The Democratic Party is in shambles. John Kerry was, in all likelihood, unelectable this year. If he managed to make the center happy he could easily have handed a fatal number of peacenik votes to Ralph Nader.
The Republican Party, too, is on a collision course with itself. It may face a similar dilemma in 2008. Michael Crowley writes about the right’s new kingmaker, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.
He’s already leveraging his new power. When a thank-you call came from the White House, Dobson issued the staffer a blunt warning that Bush “needs to be more aggressive” about pressing the religious right’s pro-life, anti-gay rights agenda, or it would “pay a price in four years.” And when the pro-choice Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter made conciliatory noises about appointing moderates to the Supreme Court, Dobson launched a fevered campaign to prevent him from assuming the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which until then he had been expected to inherit. Dobson is now a Republican kingmaker.
Surprisingly, though, this isn’t a role he’s traditionally sought or relished. An absolutist disgusted by the compromises of politics, he sneers at those who place “self-preservation and power ahead of moral principle.” He has always kept his distance from Washington. Unlike Reed, a canny strategist above all, Dobson has talked about bringing down the GOP if it fails him. Yet as the gay-marriage movement surged this year, Dobson’s moral outrage over the direction of American culture went supernova, asserting in his recent book Marriage Under Fire that Western civilization hangs in the balance. But now Dobson faces a difficult trial. He must decide which he hates more, Washington politics or cultural apocalypse.
Dobson is gearing himself up to play one of two roles in four years. He’ll be the right’s Michael Moore. Or he’ll be its Ralph Nader. If the Bush Administration surrenders to his agenda he will disgust and alienate a solid two thirds of the country. And if the Bush Administration blows off the religious right, as Republican presidents usually do, he’ll take his ball, go home, and lead a sizeable chunk of the GOP into the wilderness.
If he decides to stay in politics I hope he creates yet another “third” party to act as a nut magnet. The GOP could use the enema.
James Dobson is Pat Robertson without the anti-Americanism. He’s a loathsome individual who has zero appeal on the moderate right and even less on the left — assuming that’s possible.
He threw his political muscle behind Randall Terry and tried to get him a seat in Congress. (Terry’s most infamous quote: “I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good! We have a biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country!”)
He thinks gays are hell-bent on destroying Western Civilization.
Barring a miracle, the family as it has been known for more than five millennia will crumble, presaging the fall of Western civilization itself. This is a time for concerted prayer, divine wisdom and greater courage than we have ever been called upon to exercise. For more than 40 years, the homosexual activist movement has sought to implement a master plan that has had as its centerpiece the utter destruction of the family. The institution of marriage, along with an often weakened and impotent Church, is all that stands in the way of its achievement of every coveted aspiration.
It’s fitting, then, that he compares legal steps toward gay marriage to Pearl Harbor. He thinks doctors who perform abortions ought to be executed.
I could go on, but why bother? You get the idea. James Dobson isn’t Mr. Popularity in the political center. And the political center decides who will be president. Wall Street conservatives, cosmopolitan neocons, right-libertarians, and right-leaning Independents are not going to stand for his nonsense.
If Dobson is happy with the next four years he’ll go out of his mind during the following four when the Democrats retake the White House. Or the Republican Party will tell him to shut up or pack. I think today would be a good time to tell him to shut up or pack, but of course I would say that. In any case, Bush doesn’t need the man’s pull anymore. It’s his job to lead the whole country, not the absolutist nuts on the fringes.
UPDATE: James Dobson doesn’t want doctors who perform abortions executed. It was his pal Randall Terry who said that. Sorry for the mix up.