In the late 1970's Jerry Falwell, an evangelical pastor, founded the Moral Majority as a voice for conservative Christians in politics and public policy. Their platform represented the Christian right and their message was that they represented the "majority" of the country on morals and policy. Their success waned after the election and re-election of President Ronald Reagan. Though they claimed that their voice was still strong in America after the election of conservative President George W. Bush, and pointed to the fact that in the 2004 exit polls a large portion of voters pointed to "moral values" as important in their preference for a candidate.
Let's fast forward to today.
Having moral values is a very important attribute in how citizens choose their leaders, especially President of the United States. But this moral value frame isn't held solely by conservatives. There is a substantial number of voters who see public policy in a moral values dynamic. Feeding the poor is considered by many a moral value; protecting the environment is seen as having moral underpinnings; civil rights has always had a moral component. So the examination of moral direction isn't always an easy explanation and doesn't lend itself to a simple right vs. left dynamic.
Voters every day have to ask themselves what is the right thing to do in not only how they conduct their own lives but how they think others should be treated. And this moral quandary isn't just a function of those who practice religion or believe in God, it is a question atheists, agnostics, and those who are only generally spiritual struggle with every day. And then try to figure out how to make a "moral" choice in politics. At this time we shouldn't be trying to take morality out of the public square, or trying to get voters to not vote on moral values, but we should be trying to grapple with what all this means and where does a majority of the country want to head in their hunger for authentic leaders with integrity.
As I sat in the pew at church this week at St. Mary's Cathedral in Austin, Texas watching the diversity of the crowd coming from all walks of life in politics, age, ethnicity, and sex, I wondered to myself what a Moral Majority would be today. What would the moral majority of the country want in their politics as we run up to the 2016 Presidential election and expanding our view to encompass a broad moral scope not limited to the past.
A 21st century Moral Majority would support (but not be limited to the following):
They would push for dealing with the terrible lack of economic mobility in this country and the huge inequality that exists between the rich and everyone else. They would want policies to help the left behind 90% of the country, and do more for just plain average folks whether it be in tax, trade, or spending priorities. Not in handouts, but in policies that quit favoring a wealthy minority. They would want Wall Street reined in a big way, and folks prosecuted who took advantage of others no matter their economic status.
They would want our environment protected and a better balance made between economic progress and preserving a clean and healthy environment for our children. They understand that if you are a person of faith then protecting God's creation has to be top of mind whether it be citizens of the world, rivers, lakes, land, drinking water, and the food we consume.
This moral majority would want gay marriage to be allowed across our country and for discrimination to be stopped whether it be by race, income level, sex, or sexual preference or even faith. They believe that allowing communities to express their love and compassion in the manner that is authentic to them is a moral truth. This majority also believes that folks should be able to have religious freedom that gives them the chance to live out their life's of faith as long as it doesn't hurt others.
They would want their leaders to be people of integrity who are more concerned with their own actions as opposed to their words. These leaders would practice a governing mandate which had accountability at its core and which was open and transparent. Playing hide the ball and dribbling out information is not something this majority sees as moral. These folks hold themselves responsible every day, and want leaders to do the same. They want leaders who are consistent in what they think, say and do.
They would want folks to have a safety net provided by the government as they go through tough circumstances and hard times, but which also allowed each of us the freedom to figure out some solutions to our own and our neighborhood's problems. Though they want the federal government to be smaller, they want government operations to be closer to them as citizen customers and with more local control of how things are implemented. They see fiscal responsibility as a moral choice. These voters want government and community-based solutions, just not the detached and distrusted federal model that is in place today.
And this moral majority believes that a living wage paid to all citizens who are working hard and trying to live a meaningful life is not something we should delay any longer. And that every worker should have some form of paid leave when they might need to care for children or the elderly in their families. People shouldn't have to make the choice between compassion and caring for their loved ones and for a paycheck they need to pay bills.
This is my list for a 21st century Moral Majority. What is yours?
And I am not saying that government is responsible for doing all these things or making them happen, but the voice of leaders in America should definitely be representing these sentiments. This list since represents what the great many Americans want and who are frustrated at today's current politics. Each of us should be pushing political, business, community, and church leaders to listen to us as a Moral Majority.
It is time we return moral values to the conversation and the political congregation, but in a way that isn't captive by a small minority on either the right or the left. The expanse of the middle in this country has a moral voice, and it is time we pay attention.
There you have it.
Matthew Dowd is an ABC News analyst and special correspondent. Opinions expressed in this column do not reflect the views of ABC News.