Video: Christian right pressure

updated 5/26/2005 2:40:12 PM ET 2005-05-26T18:40:12

Washington, D.C. is still buzzing over that filibuster compromise worked out by Senate moderates. And the anger is building on the right towards the Republican leader of the Senate, Bill Frist. 

On Wednesday, Sen. Frist was in full damage control, but the religious right is still infuriated at him. Pressure group leaders are threatening to abandon Frist. They believe he could have done more to reign in all Republicans and convince them a deal with Democrats wasn't needed.

“An hour before the compromise was announced, reports we had from the leader's office was they had the votes,” says Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.

The setback for the religious right is particularly embarrassing given that Christian conservatives have worked for decades to get to this point where Republicans control both the White House and Congress. The religious right's political movement began with the 1964 presidential campaign of Barry Goldwater. And while Goldwater lost the general election, a group of his strategists stayed together and formulated a family values agenda.

In the 1970s, televangelist Jerry Falwell joined them, turning the “moral majority” into a political organization.

And then, in 1980, the Moral Majority groups helped fuel the campaign of Ronald Reagan.

While Reagan's election and presidency were successes for the religious right, there have also been some notable failures: Pat Robertson's campaign in 1988, and Pat Buchanan's in 1992. At the Republican convention, Buchanan thrilled the religious right but drove moderate voters away from the GOP by throwing down the gauntlet.

In the 1996 presidential election, the religious right comprised 17 percent of the entire electorate.  In 2000, with the organization overcome by infighting, that figure dropped to 14 percent. But it was back up to 16 percent  last year.

And religious groups played a crucial role in banning gay marriage in eleven states and delivering Ohio to President Bush.

And just a few weeks ago, Christian conservatives gathered at an event called “Justice Sunday” thought they heard Bill Frist promise the Senate would deliver.

Has Frist now lost the faith of the religious right? And if so, who will Christian conservatives turn to? 

It's a story that is still developing in the wake of a deal that Christian conservatives say wasn't needed and has therefore left them perplexed and angry. 

David Shuster reports for Hardball, which airs weeknights, 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC.


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