WASHINGTON—Conservative leaders from a bevy of activist groups arrived at the National Press Club exhausted from watching the election returns but most could hardly contain their glee over the outcome.
“Yesterday’s election result was the opening battle of an American political revolution,” said Richard Viguerie, Conservative HQ chairman. Voters electing Donald Trump as their new leader means Americans want nothing to do with President Barack Obama’s policies, agenda, or legacy, he said, a big smile spread across his face.
Trump’s upset win resets the playing field for conservative ideas, Viguerie added. He issued a warning for anyone unprepared: “Capitol Hill Republican leaders who cannot help implement the Trump agenda should get out of the way and resign.”
Others at the press conference agreed last night brought the victory they had hoped for. Conservatives leaders such as Tony Perkins from the Family Research Council, David McIntosh of Club for Growth, and Concerned Women for America’s Penny Nance all had serious reservations about Trump in the past but are no longer skeptical after last night’s result. They claim the new political landscape, with a GOP-controlled Congress and White House, is ripe for pro-life legislation, repealing Obamacare, and reclaiming the Supreme Court.
“Many of us were not there with Donald Trump,” Perkins said. “But what brought many evangelicals to Trump was not shared values but shared concerns.”
Even though many Christians did not favor Trump’s brash personality, proposals, or how he communicated them, Perkins said, Trump tapped into the fear Christians had about the future of the nation under a Hillary Clinton presidency.
According to last night’s exit polls, Trump won 81 percent of the evangelical vote, more than the last three Republican presidential nominees. Perkins said Trump won those votes by being clear about his vision for the Supreme Court and protecting the unborn.
In the final presidential debate last month, Trump described the brutality of a partial-birth abortion, and Perkins said that resonated with many Christians voters.
But during his victory speech, Trump did not mention abortion or any other issues important to evangelicals. Instead he spoke at length about investing in American infrastructure and taking care of veterans.
While those are important issues, they were not top priorities for the evangelical voting bloc that helped secure Trump’s win.
Twenty-one percent of voters told exit pollsters the vacancy on the Supreme Court was the most important issue guiding their vote. About 56 percent of those voted for Trump. Only 14 percent of voters said the Supreme Court was not a factor in their vote.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, told me electing Trump was key because she had assurances he would nominate pro-life justices to the court. Going forward, with Trump in the White House and GOP majorities in the House and the Senate, Dannenfelser said the pro-life movement is the strongest it has been in 40 years—with a bright future.
“The No. 1 policy concern for us by far is the 20-week pain-capable abortion ban,” Dennenfelser told me. “So our big task is getting another vote for that.”
A House subcommittee passed a 20-week abortion ban but the legislation stalled in the Senate. Dannenfelser believes the bill will get new life with a president committed to sign it into law.
Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center, said this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Conservatives have no excuse for not pursuing a full-throated agenda, he insisted.
— by Evan Wilt | WNS