The slumbering giant of Christianity awakens

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Commentary by Gary Palmer

“I fear that we have awakened a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve,” said Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto after launching the attack against Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

If secular liberalism is relegated to a virtual political ash heap for the next 20 years, historians may cite two dates in 2003 as pivotal to their decline…September 4th and November 18th. Perhaps as much as anything else that impacted the outcome of the 2004 election, the events that took place on those two days assured the defeat of John Kerry and the loss of six more Democratic U.S. senators.

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Here’s why. By now almost everyone that has been paying the slightest bit of attention to the post-election analysis knows that the political experts and media pundits have concluded that the Republican victories were the result of the unprecedented turnout of conservative Christians who voted overwhelmingly for Republican candidates. What drove conservative Christians to the polls were primarily two issues: same-sex marriage and judicial activism.

Though it is an issue that requires a separate debate, the same-sex marriage issue is the byproduct of judicial activism at its worst. That is why these two dates have particular significance. On September 4, 2003, after enduring 28 months of Senate Democrats obstructing his nomination, Miguel Estrada withdrew his name from consideration as President George Bush’s nominee to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Estrada was targeted for defeat because he was President Bush’s first high-profile judicial nominee and because many liberals viewed him in the same context as current Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a very conservative, highly intelligent minority who didn’t fit the liberal minority mold. They were particularly concerned that allowing Estrada to be confirmed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia would be a stepping stone to a nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Estrada was not the only Bush judicial nominee whose nomination has been obstructed. Ten other Bush nominees have been held up by filibuster, including former Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor, and another six nominations have been threatened with filibuster.

Keeping this “battle for the justices” in mind, enter November 18th-the date that many political experts say definitively changed the political landscape of the country. On that day, by a 4-3 vote, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ordered the state to legalize same-sex marriage. The Massachusetts supreme court’s ruling was another example of raw judicial power being used to impose an unprecedented social change on the whole country that the majority of American voters are against. And that very ruling transformed a base of conservative Christian voters that had not been voting into a voting powerhouse.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a poll found that “born-again Christians” represent only 38% of the U.S. population, yet they represented 53% of the votes cast in the election. This puts in perspective the exit polling data that showed that concern over moral values was the top issue for 22% of the voters. However, even though millions of voters named other issues as their top priority such as jobs and the economy (20%) and the war against terrorism (19%), that doesn’t mean that moral values were not important to them or that these voters were not people of faith.

In other words, the giant may be even bigger than the political experts think and could potentially grow much larger and much more influential.

Almost as a direct result of the fear of conservative Christians that other courts would follow the example of the Massachusetts high court and impose same-sex marriage, constitutional amendments that defined marriage as legally existing only between a man and a woman were on Election Day ballots in 11 states. Every one of those amendments passed with huge majorities. Even in Oregon, a liberal state that Kerry won handily, the amendment to protect marriage garnered 56% support.

Contrary to the popular secular liberal belief, conservative Christians are not ignorant, nor unsophisticated. They clearly understand the dangers of judicial activism and easily linked the decision of the Massachusetts high court to the Democrat’s obstruction strategy to keep conservative judges nominated by President Bush out of the federal courts. Thus, these two issues converged to awaken and activate conservative Christians as nothing else has in recent memory.

On September 4, 2003, the day Miguel Estrada withdrew his name from nomination, Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) proclaimed that it was “a great victory for the Constitution.” But in reality, it was the day the slumbering giant of conservative Christians began to awaken. Two and a half months later, on November 18th, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court jolted them into action. That was the day secular liberals lost the election.

Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.