Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Miserable Victory for Evangelicals

The worst thing that happened to conservative evangelicals who voted for George Bush was that their candidate won the election. Mr. Bush will let them down. That's already obvious, only two weeks after the election.

Dr. James Dobson, the influential, once moderate but now ultra-right founder of Focus on the Family, groused last week on ABC's This Week program, "I'm sure he will fail us. He doesn't dance to our tune."

Dr. Dobson is bitter that he was a campaign insider.....he was part of regular pre-election conference calls with Karl Rove, Chuck Colson and Ralph Reed....but his radical ideas for political appointments and patronage are now being ignored by President Bush.

Bush's appointment of Texas crony Alberto Gonzales to Attorney General to replace uber-conservative John Ashcroft has horrified evangelicals. The attorney general is a likely candidate for nomination to the Supreme Court, and Gonzales' views on Roe v. Wade are murky. Tony Perkins, president of The Family Research Council, a offshoot of Dobson's organization, noted that Gonzales is not solidly opposed to abortion. As a Texas judge, he took a stand against requiring teenagers seeking abortions to notify their parents.

Word has it that Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania will, indeed, be granted the coveted chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, despite far-right evangelical objections. The ever-collegial Orrin Hatch, long-time senator from Utah , has given Specter his seal of approval for the position. Said Dobson of Senator Specter, "He is a big-time problem for us," and that his quest to be committee chair "must be derailed."

The White House believes it has punished Senator Specter sufficiently for his politically foolish remarks about Roe v. Wade, so that evangelical Bush supporters should be satisfied. What the President forgets is that campaign talk is cheap, and that millions who voted for him are now watching his actions, not hanging on his words.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger, radio talk show shrink and rabid Bush supporter, has on her website a petition for her listeners to sign, to force the President to stop a bill funding intrusive mental health screening of all school children. Three weeks ago, she believed he was the elective answer to common civility and moral living. She now finds at least his health care policies for children to be "dangerous."

Writes Dr. Laura," This is a huge red flag, and it is our responsibility to protect our children. Even officials of the respected Assn of American Physicians and Surgeons decry what they see as a dangerous scheme that will heap even more coercive pressure on parents to medicate childen with potentially dangerous side effects."

Dr. Laura is surprised that George Bush would place profits and supporting his corporate pharmaceutical buddies over public school children? Huh? So she ignored all his actions, both as Texas governor and President, and instead, got sucked in by campaign rhetoric? She overlooked his administration's paranoid, often unconstitutional intrusions into the very details our personal lives?

Generations of Bush family politicians, including George W., have always been social issue moderates, political pragmatists (Do and say what it takes....), conservative war hawks with stated disgust for the United Nations, and above all, Dow Jones enthusiasts. These are not ideologues, except for business profits. They prize loyalty and money over ideas and values. They always have, and they always will.

I still believe Bush will nominate a couple anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court, but that doesn't mean they'll pass the nomination process. His recent cabinet appointments have all been informally vetted by Congress before he makes public announcements. In fact, George W. Bush has never acted more cooperatively with Congress than in the last few weeks. No less than Senator Ted Kennedy today praised one of Bush's recent nominations. Bush may nominate an anti-abortion candidate or two, knowing they might never be appointed. Thus, he would appear to evangelicals to have tried on their behalf, but lost.....which would be a political win/win for Bush. Rather like the phony, overheated gay marriage chatter of campaign 2004.

The Presidential election of 2004 will be a miserable victory for evangelicals. They coalesced in record numbers to vote for a man who didn't mean what he said and didn't deserve their vote. They voted for a lame duck who no longer needs their votes.

The heartbreaker is that such a vote of solidarity was unprecedented. It's unlikely to happen again anytime soon. The majority of evangelicals who voted for Bush are decent people who simply want a better, more moral world for their children and grandchildren. They came together to do good, in their minds.

Sadly, they wasted their votes on an undeserving, ungrateful candidate. And possibly their momentum as a political force.

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