The Fascinating Dobson Effect

The announcement of James Dobson that he will actively encourage his supporters to support a third party candidate in the event that Rudy Giuliani gets the Republican nomination is fascinating on a number of levels. The Veracifier, Talking Points Memo’s video production site, recaps the conversation between Sean Hannity and Dobson on the subject:

TPMtv: The Rudy Apocalypse || Veracifier

The Republicans just started debating at 4PM. Find out why the air looks to be going out of the Rudy balloon as mullah Dobson issues the word and watch Fred Thompson as he finally wheels his hat into the ring — all today in today’s episode of TPMtv.

JMM also has another post about the “excitement” in the Republican Party.

I think that, for all people who value the idealism of democracy, what is fascinating about the Hannity/Dobson interview is the notion of a presumed journalist actively beseeching his interviewee not to go third party because of the – in the words of Veracifier – “Apocalypse’s” it will bring to the party. Fascinating in part because the idea of a permanent two-party majority is quite antithetical to our system, if not our history; fascinating in part because a journalist on a network that claims to be balanced should have no problem trying to influence his guest right there on TV.

As much as a Conservative third-party run would likely benefit the Democrats and presumably the cause of Liberalism generally, it is the right and duty of every American to vote for the candidate they believe in, not necessarily the one that can win. I think that, to a large extent, that is a key component of politics on both the right and the left which is missing: the notion that you’re voting for a leader, not betting on a horse. On the Left, this obsession with winning has been devastating to our values. I chagrined to think competitiveness may be the factor that gets Hillary the nomination over Barack Obama, despite the clear fact that Hillary has so often and so recently voted against our beliefs and our interests. Yet it begins to look almost inevitable.

In fact, dare I say it, there is much to be admired in Dobson’s choice of ideals over the horse race, if indeed that is his motivation.

And while none of us on the Right or the Left is particularly surprised to see that journalists are rarely if ever unbiased – if none of us is surprised to see even the pretense of unbiased reporting thrown to the wind – it is another thing altogether for one calling them self a journalist to actively promote the interests of a political party at the expense of his guest. That is, in the final summation, exactly what the interview is all about. Sean Hannity is using this interview to effectively beg James Dobson not to push his followers away from the Republican Party.

Hannity he lays quite bare the fact that he is much more interested in the health and well being of the Republican Party than he is in accurately reporting facts, even those of biased interest. He goes as far as to basically threaten a guest with eternal electoral damnation if he chooses to exercise his right as an American or encourage his supporters to do the same.

Mainstream media actively pushing against the concept of third party candidacy is interesting enough. But contemplating Dobson’s motivation and the possible consequences of his decision also itches at the imagination as well. In some ways, it almost seems as though Dobson is playing a game of chicken with the Republican Party, and some might say a desperate one at that.

Because the power of the hard-right Conservative movement is anything but a proven factor in American politics. Which means the efficacy of Dobson’s threat is very much in doubt. Contrary to the continuous drone of the media, Karl Rove’s supposed genius in employing the Religious Right’s nominal voting power left Bush with two of the slimmest majorities in U.S. history. That’s not exactly the Rohirrim at Helms Deep.

In fact, those super-Conservative Christians are like so many other vast, largely-untapped demographics in American politics: they’re unused for a reason, which is that they just don’t vote. Like kids under the age of 30, the hard-Left and the hard-Right for one reason or another simply do not participate in politics at the levels of middle-class, middle-aged people tend to. That might convince you, as it did George Bush and Karl Rove, that garnering that untapped wealth of support could win you permanent power in Washington. Such thinking is presumptuous in that it supposes no one does anything for reasons that you cannot dissuade them of. . . permanently.

It is true that Bush’s campaign team managed to convince a larger percentage of hard-Right citizens to become voters in the last seven years, relatively speaking. But it doesn’t take much to make a person who doesn’t vote regularly cynical about the process, and once that happens, that voting block can no longer be counted on. Needless to say, there have been a number of recent scandals that might make that happen, but just the lack of progress in our achingly-slow political system might be enough to convince some voters to go back to the pews and out of the polling stations.

So, while the apocalypse may not be ushered in by the arrival of Rudy Giuliani at the top of the Republican ’08 ticket, a third party Conservative arrival might cause a calamity of another sort for Movement Conservatives. Third party candidates are laughed off readily enough in Washington, but if a James Dobson third party candidate cannot garner enough support to take at least one state (as no third party has done in recent memory), it will smash the reputation of the Social Conservatives and end what has been till now a very successful campaign.

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By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.

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