Pat Robertson has gone and said or done something lunatic for the past several
years, the cry from the conservative establishment has been the same -- he's
not an important figure on the right, so who cares? Byron York -- and good for
him -- writes in The
National Review that this isn't as true as some would like to think:
some truth to that, but there is also some evidence to suggest that Robertson
is not quite as marginalized a figure as conservatives would like to believe.
His main forum, the television program The 700 Club, is available in nearly all
of the country on the ABC Family Channel, FamilyNet, the Trinity Broadcasting
Network, and some broadcast stations. According to Nielsen Media Research, The
700 Club, aired each weekday, has averaged 863,000 viewers in the last year.
While that is not enough to call it a popular program, it is still a
significant audience. It is, for example, more than the average primetime
audience for CNN last month — 713,000 viewers — or MSNBC, which averaged
280,000 viewers in prime time. It is also greater than the viewership of CNBC
and Headline News.
"It's a pretty good audience," says John Green, a professor at the
University of Akron who is also a fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and
Public Life. "He is certainly a consequential figure." But Green and
others point out that, even though Robertson has a core audience of supporters,
his influence — which had a high point in 1988 and 1989, when he ran for
president and founded the Christian Coalition — is unquestionably on the wane.
Figures like James Dobson have eclipsed Robertson in political influence, and
popular evangelicals like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen have surpassed him in the
religious world. "They are more in tune with contemporary culture, while
Robertson was more in tune with what was happening with evangelicals 20 or 30
years ago," says Green.
correct to me. Robertson is far less influential than he once was, and isn't in
a position to pull strings among conservative elites in Washington, but he's
good a big audience and can't just be written off as meaningless. Certainly in
a world where rightwingers seem to think it's fair to attribute Michael Moore's
movies to the leadership of the Democratic Party, it's worth being a bit
concerned about the Rev. Robinson's views. It should also be noted that the
leaders whose star has risen as Robertson's has fallen aren't exactly paragons
of good sense themselves. Take a look around the website of James Dobson's
slick and hyper-influential Focus on the
Family and you'll see what I mean.
Posted on Thursday, August 25, 2005 at 11:43 AM |Permalink