Senator Obama just took another giant step toward winning the presidency. Actually, someone who considers himself a sworn enemy of Senator Obama took the step for him. Dr. Dobson of the Focus On the Family radio program (and evangelical media empire) has aired a program in which he attacks Senator Obama, the Senator's theology and his credentials as a Christian. With enemies like this Senator Obama doesn't need friends.
No, I'm not talking about Dobson energizing liberal Democrats. I'm talking about Dobson energizing his fellow evangelicals to vote for Senator Obama.
I first met Dobson when I was on his program back in the early eighties. At that time I too was an evangelical right wing agitator. I describe my encounter with Dobson and my journey from the heart of the Republican/evangelical right to sanity in my book CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back.
In the bad old days Dobson gave away 150,000 copies of a shrill bestseller evangelical screed of mine called A Time For Anger. (There was a lot more money in the God business than working as a legitimate author let me tell you! If any of my novels made the kind of money my evangelical books did I'd be set! ) Along with my late evangelical leader father Francis Schaeffer, like Dobson we were busy welding the evangelicals and the Republican Party into what amounted to a new party of soft theocracy. I changed my mind and got out in the mid eighties. But I have plenty of friends still in the evangelical movement, and they say unequivocally that Dobson's time has passed.
Dobson is one of the Evangelical religious right old guard. He's to the right what Nader is to the left. Like the late Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and others Dobson has alienated as many evangelicals -- let alone moderate Christians -- as he's inspired. In fact, ever since he tried to get Richard Cizik, vice president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) fired last year Dobson has found himself painted into a reactionary corner. Many evangelicals still fear him and so won't denounce his posturing power-plays but they also despise him.
Cizik is the future of evangelicalism. Dobson is the past. Cizik is a strong environmentalist advocate on the issue of global warming. Dobson tried to get the board of the National Association of Evangelicals to fire Cizik because of that fact. Dobson said that Cizik's environmental beliefs ran counter to what Dobson thought was in George Bush's best interests. He also said that the environment distracts from the favorite issues Dobson raises most of his funds on: abortion and gay bashing. But Dobson failed. The board of the NAE rejected Dobson's power play, for the same reason many evangelicals will reject his telling them how to vote this year. Dobson also failed in stopping John McCain (who failed to kiss Dobson's ass sufficiently) from becoming the Republican nominee.
If you're one of many Americans who thinks that the war in Iraq was a mistake or believe that the Republicans have run the economy into the ground or think that perhaps the chaos George Bush unleashed in our foreign affairs has something to do with the price of gas at the pump... then you have Dr. Dobson to thank -- personally. No one worked harder to get Bush elected then reelected. Dobson delivered his millions of dupes. But now many of them see through him and like most Americans, are appalled by Bush.
Nevertheless Dobson has -- for eight years -- been George W. Bush's personal shill. In return Dobson has had ego-stoking "access" to the White House, or rather to the lackeys in the White House laughing at him but charged with stroking Dobson and the other pompous asses masquerading as religious leaders.
But the new generation of evangelicals is sick of being labeled as backward rednecks because of their association with fossils like Dobson. There are many evangelicals like Cizik too who are not all about homophobia, nationalism, war-without-end and American exceptionalism or the Republican Party. Like Cizik they believe that the America has a responsibility to do something about global warming, poverty, AIDS, human trafficking and other issues. They see through Dobson and the other so-called pro-life leaders, who have actually done nothing to reduce abortion. In fact Dobson has increased abortions because of his "abstinence only" crusade.
As a result of his power grabs and bullying of other evangelicals, not to mention his telling people how to vote and pointing them to the failed W, Dobson & Co. have zero credibility with a growing number of otherwise conservative evangelicals who happen--this year--to be looking favorably at Senator Obama's holistic Christian-based world view. Unlike Dobson they like Obama's theology just fine.
All that was missing to put the frosting on the Obama cake was for Dobson to attack him. For Obama to win all he needs to do is peel off a chunk of heretofore solid evangelical Republican votes. Dobson just handed Obama those votes.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of "CRAZY FOR GOD-How I Grew Up As One Of The Elect, Helped Found The Religious Right, And Lived To Take All (Or Almost All) Of It Back"