The rest of this post will make little sense unless you check out Cal Thomas' On Faith post first. It's a worthy read.
When the Moral Majority organized in 1979, I was just old enough to realize that Jimmy Carter was a horrible president—not quite savvy enough to have any awareness of the ramifications of Jerry Falwell's new movement. But from what I can tell from reading various accounts over the years and several today, Falwell's great genius was his ability to convince isolated fundamentalists to engage politically.
For his tactics of cobelligerence with non-separatist evangelicals, Falwell was excoriated by separatist fundamentalists. But Falwell still won. Almost 30 years later, a great irony is the fact that some separatist fundamentalists are politically engaged as well, often as cobelligerents with the heirs of Falwell's coalition of evangelicals and Roman Catholics.
The other irony is that though Falwell recognized the unhealthy disengagement from the world on the part of the separatist fundamentalists, he re-engaged Christians in for what I believe were the wrong objectives. No matter whether evangelicals have found or will at some point find political success (even what has arguably been accomplished is pretty sparse at best for 30 years of work), such success will be minimal and brief apart from a transformation of American culture that results from the work of the gospel.
History will judge, but on this day, as we remember one man's sincere and influential labor and legacy, I think we'd be foolish not to consider what legacy we want to leave for those who come behind us. Cal Thomas instructs us well. Let's labor for the world that employs "tactics and tools that [can] change lives."
P.S. If you want some encouragement, read some of the other On Faith posts and comments that spew venom about Falwell. Why is this encouragement? Well, it seems like these folks who despise all moral absolutes finally found a man they're convinced represented absolute moral evil. I'm not sure whether that's a silver lining, or just more sad irony.