Wednesday, February 06, 2008

silly season starts early

You can't make this up:

"Should Sen. McCain capture the nomination as many assume, I believe this general election will offer the worst choices for President in my lifetime," Dobson said in a message to his e-mail subscribers the morning of Super Tuesday. "I certainly can't vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama based on their virulently anti-family policy positions. If these are the nominees in November, I simply will not cast a ballot for President for the first time in my life."
On the one hand, I'm amused, because this is shaping up to be the first presidential election I can remember where I'm actually excited about being able to vote, rather than approaching the whole thing with my proverbial fingers clutching my nose.

On the other hand, I'm really disappointed at how irrelevant Dobson apparently has determined to make both himself and Focus on the Family, which used to be known for a lot of good things. If Ann Coluter is cutting off her nose to spite her face, Dobson is the spoiled kid in the sandbox refusing to play unless the game goes the way he wants it to.

There's also the larger context. In 1996 (?), when the decision came down regarding partial-birth abortion, Dobson said that Christians throughout the nation would have to reassess their allegiance to a country that could allow such a practice. I still remember the distaste I heard that with, years later. I agree with him on the injustice of abortion, but never appreciated his presumption in speaking for me. And I don't think it was even four years ago that he threatened to lead an exodus from the GOP if it didn't deliver the social agenda he wanted on his pet issues like homosexuality. Or there's his warning to senators whose voting records he didn't care for, that he was going to put them in the hot seat ...

I see a pattern of bullying and petulance, and I'm not the only one.

I hate to see what Dobson is doing, not just because I think he's acting like the spoiled kid, but because Focus on the Family used to be known for a number of other things, many of them positive, and increasingly that is being eclipsed by his political activities and declarations. Focus on the Family has not disappeared into irrelevance, but it is not as strong as it used to be:

“Drawdown from reserves” (in other words, operating loss): $9.9 million in 2005, $4.1 million in 2006.

Newsletter circulation: 1.1 million, down from 2.4 million in 1994.

Attendance at Dobson’s last speech: 1,000, compared to 15,000 average in the nineties.

Staffing: 30 layoffs since September.

Sales of Dobson tapes and books: $269,000 in 2006, down from $678,000 in 2004.

Sales of all tapes and books: $307,000 in 2006, down from $781,000 in 2004.

Radio audience: 220 million worldwide (the figure never changes).

Donations to Focus on the Family Action: $6.8 million in 2006, down from $8.8 million in 2004.

Reported by Rita Healy

It's a no-brainer to say that support for Focus on the Family is waning. And I don't think it's much of a stretch to say that its influence has been waning as its political activities, and Dobson's, have stepped up.

In an e-mail, a friend of mine provides an eminently sensible explanation of Dobson's waning influence: He's getting old.

He's getting old not just in the sense that people are getting tired of hearing from, but in the sense that his core demographic is aging, and the younger generations that are coming of age in the church -- Gen X and Gen Y -- are generally distrusting or dismissive of authority, and so we're prone to ignore people who issue statements as demeaning as his was of McCain, Clinton and Obama, or along the lines of telling us what movies to watch, what shows are bad, and what beliefs and morals we should hold.

The irony is that his influence would continue to rise if he were to lighten up, and allowed himself to be more open-minded to the issues that people today other than him and his shrinking demographic care about, such as the environment and world poverty, instead of dismissng them as "distractions."

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