually go to the polls on Election Day 2006 in order to preserve Republican control of Congress. The Christian Right—and Rove—hope that by micro-targeting constituencies in specific key states, they can make the difference. The bait they are using in this election is the issue of same sex marriage, both through a rhetorical framing approach and the use of statewide ballot initiatives. As of a few weeks before the election, public opinion seems to favor Democratic gains, however the Republican voter mobilization techniques could be effective in the typically lower-turnout midterm elections. There is no way to know at this point if that strategy will be successful.

Every few years—following an electoral defeat of Republicans, the collapse of a Christian Right organization, or the expose of a leader’s shady past, the death of the Christian Right is announced in the media. Reports of its death have been, as they say, greatly exaggerated. The Christian Right will survive and remain a powerful factor in U.S. social, cultural, and political life. That is because the Christian Right is a large and durable social movement, with a complex and diverse set of autonomous institutions that are linked to political campaigns through the Republican Party. The rising or falling fortunes of the Republican Party in any election cycle do not control participation in the Christian Right as a social movement. If one set of tactics fails, others will be field tested by skilled Christian Right leaders. Many of today’s tactics have been in use for decades. Win or lose, skilled Christian Right activists will emerge from the 2006 midterm elections with stronger grassroots organizations and longer lists of names of potential recruits.

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