Some of President Bush’s most influential conservative Christian allies are becoming openly critical of the White House and Republicans in Congress, warning that they will withhold their support in the midterm elections unless Congress does more to oppose same-sex marriage, obscenity and abortion.
“There is a growing feeling among conservatives that the only way to cure the problem is for Republicans to lose the Congressional elections this fall,” said Richard Viguerie, a conservative direct-mail pioneer.
“I can’t tell you how much anger there is at the Republican leadership,” Mr. Viguerie said. “I have never seen anything like it.”
In the last several weeks, Dr. James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family and one of the most influential Christian conservatives, has publicly accused Republican leaders of betraying the social conservatives who helped elect them in 2004. He has also warned in private meetings with about a dozen of the top Republicans in Washington that he may turn critic this fall unless the party delivers on conservative goals.
But it is unclear how much Congressional Republicans will be able to do for social conservatives before the next election.
No one expects the same-sex marriage amendment to pass this year. Republican leaders have not scheduled votes on a measure to outlaw transporting minors across state lines for abortions, and the proposal faces long odds in the Senate. A measure to increase obscenity fines for broadcasters is opposed by media industry trade groups, pitting Christian conservatives against the business wing of the party, and Congressional leaders have not committed to bring it to a vote.
Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and another frequent participant in the Council for National Policy, argued that Christian conservatives were hurting their own cause.
“If the Republicans do poorly in 2006,” Mr. Norquist said, “the establishment will explain that it was because Bush was too conservative, specifically on social and cultural issues.”
There are two possible explanations for the Republicans turning their backs on the Religious Reich. The first is that this is what Republicans do to interest groups: treat them like they’re one of their own until their usefulness is exhausted and then ignore them like a bad one-night stand. They got their guy elected and their party in power in the House and Senate and now the party’s over; so long, honey, here’s twenty bucks for cab fare.
The second is that the Republicans finally figured out that the theocratic, fascistic, xenophobic, homophobic, and dominionist agenda of people like James Dobson, Pat Robertson, D. James Kennedy, and Jerry Falwell was too much for even them to stomach, and they saw that aligning themselves with the nutsery was going to kill them among the moderate and independent voters that make up the majority of voters in this country.
But the Religious Reich will not go quietly. They will take every opportunity to remind the Republicans exactly who it was that brung them to the big dance and put their gay-bashing, uterus-monitoring, and broadcast-censoring agenda out there for all to see. And we of the progressive side will be all too happy to remind the electorate of that as well; we all have our cross to bear. Or, in the case of Bill Frist vs. Grover Norquist, our bear to cross.