One of the more interesting back-stories of the 2008 presidential campaign is the palpable state of crisis within the leadership of the Christian Right, whose “marriage of convenience” with the GOP isn’t working out too well. Divided internally on political strategy and specific issues (e.g., the environment, poverty and Iraq); chronically disappointed with the payoff from its alliance with Republicans; and struggling with generational challenges to its aging leadership, the politicized Christian Right is now facing the additional burden of having no consensus candidate for president to illustrate its residual power.
There has been some talk that Fred Thompson might be the solution to this last problem. But not according to Christian Right warhorse James Dobson, whose leaked emails blasting Fred as unacceptable on a variety of personal and ideological grounds have been making news this week.
Via Jason Zingerle, we have this pungent take on the story from Christian Broadcasting News blogger David Brody:
So for those scoring at home, let’s keep track shall we? Dr. Dobson says no to Thompson, no to Giuliani, no to McCain. Who does that leave? Oh, wait…who’s raising their hand and jumping up and down in the back of the room? Hey, that’s Mitt Romney! He says “what about me?”. It may be very hard for Dr. Dobson to come out and support Romney because many of his devoted listeners have a problem with Mormonism. Sorry, hate to bring that topic up again but I’m just “keeping it real” Now, as for Huckabee, that’s a possibility but can he win and is he only thought of as VP material? Maybe Dobson will put his individual support behind Huckabee but everybody wants to back the eventual winner so there’s a gamble there. I’m told that Dobson likes Newt Gingrich but Newt doesn’t look like he’s running.
Brody goes on to make the obvious point that this division of opinion about various candidates mainly benefits the one candidate with virtually no support among Christian Right elites, Rudy Giuliani. And Giuliani’s nomination, if it occurs, would create tensions in the GOP/Christian Right “marriage” as severe as those in Rudy’s own nuptial history.
If, God forbid, I were in the leadership of the Christian Right, I’d try to organize an effort to raise some serious jack for Huckabee, who’s the one theoretically viable Republican candidate with none of his competitors’ handicaps. (I’d also work the phones to get Iowa religious conservatives to abandon Sam Brownback, whose hopeless campaign is hampering Huckabee’s bid). Huckabee might not make it in the long run, but he’d serve as a convenient place-holder for theocons until they are forced to make a Decision for Christ between his flawed rivals.
While we are on this topic, I’m happy to report that The American Prospect has a new weekly feature up online called The FundamantaList, by Sarah Posner, reporting on political developments within the Christian Right. You might want to check out an earlier Posner piece on growing pentecostal support for Huckabee.