After the election last year, I wrote about the conservative epistemic bubble that left Republicans so utterly blindsided by their defeat. At the time, I wondered whether the magnitude of their loss would force the GOP to bow to reality, or whether they’d respond by retreating deeper into self-delusion. Well, I have some developments to report on.
First, there’s this message from James Dobson, one of the most powerful voices of the American evangelical right (HT: Right Wing Watch, a site I should have started reading long ago). In the message, Dobson reflects on the outcome of the elections. I’ll begin with the schadenfreude, just to get it out of the way:
I’m sure many of you are discouraged in the aftermath of the National Elections, especially in view of the moral and spiritual issues that took such a beating on November 6th. Nearly everything I have stood for these past 35 years went down to defeat.
As I said on Twitter, some people’s tears are delicious, but James Dobson’s are a ten-course banquet. But never mind that; the more interesting part is what course of action Dobson advises in light of these events. Has he realized that his political platform led to disaster for his party in the face of a more diverse and secular electorate? Is he chastened? Not even a little. In fact, he doubles down, advising that to win elections, the Republicans need to be even more anti-woman and anti-gay in the future!
The Republicans’ Platform, by contrast, was one of the finest conservative documents of this era. It was strongly pro-life, pro-marriage, and contained other components that conservatives cheered…
Governor Mitt Romney approved the final document, but unfortunately, he chose not to talk about its content during the campaign…. It was as though America cared about nothing but money. I didn’t believe it then and I don’t believe it now. As important as the creation of jobs is, this nation is also about righteousness in the culture, about the preservation of families, about the welfare of children in the schools, and about the military and its gay agenda.
Well, the election is over… Pundits are scrambling to explain what happened and offering advice for the future. Karl Rove and others are telling the nation that conservatives need to abandon their long held moral beliefs, such as opposition to abortion, and become more like liberals. They have said, “We will never win another election unless our party develops a bigger tent.” Being interpreted, that means political parties should stay away from the moral and social issues. Those controversial topics, they say, just drive voters away because at the end of the day, “It’s the economy, stupid.” There we go again!
Dobson acts as though Romney’s avoidance of conservative social issues cost him the election, when the evidence is clear that those issues were actually a millstone weighing him down in spite of his efforts to avoid them. To point out the obvious, culture-war candidates like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock went down to humiliating defeats after making statements that the religious right cheered. Romney, too, suffered from a huge gender gap among female voters. Dobson simply ignores these electoral realities, acting as though future Republicans will do better if only they shout even louder about banning abortion and bashing gays. He’s welcome to hold to this dead-end course if he chooses, but he’s still laboring under the delusion that it will somehow bring success at the polls.
Cuccinelli recounted an exchange with his own bishop in which he counseled the cleric to embrace civil disobedience: “My local bishop said, ‘Well, you know I told a group I’m ready to go to jail.’ And I said, ‘Bishop, don’t take this personally: You need to go to jail.'”
Since churches already have an exemption from the health-care mandate, it’s unclear why Cuccinelli thinks a bishop would be facing jail, even if the penalties for refusing to comply were criminal rather than civil (which, again, they aren’t). But his legal confusion aside, this is a bizarre and disturbing sign that the virus of fanaticism has infected even Republican officeholders. This isn’t the behavior of a rational political party, but of a doomsday religious cult. And with the continuation of their unwavering, fight-to-the-last-man opposition, the American conservative movement is showing that they still have no appetite to accept the reality that’s even now closing in on them.
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