Dr. James C. Dobson goes not gentle into that good night/burns and raves at close of day;/ rage, rages against the dying of his light in Republican coalition politics

“James Dobson Declares Values Voters Still Have a Strong Voice; Calls Romney’s speech a “magnificent” reminder of faith’s role in politics and policy,” as reproduced by Justin Hart in a race42008.com post titled James Dobson on the Romney Speech

Colorado Springs, Colo. — Focus on the Family Action founder and chairman James C. Dobson, Ph.D., issued the following statement today in response to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s speech on “Faith in America”:

That’s interesting. Is there a vast Dobson responsa literature?

Gov. Romney’s speech was a magnificent reminder of the role religious faith must play in government and public policy. His delivery was passionate and his message was inspirational. Whether it will answer all the questions and concerns of Evangelical Christian voters is yet to be determined, but the governor is to be commended for articulating the importance of our religious heritage as it relates to today.

Dobson’s reasoning is perverse on its face. Romney’s inoculation script—what bloggers refer to as The Speech—reminds us not that religious faith plays a role in government or public policy, but rather in US electoral politics as the Evangelical movement, whom Dr. Dobson purports to represent, maintain a bloc that Romney sorely wants to claim for his own. It is precisely Romney’s peril—his Agony-in-Iowa—that provoked Romney into finally delivering The Speech.

Please also note Dobson’s hedging and qualifying: “Whether it will answer all the questions and concerns of Evangelical Christian voters is yet to be determined” … etc. Dobson is right to be cautious. He’s been burned before for drawing too close to Romney, e.g. at the so-called Value Voters Summit:

out-of-touch Evangelical “leaders” stunned by Huckabee upset at the value voters summit—prepared to sigh, shrug, and coronate Romney as their Lord, G_d, and King—oh, the irony!

Back to Dobson:

“Many in the media have been busily crafting the obituaries of ‘values voters’ in recent months. David Kirkpatrick of The New York Times, along with Tom Brokaw, Frank Rich and other liberal journalists, have been predicting a dramatic ‘Evangelical crackup’. They are dead wrong. Religion has already played a major role in this election cycle, and will continue to be evident through’08. The sanctity of human life, the institution of marriage and the care and nurturing of children will be important issues to people of faith as they choose a new generation of leaders. You can take it to the bank.

Here is Dobson’s real concern, his only concern: power, power in the form of the influence he once wielded in Republican party politics. Dobson uses the occasion of Romney’s abject humiliation—Romney’s being forced by Gov. Huckabee to dwell on the topic of his faith tradition—to lash out at voices in the media who had the audacity to suggest that Dobson’s power is on the wane.

“Again, Gov. Romney’s speech served as a reminder that religion has always played a significant role in electoral politics. Candidates who disregard the spiritual heritage of this great nation and its viability today will do so at their peril.”

Here Dobson corrects himself precisely where we suggested above—not government, not policy, but the marketplace-barnyard of electoral politics is Dobson’s concern. What Dobson means to say is this: “Candidates who disregard Evangelical elites like Dobson will do so at their peril.”

Here is the problem for Dobson: power—power not in the form of coercion, but rather power in the sense of group cohesion or social solidarity, what ibn Khaldun would call asabiya—never needs to justify itself or to argue for its own existence. And Romney’s speech is not a demonstration of Romney drawing strength from a vital movement or an historical source, but precisely the opposite—it is rather a demonstration of supreme weakness, almost helplessness on Romney’s part as he tries to attach himself to a base that has lost its coherence.

Moral: Dobson and Romney deserve one another.

yours &c.
dr. g.d.

P.S. About my subject line: apologies to Dylan Thomas and lovers of poetry everywhere.

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