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October 8, 2007
Giuliani’s Lack of
Viability Belies Dobson’s Bluff
The death of the Republican Party, so often rumored (and, among some,
wished for) in recent years was explicitly threatened last week. Not by
Democrats, but by one of its own most important figures.
James Dobson, head of the Christian “pro-family” organization known as
Focus on the Family, wrote a New York Times op-ed last week in
which he describes a meeting he recently held with “more than 50
pro-family leaders” in Salt Lake City, at which was discussed what they
would do in the event that both major parties nominate candidates who
are not pro-life.
The conclusion? The group agreed, almost unanimously, to support a
third-party candidate. And with the very pro-choice Rudy Giuliani
leading in the GOP polls, such a scenario looms as a not-small
Dobson is now, and has for many years, been an insidious figure in our
national politics, serving mostly to pass the judgment on the religious
fealty both of specific political candidates, and of the nation as a
whole. A layman who is much more a political operator than any sort of
religious leader, Dobson is an extremist who can fairly be called the
Michael Moore of the right – with the difference being that Dobson has
much more influence on the White House than Moore ever would on a
That Dobson and his group (a mysterious consortium known as the “Council
for National Policy”) have the power to force a radical realignment of
U.S. politics is sad enough. But the threat almost certainly is a
Dobson may be one of most despicable individuals in our political
firmament, but he's not stupid. He knows he can’t possibly win with a
third-party candidate, and there aren’t exactly any candidates out there
who make sense as standard-bearers for such an effort. Dobson also wrote
that “no consensus emerged” about whether to actually create a new third
party, as opposed to only backing a candidate.
With President Bush’s popularity ratings in the toilet and no Republican
presidential candidate emerging to capture the imagination of the GOP
base, the formula for victory in 2000 and 2004 is looking impossible to
repeat. For one thing, the party’s religious base has caught on to the
party’s penchant for talking non-stop about social issues at election
time, but then subordinating those issues to big-business economic
concerns once in office.
The candidates aren’t resurrecting that formula either, and it’s not
just Rudy. Mitt Romney, ostensibly the strongest “conservative”
candidate, was a social liberal as recently as 10 years ago, which is to
say nothing the skepticism many evangelicals have about his Mormonism.
John McCain has been distrusted by the Christian right for years because
he has dared to criticize their influence in the past, while Fred
Thompson has flat-out been declared “not a Christian” by the Grand
Inquisitor (Dobson) himself.
As for Guiliani, he has staked out an early lead, by campaigning in a
unique way. He has realized that, to large segments of today's
Republican base, the question of how conservative one is has little to
do with their actual positions, and a lot to do with how much they hate
the left. (It works the other way too. Bill O'Reilly seems to define how
left-wing someone is by the sole criterion of . . . how much they hate
It’s working for now, when no one has voted yet, and those not yet
following the race may not even know the vicissitudes of Rudy’s various
social issue positions. That, and Rudy’s strategy of invoking 9/11,
hypnosis-like, every two or three minutes, have kept him in the lead
thus far. But Giuliani’s long-term viability as a candidate is not
strong – meaning that Dobson’s threat is very likely a bluff.
Fealty to the Republican Party has traditionally been Dobson’s goal, and
besides, quixotic campaigns meant to “teach a lesson” to one party have
traditionally been the province of the left.
Ask most leftists how they feel that whole Ralph Nader experiment went
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