DOBSON IS UNDETERRED…. Focus on the Family founder James Dobson found himself at the center of a new controversy (which I may have had something to do with) lately, following reports that he told his staff, “We are awash in evil…. Humanly speaking, we can say we have lost all those battles.”
Dobson didn’t say he was giving up — in fact, he said the opposite — but his comments were a reminder that the religious right doesn’t have much to show for the culture war it’s waged.
Last night, Dobson chatted with Sean Hannity on Fox News to explain what he meant in more detail.
“The left wing media is itching for members of the pro-family movement to put up white flag and declare the culture war over and to just hand the country to them and so they will take a statement like that, which was made to my staff — it was not a press release or anything like that — it was made the staff in reference to the election. And it is true that many of the battles that we have fought for many years were lost — at least the battles were lost, the war was not lost.”
Dobson added, “We’re not going anywhere.” He went on to concede, “[W]e lost the White House, we lost the House, and we lost the Senate, and we probably will looe in the courts, and we lost almost every department of government … but the war is not over. Pendulums swing and we’ll come back. We’re gonna hang in there and, you know, it’s not going to be a surrender.”
I think there are two broad angles to this. The first is that the reports about Dobson’s remarks to his staff, including mine, pointed to what seems like an obvious truth: the conservative culture war hasn’t been successful at all. There have been isolated victories (election wins, confirmation of conservative judges, etc.), but the purpose of the “war” was to change the culture. That hasn’t happened — anti-gay animus is not only waning, four states now allow gay marriage; abortion is still legal and a majority of Americans are still pro-choice; school prayer isn’t even on the political world’s radar screen anymore; pornography is not only a multi-billion industry, it’s more accessible than ever; the single fastest growing segment of the American spiritual landscape is non-believers and those with no religious identification.
Second, Dobson seems to acknowledge all of this while reminding us that he and his like-minded allies are going to keep trying. Well, of course they’re going to keep trying. No one really expects millions of politically conservative evangelicals to just give up altogether.
The point, though, is whether, in light of the culture war’s failures, Dobson & Co. have any realistic hopes of pushing the country in a more intolerant, hateful, theocratic direction. Whether Dobson “hangs in there” or “surrenders” is, I suspect, largely inconsequential. Most of the country has moved on.