Around mid-morning on Election Day, November 8, 1994, an Atlanta woman called me at my Massachusetts office. Having just returned from voting, she reported that virtually everyone in the line in front of her at the polls held in their hand a Christian Coalition voter guide. The "non-partisan" voter guides were handed out on the previous Sunday, two days before the election. Nationally, Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition distributed 33 million voter guides through churches and Christian-owned businesses. According to Market Research Institute, of the 75 million voters who turned up at the polls, as many as 33% identified themselves as born again Christians. Within that group of over 24 million, almost 70% — approximately 17 million — voted Republican.
Surveys showed that many voters crossed party lines in selecting their candidates of choice. Because many Democrats voted for the Republican candidate, it is clear that voters generally chose the conservative candidate over the liberal candidate, regardless of party. So, unwittingly, some Democrats and moderate Republicans helped the Religious Right take another major step towards not only controlling the Republican Party, but the nation as well.
In the closely watched Virginia Senate race, Religious Right favorite Oliver North failed in his bid. Unable to put Iran-Contra behind him, North lost because of North. North's high-profile Senate campaign was premature for the Christian Coalition. The Coalition is not yet set up to run candidates at the national level.
This may be the last chance for the right-wing fringe in the GOP to push their agenda and bring the party further to the right. Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich, the House Speaker in waiting, warned against attempts to block his radical agenda. If Republicans fail to embrace his program, Gingrich predicted that voters "will move toward a third party in a massive way."
While exulting in the Republican landslide in November, the Religious Right is worried about "big tent Republicanism," i.e., fiscalconservatives with liberal social agendas. Moderates will certainly resist extremism from the Religious Right. Too much pressure from the hard right within the Republican Party might stall the ultra-conservative agenda; unsatisfactory progress may indeed drive right wing GOP members to a third party.
Waiting in the wings is Howard Phillips' U.S. Taxpayers Party. This ultra-conservative party's platform was largely written by Christian Reconstructionist Rus Walton, and is strongly backed by Operation Rescue's Randall Terry.
What can we expect in the months ahead? My crystal ball says: Turmoil within the GOP; an end to the National Endowment for the Arts; Religious Right darling, Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, to run for the presidency; Ralph Reed will outgrow the Christian Coalition, and possibly run for John Warner's Senate seat in Virginia; and more rumblings about a third party.
Finally, while it is alarming that as many 17 million white evangelical born-again voters fell into lockstep with Pat Robertson, it is reassuring that 7 million born-againers did not — that one-third of born-again voters disagree with Pat Robertson.