(Title courtesy NoMeansNo, "Every Day I Start to Ooze")

For the last decade I have loathed James Dobson and openly considered him to be the biggest malcontent in American politics. Nothing the Republican Party did was too small to piss and moan about, irrespective of how obsequiously GOP elected officials kissed his ass and caved to his demands. One could also concoct a brain-mutilating drinking game out of the number of times Dobson has threatened, explicitly and implicitly, to stop supporting the party (and take his followers with him) in favor of a third party or independent candidates. And then it hit me; Dobson is not an idiot, a whiner, or a malcontent. He is one of the few people in the Religious Right who understands what the party is doing to them.

First we must understand the contemporary Christian/white/conservative persecution fantasy. No matter how large their majority in Congress, how many Bush appointees are stuffed into the judiciary, or how big a messianic complex the President-for-eight-fucking-years has, the Right is always Outnumbered. Outgunned. Oppressed. Marginalized. Thwarted at every turn by the usual suspects – the liberal media, secular humanists, 60s radicals, big city folk, East Coast elitists, know-it-all Academics, PC police, the U.N., comsymps, fluoridated water, black helicopters, and so on. It never occurs to them that they essentially controlled the Federal government for a 12-year period, six of which were unified control of both Congress and the White House. The Party barely lifted a finger in that timespan to address the "social" issues so dear to conservative religious folk. But they sure did talk about them a lot!

Dobson, then, is not a fool. He is the man standing up and saying "We are being used. These people think we are fucking idiots." Unfortunately for the Doctor, those people are right. It's well beyond the majority of the Bible-wavin', queer-hatin', pro-life, creationist mouthbreathers who do whatever Hannity says to understand that the GOP has absolutely no intention of doing anything about these issues. Gay marriage, abortion, school prayer, creationism, and the rest are so much more effective as red meat to wave in front of salivating dogs who can be easily conned into blaming someone else for the inevitable failure to deliver. It's always someone else's fault – the Democrats in the minority, the nonspecific "liberals" who apparently control the legislative process, the fawning corporate media who would fuck dwarves on the air if it meant 10 additional viewers would tune in – and the only course of action is to send their Conservative Knights in Shining Armor back to Congress for a second, third, tenth, and fifteenth try. We'll get'em this time, we promise!

The simple truth is that absolutely nothing stopped the GOP from outlawing abortion, outlawing gay marriage, banning all stem cell research, or doing any of the other things that send the Brownbacks and Huckabees and Tancredos into histrionics every election year. The Senate GOP leadership proved itself capable of bullying its way through filibuster threats when they felt like it (i.e., for a few judicial nominations) and certainly wasn't shy about loading the Congressional agenda with legislation. That is, the legislation they actually care about – economic and regulatory legislation aimed at recreating 1890s patterns of income distribution in the United States.

It is the classic bait-and-switch. Vote Republican to stop gay marriage, receive a capital gains tax cut. Vote to end the horrific practice of abortion, receive a repeal of the estate tax which affects incomes over $3,000,000. Vote to stop hippies from burning the flag and taking "God" out of the Pledge of Allegiance, receive lame-assed efforts to line Wall Street's pockets with Social Security dollars. Vote to end stem cell research, receive union-busting legislation. Vote to show those fucking big-city elitists a thing or two, receive a huge tax cut for big-city elitists in the top brackets. Vote to mandate Teaching the Controversy, receive a national energy policy (literally) written by petroleum producers. Vote to reintroduce prayer where it belongs, in our public schools, and receive legislation gutting the budgets and regulatory mandates of the EPA, OSHA, Department of Energy, and more.

Congratulations, Dr. James Dobson. I was wrong about you. You are actually pretty smart. It is too bad that you traffic in the kind of rhetoric bound to attract the Not So Bright. It must be terribly frustrating to know what you know and be unable to explain it – "These people are using you like the brain-dead suckers they know you are" – to the army of dolts you attract. But living by the sword means dying by it as well; appealing to the lowest common denominator ensures that, well, the lowest common denominator is exactly what one gets. It's irrational to expect an army composed of Hannity listeners to suddenly develop complex thinking skills when it would suit James Dobson to be so.

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  • I had a good laugh at the dwarf fucking bit :)

    Your point is well taken, but there has been some backlash from the religious right toward the republican party this last year or two, and that should be scaring the shit out of McCain.

    I do think there are those within the religious right that are deft enough to sense the bait and switch of the Bush junta, but they are a minority.

    But, it bears mentioning that the Democrats use very similar tactics when dealing with progressives, and progressives can just as often be too lenient with their support (and money)….although, they usually catch on a little quicker than your typical red-stater. How many times has the Democratic majority in either the House or Senate inexplicably caved to the Bush administration? How many times has the White House engaged in CLEARLY illegal activities and not been called to the carpet for it? And all the while, we keep hearing that if we give our votes and our support (invariably this can be read as: MONEY) to the Democratic Party that they will hold Bush accountable and get us out of Iraq.

    I guess I'm waiting for the day when those of us to the left recognize that the Democratic party views progressives with nearly as much disdain as Republicans view the religious voting blocs. I'd sincerely love to see both parties disappear and new ones take their place. Anymore they just seem like two different marketing campaigns designed by the same bullshit company. You want the red car or the blue car? Either one you pick, it's the same shitty, unreliable ride.

    Maybe others don't think now's a good time to say so, but I think it's time to move beyond our two measly parties, and let the chips fall where they may.

  • Isn't all democratic government inherently centrist, the bell-curve being a pretty solid indicator of voter demographics? If so, and if modern democracy makes politics all about fund-raising and re-election campaigns, can there be anything other than an essentially inert quality to policy? Thus both sides seem to function primarily by characterizing the *other* side as "the bastards who will do terrible things once they're in power." But as the humiliating collapse of the Schiavo Crusade and the Clintons' attempt to revolutionize health care and the Bushians' attempt to revolutionize Social Security reveal that Great Big Things just don't happen, not really. So those who want a lot are always going to get very little, because it's never about satisfying the fringe, it's about satisfying the mass of humanity in the middle that Thoreau and King identify so clearly as those who prefer stability and the ease of the familiar to the sweeping changes demanded by justice, however one defines it.

  • Since everything I've ever written bears the imprint of Thomas Frank, I don't bother to mention it anymore. It would get repetitive. He deserves a cite on about 900 of my 1000 posts over the past few years.

  • J:

    You make great points in describing the typical workings of democracy. It's true that, for the most part, democracies favor centrist ideologies and policy, and honestly the framers of the constitution (especially John Adams) intended for sweeping policy changes to be very difficult to pass much less institute and enforce. However, such lines of reasoning tend to minimize or even ignore the impact of governmental institutions and structure on the behavior of government (crafting and enforcing policy) and that of the general public (participation, engagement, etc.). Accepting the status quo of American centrism as a given, inert quality fails to hold either the public or the government accountable for its actions, and also fails to correct for the inevitabilities of governmental corruption and malfeasance.

    We need some broad policy changes now and again to keep things reasonable, and I think we're overdue. While it is definitely true that the center craves and thrives on stability and uniformity, we can't depend that tendency for normative guidance. Eventually its up to at least a few people to point out obvious defects in policy and culture and to try to change them for the better. That's part of that "constant vigilance" that's required of all of us who live in a democracy.

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