Our friend Max Blumenthal has a great new book out titled Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party that explores the toxic effects that the religious right has had not just on the national discourse, but on movement conservatism itself.
Blumenthal: [James] Dobson is a fascinating figure, because although he’s leading what is widely considered a religious movement, he’s not a religious leader. He has no theological credentials. He’s not a preacher. What is he? He’s a child psychologist. And the way that he’s won so many followers is by, you know, doing radio shows about common, mundane problems, like bedwetting, for example, or dealing with a child that has, you know, issues with their sexuality, something like that. And he has a correspondence department in Focus on the Family that’s so large it occupies an entire zip code in Colorado Springs. People write in with their personal problems. He sends them—his workers send them Dobson-approved advice. After they get into the database that Dobson maintains, he bombards them with political mailings and slowly cultivates them into Republican shock troops. So Dobson has, you know, turned personal crisis into political resentment.
Where did Dobson’s fortune come from? How did he erect this empire? It came mainly from one book, which I quote from extensively in my book, Republican Gomorrah—Dare to Discipline, which is essentially a manual for corporal punishment, for beating your child. In this book, he says pain is a marvelous purifier that a child should be—that pain goes a long way with a child, that pain should be dispensed sufficiently enough to make a child cry, but then the child will crumple to your breast, and you should welcome the child with warm, open arms. This is a recipe for sadomasochism. And sadomasochism, as I discovered in—
JUAN GONZALEZ: And he saw himself originally as the antithesis to Benjamin—Dr. Benjamin Spock.
MAX BLUMENTHAL: Dr. Benjamin Spock, who tells you to basically pick your child up and cradle it. And, you know, I mean, I was—you know, for whatever it’s worth, I was raised along those guidelines. When your child’s crying, you pick up the child.
By creating a belt-wielding army of millions, Dobson created the next generation of Republican shock troops, who are more radical than before. And sadomasochism—I know this sounds a little strange—is what defines the essential character, you know, that—this is what—at least what I’ve discovered—of the Republican follower of today. They’re sadistic in that they want to lash out at deviants, at people who are weaker than them, homosexuals, immigrants, foreigners, socialists. At the same time, they’re masochistic. They are followers of a higher cause, of a strong leader, a magic helper like Dobson or George W. Bush or the macho Jesus archetype that they worship. And this is what defines this movement.
So many of the people that Dobson has been able to get close to and work with in the Republican Congress and in American culture have been viciously abused as children. And he understood that by advocating violence against children, deliberate violence, he was creating this sensibility, which would produce a radical generation of political followers.
Be sure to get your copy. It's a fascinating and enlightening read.