While this movement began to take hold among the American population generally, the American Presidents began to take notice. Without making an overt connection to religious communities, President Nixon recognized that there was a “silent majority” in America that rejected the rebellion of the 60’s, and wanted their government to affirm the nation’s historic, “traditional values.”
President Gerald Ford was perhaps even more observant of this “new” movement. While no social conservative himself (this didn’t much matter, given that he never had a chance to drive a legislative agenda during his brief time in office anyway), Ford nonetheless met with Conservative Christian leaders at the White House, and attended events like the National Religious Broadcasters’ Convention.
President Jimmy Carter harnessed the momentum of the “new voters” being produced by the “new movement,” and got many of them to vote for him in 1976. And he tried to keep these “new voters” in the Democratic fold during his re-election campaign of 1980.
But then there was Ronald Reagan. A former California Governor who was tutored in the philosophies of Barry Goldwater, Reagan rightly surmised that the social concerns among America’s Conservative Christians entailed plenty of common ground with the interests of “other” conservatives - - those primarily concerned about limited government and the nation’s economy, and those concerned about national defense issues. Reagan brought these three categories of voters together to form a “coalition,” and the Republican Party has existed with this arrangement ever since.
Now in the year 2008, after nearly thirty years of the “Reagan Coalition,“ the most influential leader among Conservative Christians won’t be casting a vote for President. I say this with such certainty, because McCain will most certainly be the Republican nominee, and Dobson is most certainly a man of his word.
And to be clear, Dobson isn’t recommending that anybody else should abstain from voting. But there will be plenty of Americans who follow in his footsteps, whether he recommends it or not.
After decades of great accomplishments (and advocating for public policy is only a part of what the Focus On The Family organization does), it’s sad to think that Dr. Dobson could, however inadvertently, lead Conservative Christians back to “not voting” - - a pattern of behavior from which he rescued them in the 1970’s. This could lead to an Obama presidency, or another four years of the Clintons in the White House.
And what if McCain wins the presidency without the Conservative Christian Vote? Surely the social conservative movement would lose influence in such a scenario.
Let’s stay engaged. Let’s vote. Let’s not go back to the 1970’s.
Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.