A Little Less Like Reagan

A little trivia.  I actually own a book by Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family fame.  You see, I have an aunt who, when my first daughter was born, sought fit to rain upon our little family a shower of Martha Stewart decorations and a book by the good doctor himself; an instruction manual on how to raise a good Christian family.

Yeah… I uh… Haven’t really gotten around to reading it yet, but I swear, one of these years I might.

While Dobson continues to fail to hold me in thrall, unfortunately that isn’t necessarily true for the rank and file foot soldiers of the socially conservative Religious Right.  While the fundamentalists that make up the core of the Religious Right are small, their reach is broad and wide, tapping deep into the majority of Americans who call themselves “Christian”.

It is for this reason that Republicans in general have pandered to the extremist wings of the theological bloc; the highly enthusiastic epicenter of value voters are a truly powerful ally when energized and mobilized during election season.

But the current field of Republican candidates have hit something of a roadblock when it comes to wooing the evangelical sects this time around.  John McCain has attempted to work his way into their good graces, but he seems unable to erase recent history when he vocally condemned them.  Mitt Romney has tried, but the Religious Right has a tendency to view Mormonism with something of a skeptical eye, and Rudy Giuliani’s past history of social liberalism as well as a perceived shady personal life have combined to color him unfavorably in the views of the Religious Right.

But there was a new hope on the horizon.  Fred Thompson who was once billed as the next Ronald Reagan should obviously gain the favor of extremist Christians, right?

Not so much.

Apparently James Dobson is not too terribly enthused about Fred Thompson’s campaign.

“Isn’t Thompson the candidate who is opposed to a Constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold, won’t talk at all about what he believes, and can’t speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail?” Dobson wrote.

“He has no passion, no zeal, and no apparent ‘want to.’ And yet he is apparently the Great Hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians? Well, not for me, my brothers. Not for me!”

Ouch, that’s gotta hurt.

Specific to Thompson, Dobson’s failure to be impressed doesn’t bode well for the candidate who attempted to hop into the race immediately wearing the “True Conservative” mantle.  Social Conservatives have become a vital part of the Republican machine, and given all the other problems facing the Thompson campaign, an endorsement from one of the most prominent leaders of the Religious Right would have been a much needed boost.

Without that endorsement, not only does Fred lose the foot soldiers and the bump, he also loses credibility as the true conservative he claims to be.  It’s kinda like Rudy talking himself up about being the go to guy following a major terrorist attack, but then being the one candidate the IAFF specifically said the would not endorse.

But what’s worse is that as the initial article linked to above, Dobson’s not apparently getting behind ANY of the front runners.  If this translates throughout the rest of the major leaders of the Religious Right, this does not bode well for whomever does win the Republican nomination.

The 2004 election was a complex thing.  It seems like every pundit has their own irrefutable reason as to why Kerry lost.  While I think it is folly to point to any one thing, it would be silly to ignore the impact of the Religious Right on that election.

Karl Rove had made it one of his top priorities to maximize the effect of values voters and to this degree he did it perfectly.  He made it clear that if Kerry were elected, America would quite literally go to Hell, while if Bush were elected the wildest dreams of radical Christian fundamentalists would come true; gay marriage would be permanently banned, abortion would be made punishable by death, and maybe even stoning would be brought back into practice.

The end result was the activation of three to four million voters who hit the polls en masse, and aided Bush’s victory in other ways as well, from passing out pamphlets to knocking on doors.

Now, no one is worried that these guys are going to jump ship and start backing Democrats.  I will literally find a hat to eat if that happens.  But the true danger here for Republicans is that they simply won’t vote, and won’t volunteer.

It is this lack of energy and enthusiasm by one of the most ardent blocs that could pave the way for the Democratic candidate to win the White House even as the Democratic Party is facing a backlash from its own constituency.

Given all of this, I wouldn’t put it beyond Republicans to start working on a way to raise the Gipper from the dead in desperation.

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