When a movement loses its power

WHEN A MOVEMENT LOSES ITS POWER…. Religious right groups and leaders really wanted to derail the nomination of David Ogden, President Obama’s choice to deputy attorney general. Ogden had received enthusiastic support from “law enforcement groups, children’s advocates, civil rights organizations and former Democratic and Republican officials,” but he’d also been on the liberal side of some culture-war battles, most notably involving pornography.

Conservatives really seemed to believe they had a shot at generating some genuine controversy over Ogden. Focus on the Family claims to have help generate “11,000 phone calls, letters and other contacts,” just about Ogden, which Arlen Specter said was the most aggressive response he’d ever seen on such a nomination.

Oliver Willis noted the result of their collective efforts.

A few days ago Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council sent out an email blast trying to whip up opposition to David Ogden, president Obama’s nominee for Deputy Attorney General. Always temperate, Perkins called Ogden a “porn advocate” for his previous work for Playboy. Also chiming in were the Concerned Women for America who sent out an action alert calling Ogden a “porn lawyer”, and the Alliance Defense fund also pushed FRC’s message to their email lists.

Ogden was confirmed today by the senate 62-28.

Looking over the roll call on the Ogden vote, the religious right pulled out all the stops to generate as much opposition to the nominee as it could, and they managed to get 28 votes. Nine Republican senators — including conservatives like Bond, Graham, and McCain — joined with the Democratic majority. The Family Research Council, arguably the religious right movement’s “powerhouse” in D.C., said it would “score” the vote on Ogden. It didn’t make any difference at all.

But Oliver’s larger point is the key here: the religious right’s impotence has become overwhelmingly obvious. Sure, with Democrats in ascension, it stands to reason that a movement of politically-active evangelical Republicans would be in a very difficult position, but that’s not enough to explain the religious right’s current predicament.

The religious right has lost its power because no one is afraid of it anymore. The movement said under no circumstances could John McCain be the Republicans’ presidential nominee. No one cared. It said Michael Steele was the wrong person to become RNC chairman. No one cared. It thought it could rally opposition to the Ogden nomination. No one cared. It thought it could derail Sebelius’ HHS nomination, only to find its Senate allies endorse her.

This was a movement that had power because Republicans believed they dare not risk the religious right’s wrath. The groups and leadership need a new strategy — even GOP lawmakers no longer seem to care what the religious right thinks.