Robertson’s Giuliani endorsement yesterday has some in the Christian conservative shaking their heads and their fists. Read this from a top person at the Dobson-founded Family Research Council:
“This is a man whose supporters basically are pro-family, pro-life, pro-traditional-marriage, and here he has stepped away from them to endorse a candidate who has been very honest in saying he does not support those issues…It’s beyond puzzling — it’s a little strange.”
Actually, it is anything but strange and it highlights the massive difference between Pat Robertson and James Dobson. Robertson is an incrementalist. Robertson is a politician. And Robertson is the son of a United States Senator. That last fact tends to get lost in discussions over anything Pat Robertson does. It is, however, probably the most important fact in understanding his politics.
His father, Democratic Sen. Absalom (now there is a name just waiting for a big comeback) Robertson, was a powerful and strategic political player and one of the architects of Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy” that emphasized tossing aside black votes for white votes to secure necessary electoral college votes in the south. But as a senator, he also understood that change came slowly. Pat Robertson learned that lesson.
It has informed his every political and business move. While it is easy – really, really easy – to portray him as a kook because of his regular ridiculous sayings, it is also easy to miss his extraordinary political and business success. Robertson sold his media empire – one begun with an investment in a few radio stations – for $1.2 billion.
Robertson wins a decision at a time. In politics he never goes for it all.
That is what irks James Dobson so much. Dobson has had enormous success as well. His Focus on the Family has annual revenue of more than $125 million and his radio show is heard by millions every day. Strategically, however, Dobson is Robertson’s polar opposite. He wants to go for it all. His positions are absolute. To derivate from them is to derivate from God’s calling.
And that is what is happening over Giuliani. Robertson has endorsed him. Dobson is going nuts. The evangelical political civil war has just started. Expect more talk of a third party any day now.