Giving Up On God (Sort Of)

David Harsanyi
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Posted: Dec 03, 2008 12:00 AM
Giving Up On God (Sort Of)

Do we need God in politics?

Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker recently penned a provocative column titled "Giving Up on God," wherein she suggested that the Republican Party ditch G-O-D. The piece so rankled James Dobson (Ph.D. in divine insight) that he compared Parker to that seditious bum Benedict Arnold.

Among factions of conservatism, there is a general willingness to coexist and -- sporadically -- win elections. Dobson, conversely, employs a saintly litmus test that marginalizes large swaths of his own party. He has redefined "traditional values," an essential ingredient for Republican victory, to mean illogical rigidity.

Californians, Dobson rationalizes, proved that values voters still matter, because "many who pulled the lever for the 'change' (Obama) espoused also pulled it for the stability provided by marriage as recognized for millennia in all civilized societies."

Actually, if California voters proved anything, it is that voters don't feel the need to vote Republican, even if they happen to recognize the stability provided by the millennia-long need to be hassled by a clingy do-gooder from the opposite sex.

And despite perceptions, Barack Obama did not support gay marriage. In fact, few national Democrats of note explicitly back gay marriage -- notwithstanding their demonizing conservatives. Democrats have made social issues irrelevant by simply ignoring them. Abortion may elicit passionate quarrels among online commentators, but on the ground, policy has scarcely stirred in decades.

Those Californians who voted for Obama and also against gay marriage signaled that social issues are, at the very least, of secondary political importance. Nationally, polls ranging from USA Today/Gallup to CBS News/New York Times to NBC News/Wall Street Journal to Fox News/Opinion Dynamics bear this out. Factors such as "improving the economy," "creating jobs" and "stabilizing the nation's financial institutions" were on the tops of voters' minds this time around, while values issues brought in the rear with other subjects Americans pretend to care about, such as "helping the environment."

Sure, there are citizens who oppose gay marriage not out of bigotry or irrational loathing but out of a sense of tradition and faith. The problem is that the Dobson wing hinders Republicans from offering any feasible counter-solutions. Dobson opposes not only man-on-man matrimony but also civil unions. He opposes adoption for gay couples. Let's face it; he opposes the existence of gays.

Good luck with that.

These are not so much ideologically "conservative" positions as they are moral injunctions. Dobson may grouse in conservative jargon about a court undermining the will of the people. But does anyone believe that Dobson will pound the dais similarly when judicial activism falls his way -- as it has on issues ranging from free speech to medical marijuana?

Aren't Republicans also (hypothetically) the party of limited government and individual freedom?

Dobson claims that Parker and other secular conservatives are trying to marginalize Christian voters, when, in effect, he has it backward. Poor Rudy Giuliani once dressed up as a woman. And Mitt Romney, yeah, he was born into a cult. And this one was divorced too many times, and the other one well, pleasing James Dobson can be a holy hassle.

No, evangelicals are not "ailing" the Republican Party, as Parker contends, but the acceptance of the traditional values wing should not be a prerequisite for being a "real" conservative.

Unless Jesus is going to rectify the stock market, Republicans are in for a lonely ride. And as long as the Dobson wing fools itself into believing political fortunes can be resuscitated by ruining Billy and Bobby's honeymoon, they are in for a decade-long surprise.