Whether or not he believes the culture war to be a lost cause, James Dobson is fading away with no contender to take his place. That is to say, in the line of succession from Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority to Pat Robertson and his Christian Coalition to Dobson and his Focus on the Family, there is no sign of the a new national colossus to to lead the social conservative movement into a fourth decade. Instead, we’ve got the usual suspects signing up for the anti-tax tea parties without (as Dan Nejfelt points out) so much as fig leaf of faith-based based argument. Thus have the mighty fallen into mere GOP hackery.
The standard caveat applies. Reports of the demise of the religious have circulated regularly since the early 1980s, when it first burst upon the scene; and the reports have always been premature. Nonetheless, from 1980 until now, there have only been two years when the GOP did not control either the presidency or one house of Congress–the first two years of the Clinton administration, when the Christian Coalition was riding high and Newt Gingrich was gathering his forces for the impending takeover of the House of Representatives. No such revival is now in sight.
No doubt, the white evangelicals who constitute the core of religious right support will remain a pretty loyal Republican voting bloc. The big question is whether, at the state and local level, they are going to be as mobilizable as they’ve been for the past generation.