Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dobson Flip-Flops

Dr. James Dobson, the geriatric family psychologist who has long told conservative Christians how to vote, is not himself a candidate for office.  Therefore, we suppose, he does not need to fear being slapped with the dreaded label "Flip-Flopper."  Like other non-candidates, he is not only free to change his mind based upon new evidence, but even -- like those in swing states -- encouraged to do so by those seeking his vote.

Still, we are somewhat amused by his recent show of lukewarm support for John McCain.  In January, you may recall, Dobson made some minor waves by announcing that he "would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances."  The main issues seemed to be that Dobson disagreed with McCain's stand on stem cells and gay marriage, as well as the McCain-Feingold bill, which in addition to limiting the power of lobbyists to corrupt legislators, also required organizations like Dobson's own Focus on the Family to report their own attempts to sway voters.

Remarkably, McCain has not (yet) changed his position on any of those issues, although we expect he will eventually.  Nonetheless, Dobson has begun to say that he will probably vote for McCain, and may even endorse him.

Clearly, a flip-flop.  But why?  Maybe it's just old-age solidarity.  Or maybe it's not about mcCain so much as his opponent.  In an interview with Newsweek, a FotF lobbyist named Jim Daly explained that Dobson has just gotten around to reading Obama's 2006 speech on religion and politics, and concluded that it is "too radical."  McCain is therefore, to Dobson, the lesser of two evils.  This raises any number of questions for us.

First off, as the interviewer points out, this speech was made in June of 2006 -- it isn't exactly breaking news.  Daly says that Focus on the Family "didn't know about it."  So our first question is:  How stupid are these people?  They do all this political wheeling and dealing in the name of religion, but don't pay attention when a serious presidential candidate makes a major speech on the very subject?

Second, we wonder:  Why vote for the lesser of two evils?  Evangelicals have a long tradition of staying aloof from electoral politics, in part because they could not bear the inevitable compromises it entails.  Does Dobson really want to support a candidate whose positions he considers evil?  In the interview, Daly seems uncomfortable with this idea himself.  He talks about leaving ballots blank or write-in votes, concluding that "People should vote their conscience; if they object to both candidates, they don't have to vote in that category."

And third, we have to ask:  Did Dobson read the same speech we did?  The one in which Obama talks about his own adult conversion experience -- being born again?  In which Obama chides himself and other Democrats for their failure to take seriously the role that religion plays in American public life?  Calls Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes his friends?  The one which ends with something rare in  Democratic speechmaking, a reflection on his own prayerful recognition that political opponents, even on something as emotional as abortion, are not necessarily ideologues and fanatics?  Because this speech, it seems to us, is a far cry from radicalism; it is on the contrary an attempt to understand and interpret conventional Democratic policies from the position of religious faith.  

So.  Why the flip-flop, Dr. D?  Perhaps it isn't senility, ignorance, or a newfound willingness to support evil.  Perhaps it is simply this:  You liked politics better the old way, when the GOP=God and the Dems=Soviet Atheism.   You like your opponents to think of you as you think of them, in purely ideological terms, without any recognition of the human capacity for nuance or reflection.  And Obama, who is so evidently capable of these things, scares the Depends off of you.

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