One reason Frank Capra's film "It's a Wonderful Life" still resonates powerfully is that it hits home to all of us by showing what would have happened had main character George Bailey never lived. It's easy to see failure, but hard to see how things would have been much worse -- how Bedford Falls would have become Potterville.
"One life touches so many others" -- and the same is true about political and social movements. It's easy to see the failure of the pro-life movement in not stopping abortion. It's harder to remember that some liberals were predicting that America would have 4 million abortions yearly by now, and that the number of abortions has declined in recent years from 1.6 million to a still grisly 1.2 million.
"The Christian Right in American Politics" (Georgetown University Press, 2003; multiple authors) is one of the many books that accentuate the negative. In South Carolina, said to be the Christian Right's top state, "Concrete policy changes resulting from ... agenda victories have been modest, and sometimes temporary." In Virginia, "A quarter-century of activism has not yielded a major change in the state public's attitudes toward social issues." In Texas, the Christian Right "has exerted a great amount of influence over the Republican Party" but "has been somewhat less effective in winning elections and controlling policy outcomes in the state."
Other chapters are about Florida, where Christian Right success has been "limited in terms of its role in passing statewide legislation," and the Midwest, where the Christian Right has had "mixed success in Michigan. ... Although the CR remains a major force in Kansas political and social life, its triumphs have been limited. ... Strong bark, weak bite in Minnesota politics." In Colorado, "the presence of fiscally conservative but socially moderate or libertarian Republicans has prevented the CR from controlling the Republican Party, nominating congenial candidates and passing ballot issues," and in the Pacific Northwest, the Christian Right "is very likely to continue to be frustrated in its efforts to achieve its ultimate policy ends."
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