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Posts published in “Day: June 2, 2009”

The Fischer transition

Bryan Fischer, the executive director of the Idaho Values Alliance, will be moving this month from Boise to Tupelo, Mississippi, there to take over a radio talk show (this being a major source of employment in this country for conservative - not other - activists). Just what impact this may have on social conservative activism in Idaho is turning into a considerable subject of discussion.

Fischer's own comment on that: "My departure will create, at least for a time, a bit of void on the pro-family front in Idaho. Since 2005, the IVA has been able to be a voice for our shared values in public, in the media and at the statehouse, and we have played what I believe has been a necessary role in promoting and defending the sacred values of religious liberty and the sanctity of life and the family. But I am also convinced that God cares too much about Idaho and Idaho families to leave this void unfilled for long, and I am sure that a new and effective pro-family voice will arise to carry on the work."

Fischer has been in Idaho since 1980, and a highly visible figure for more than a decade; it's that visibility which is key here. As the Idaho Statesman's Kevin Richert remarked, "Fischer was the type of person with an opinion about anything, and a penchant for getting ink and airtime." And he got ink and airtime: He turned into the go-to guy whenever media reporters wanted a comment on something that might relate to social conservative issues.

Who exactly he was a spokesman for, though, is a more complex question. He has had allies and supporters, certainly, but news reports would often seem to suggest that he spoke for a monolithic social conservatism, which isn't close to true. Within that community, attitudes are grayscale: Strong backers on out to others who, while sharing varying numbers of Fischer's views, had little use for him.

The socially conservative community in Idaho is large, large enough to (for example) elect a Bill Sali and Helen Chenoweth to Congress (it was instrumental in both). Depending on how you define it, this is a group running somewhere in the hundreds of thousands. The reach is the IVA is a good deal smaller than that; Fischer refers in his goodbye piece to "Hundreds of you [who] have signed up to receive daily Scripture readings and prayers," which seems to indicate a modest direct reach, maybe not a lot more than a fair-sized church. He seems also to have a fine e-mail network, but his overall reach may have as much to do with media exposure over the years as anything else.

There's another indicator in his statement that "I am sure that a new and effective pro-family voice will arise to carry on the work" - suggesting the lack of a succession plan or solid network within the IVA, an indication that it may fold when he departs.

But he's probably right that a new voice will appear. Reporters will find someone who will speak on social conservative matters, and activists will want to carry on much of the activism Fischer has; the environment isn't changing. As yet, so far as we can see.