05/25/2005 11:28 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Once More, Don't Count the Social Cons Out

Okay, I owe Chris Meserole a response. It seems to me that the HuffPost blog needs more discourse (or bitching) between its participants (though I'm not including Greg Gutfeld in this). So let me note that Meserole and I had a disagreement on the potential fallout from the no-nuke deal--or what I've decided to call the no-nuke-for-now deal. (Pass it on.) Meserole started this by suggesting that James Dobson would react to the deal by taking his marbles--that is, his three million followers--and leaving the electoral politics game. Which would--as they say in politics--really screw the Repubs. My reading of Dobson's angry response to the deal was that nothing would prevent the Dobsonites from flocking to a social conservative Republican who denounced the deal, and there are several. Meserole then sent the shuttlecock my way once more with a reiteration and expansion of his original point, noting that there are no electable social conservative GOPers to whom Dobson could grant his blessing.

To that I say: Maybe. Like Meserole, I don't see Senator Brownback or Senator Santorum (who still has to survive a tough reelection fight in 2006) as obvious frontrunners for the GOP nomination in 2008. But Dobson does not have to side with a winner to have an impact. If he gets behind any horse and helps that animal to do well in the early stretch, he will shape the contours of the race. Also, I have faith in the political abilities of Senator George Allen to replicate Bush's formula of seeming like a reasonable fellow while courting (or seducing?) the social conservative extremists. Allen is already working mighty hard to recalibrate his previous support for stem cell research.

Meserole summed up his thinking this way:

So in the end, I guess my point is this: if in weakening the filibuster the GOP lost the categorical support of the group for whom they weakened it, can that really qualify as a victory?

I'm not sure we're at the end. The no-nuke-for-now deal may not last long. (If you need an explanation of this, let me know in the new comments section.) And there will be plenty of opportunities for Republicans to do the bidding of Dobson. If Senate GOPers win a battle over a yahoo Supreme Court nominee, Dobson and the other social conservatives will probably forget the no-nuke blip. If Bill Frist smothers the stem cell bill, Dobson will salivate all over him. (Such a move might harm Frist in the overall election, but like most candidates he's thinking of the primaries first.) Dobson and his folks want to be aboard a train. As angry as they may be now (for dumb reasons, since the deal was more favorable to Republicans than Democrats, as I first explained here), they can easily be brought back to the Church of the GOP under the right circumstances or by the right candidate. Or by the prospect of a President Hillary Clinton. That even scares me.
If you want to see how Senate minority whip Dick Durbin unenthusiastically defended--that is, explained--the no-nuke-for-now deal to hundreds of disappointed liberals and how he recounted his last-minute and unsuccessful effort to defeat the nuclear option, check out for an exclusive (!) report.
And thanks to those readers who inquired about my tired, sick and cranky children. They are doing better. But tonight the five-year-old girl--while bathing with her four-year-old sister--asked, "What if the world stopped?" Stopped? Did she mean cease revolving on its axis? (Hey, I thought, they're teaching geophysics in kindergarten in the local public school. Boy, am I getting my money's worth!) No, she said: "What if the world died? Why doesn't it die?" Hmmm, I said: "Well, the world has been around for billions and billions of years. It's not likely to die. But"--here came the treehugger in me--"we do have to take care of it and make sure we don't pollute it too much, don't get the air and water too dirty." (I decided it was too early to display the computer models of global warming, though this girl already understands negative numbers!) "Billions?" she said. "Is that like a googol?" "Close enough," I replied. She returned to playing with a froggie washcloth. Moments later, she asked, "What if the president saw you littering?" "Good question," I answered. "I'll get back to you on that."