Thursday, April 9, 2015

Tilting at windmills

In the 1999 book “Blinded by Might: Can the Religious Right Save America?”, Cal Thomas, vice president of communications for the late but hardly lamented Moral Majority, mentioned something I didn’t know: James Dobson, founder of “Focus on the Family,” once threatened to run for president as an independent because the Republican Party wasn’t moving on “social issues,” specifically gay rights and abortion, as quickly as he wanted. His intention was to pull social conservatives out of the GOP to show just many supported that agenda and the party had better heed.

Except for one thing: He apparently grossly overestimated that support, which is likely why I and others hadn’t heard.

Earlier this week, according to Right Wing Watch, Dobson predicted “civil war” were the Supreme Court to favor same-gender matrimony, and I understand that cases are coming to the Court to be decided soon.

Of course, Dobson’s been wrong before and since. Before the 2008 general election he wrote a hysterical screed giving predictions as to what might happen by 2012 were Barack Obama to become president — and virtually none of those predictions have come true. So why would anyone believe him now?

Not only is the idea of “civil war” far-fetched, but just whom would his supporters fight? And with what? I suspect that if his supporters were to do that they would end up utterly isolated, with no allies to speak of; if anything, we're virtually there already.

Here’s the problem: According to the op-ed “A Christian Nation? Since When?” by Kevin M. Kruse, a professor of history at Princeton University and the author of “One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America” and published in the New York Times, business groups, in reaction to the New Deal — which they despised — reached out to a number of Christian clergy and successfully married capitalism with the faith to a point where, by the 1980s, evangelicalism was tied to, shall we say, “what’s good for General Motors.” I’m sure that conservative Christians were counting on the support of big business to fund its social concerns.

Big mistake.

The first chink in that armor: The business-friendly Democratic Leadership Council, in 1988 headed by Bill Clinton, reached out to business to a point where the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which had endorsed Republicans before, declined to endorse a presidential candidate in 1996. Today, the Koch brothers, who announced that they plan to spend nearly a billion dollars in the next campaign mostly on “conservative” candidates and are thus despised by the political left, nevertheless support abortion rights and gay marriage.

And when the state of Indiana passed a “religious freedom” bill that would essentially allow business run by Christians not to serve gays for religious reasons, a number of business groups decided or threatened to pull out of the state, the capital Indianapolis especially being endangered because it’s now a popular convention hub.

Why? Because appearing to discriminate against gays would be bad for business — due not to any anti-Christian “gay lobby” but personal relationships and the money that gays could bring in. Money talks, remember, and for that reason the understanding of a “quid pro quo” turned out not to be viable.

So that’s where we stand.

In the 1980s many believers, thanks to Ronald Reagan, took for granted political power that they thought they had but really didn’t. So now we’re facing court decisions that may not favor us — and we’re facing them alone because, as it turns out, most people never cared about the social issues that we do. I predict that Dobson’s “civil war” will fizzle out quickly, if it gets started at all.

No comments: