5. Your book shows how the religious right forms part of the bedrock of Karl Rove's G.O.P. There's no doubt that it helped bring George W. Bush to power, and that its disaffection with Bob Dole contributed to the failure of the G.O.P. effort to deny Clinton a second term. But in 2008, in the final gaggle of candidates, only Huckabee had strong religious right credentials. Expand on what this means for the G.O.P. in 2012. Is Romney a viable candidate in view of the problems that many evangelicals have supporting a Mormon? Is Huckabee the natural candidate of the religious right going into to this contest ?
Huckabee positioned himself as the natural candidate of the Christian right, telling movement crowds, "I come from you, not to you." As a close friend of Dobson, he also understands the central role of personal crisis in movement culture. "Name any problem, any social pathology... and I'll tell you who's dealing with them," Huckabee told a crowd of pastors while campaigning in Iowa in 2007. "It's the pastors of American who see the tears pouring out every day." With Christian right favorites Mark Sanford and John Ensign (and possibly Sarah Palin) out of the running because of scandals stemming from their own "social pathology," Huckabee's position has been strengthened for 2012.
On the other hand, the Christian right has demonstrated the capacity to support politicians for tactical reasons. If movement leaders can extract assurances about federal judges and social issues from Romney as they did in 2008, and the economy becomes central to the campaign, the Christian right leaders most closely tied to the Republican establishment and its corporate funding sources would be more than willing to overlook Romney's Mormonism. As I reported in my book, Huckabee repeatedly attacked Romney's faith during the `08 campaign, hoping to distract from questions of his own electability. When the primary begins in `12, expect history to repeat itself.
6. Your book winds up with some amazing further disclosures about former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. What is it about Palin that makes her so attractive for the religious right? Will the recent polls that show her as essentially unelectable dampen that enthusiasm? And in light of the way the religious right works economically, what opportunities exist for Palin outside of elective office ?
Sarah Palin is the archetype of the crisis-wracked right-wing woman. She advertises herself as a feminist to people who oppose women's liberation and favors abstinence education and "family values" moral crusades while her own family resembles a Jerry Springer episode. This seemingly conflicted dynamic is familiar to women among the Republican grassroots. Thus they relate to her on an intimate, emotional level that transcends issues and even ideology.
Consider what is happening in Lubbock, Texas, where gonorrhea rates among young women have exploded to twice the national average despite-or because of-the fact that abstinence education is mandated in public schools. Or consider a recent congressional study of adolescent behavior, Add Health, revealing that white evangelical women lose their virginity on average at age sixteen, younger than any group besides black Protestants. These are the facts on the ground in Palin country.
1. A very interesting interview. I thought I knew a lot about this, but I'm thinking I will read
Here is question #4 with the answer:
4. On the other hand, James Dobson, whom you portray in some detail, has a doctorate in psychology and practiced as a psychologist for some time before founding Focus on the Family and becoming one of the nation's most influential evangelicals. How would Fromm account for Dobson, and what does Dobson's brand of psychology think of Fromm ?
As a psychologist, Dobson understands how a culture of personal crisis animates the right's politics of resentment. Staffers in Focus on the Family's correspondence department, which handles so much mail it occupies an entire zip code in Colorado Springs, process thousands of calls and letters each day from ordinary Americans beset by crises. Then, after supplying Dobson-approved advice and entering their personal information in a databank, Focus bombards its members with political mailings. Dobson's top-rated radio show functions in exactly the same way, fusing evangelical-inspired self-help advice with breathless right-wing political appeals.
If Fromm were alive, he would point to Dobson as the modern realization of the "magic helper" who "promises excitement and offers a political structure and symbols which allegedly give meaning and order to an individual's life." Fromm would also recognize in Dobson the sadomasochistic tendencies that he says are essential to the authoritarian character-the simultaneous drive to hurt the weak and worship the strong.
Indeed, Dobson's bestselling childrearing handbook, Dare To Discipline, is little more than a manual for creating sadomasochists. Dobson writes, "A little pain goes a long way for a young child. However the spanking should be of sufficient magnitude to cause the child to cry genuinely. After the emotional ventilation, the child will often want to crumple to the breast of his parent, and he should be welcomed with warm, loving arms." In the course of three short sentences, Dobson describes a scenario in which a small child is simultaneously assaulted and embraced by a parent, the most significant authority figure in a child's life and the person he loves the most. It is no surprise that personalities who endured such sadomasochistic abuse as children, from Tom DeLay to Newt Gingrich to the serial killer Ted Bundy, wound up prostrated at Dobson's feet later in life.
Dobson, much like other promoters of "Bible-based baby-beating", claims that if you don't whack the hell out of your kids (literally) they'll be damned:
"Perhaps this tendency toward self-will is the essence of 'original sin' which has infiltrated the human family. It certainly explains why I place such stress on the proper response to willful defiance during childhood, for that rebellion can plant the seeds of personal disaster."
On p. 135 Dobson is asked this question: "Q: How long do you think a child should be allowed to cry after being punished or spanked? Is there a limit? A: Yes, I believe there should be a limit. As long as the tears represent a genuine release of emotion, they should be permitted to fall. But crying can quickly change from inner sobbing to an expression of protest aimed at punishing the enemy. Real crying usually lasts two minutes or less but may continue for five. After that point, the child is merely complaining, and the change can be recognized in the tone and intensity of his voice. I would require him to stop the protest crying, usually by offering him a little more of whatever caused the original tears."
p.23 Dobson says "I learned very early that if I was going to launch a flippant attack on her (Dobson's mother), I had better be standing at least twelve feet away. This distance was necessary to avoid an instantaneous response--usually aimed at my backside." Dobson here admits his normal fear of being hit when he was a child - and his efforts to avoid the hitting. But it doesn't stop him from the behavior that triggers the hitting.
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