Sunday, October 21, 2007

Rejecting Rudy: Social Conservatives May Bolt From GOP

This morning's Los Angeles Times reports that social conservatives will break with the GOP if Rudy Giuliani wins the GOP presidential nomination:

With some leading social conservatives threatening to boycott the Republican Party if Rudolph W. Giuliani wins the presidential nomination, the former New York City mayor sought Saturday to assure activists in this crucial GOP voting bloc that they have "absolutely nothing to fear from me."

Giuliani told more than 2,000 evangelical activists that despite his support for abortion rights and other liberal views, Christians would have a voice in his administration, and that, though he has not always been comfortable discussing it in public, faith "is at the core of who I am."

"I come to you today as I would if I were your president, with an open mind and an open heart," Giuliani said. "And all I ask is that you do the same."

Although Giuliani was interrupted several times by applause and some stood to clap as he concluded his 40-minute address, it was clear that he remained a distrusted figure among those gathered here from across the country.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, an evangelical organization and primary sponsor of the annual Values Voter Summit, called Giuliani's speech sincere but said he could not ignore the difference of opinion on abortion.

"It's not something that can be paved over easily," Perkins said, adding that he had not changed his mind about looking elsewhere for a candidate should Giuliani win the GOP nomination. "My position remains the same, as I think it does for a number of pro-life conservatives -- that we draw a line that we will not cross in supporting a pro-abortion-rights candidate."
Read the whole thing. The piece points out that Giuliani may have a tough time winning caucuses and primaries dominated by voters skeptical of the former New York mayor's views on bedrock conservative issues. At Saturday's Values Voters Convention, Giulani sought to clarify his record:

Giuliani offered a laundry list of issues that he said showed "shared goals" with religious conservatives, such as his support for school choice and his opposition to the procedure that critics call "partial-birth" abortion. He pledged to veto any effort to roll back limits on public funding for abortions, and to appoint judges like conservative Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr.

He reminded the audience that he fought pornography and prostitution in New York and that he took on the Brooklyn Museum of Art when, in 1999, it scheduled an exhibition featuring a painting of the Virgin Mary that included splotches of elephant dung. "It was just another example of the double standard that exists for people of faith," he said.

Giuliani referred obliquely to his troubled family life.

"You and I know that I'm not a perfect person," he said. "I've made mistakes in my life, but I've always done the best that I could to try to learn from them. . . . I feel my faith deeply, although maybe more privately than some because of the way I was brought up or for other reasons."

Conference participants later said they appreciated Giuliani's attendance but were not necessarily moved to support him -- at least not in the primaries.
Giuliani would do well to further publicize his strong credentials on the bulk of issues important to the GOP's evangelical base. Regarding Giuliani's New York record, Jennifer Rubin, in an American Spectator article last February, noted:

Pundits of all political persuasions have been chattering about whether Rudy Giuliani, whose name is invariably modified by the description "social liberal," can overcome the objections of many religious conservatives to win the Republican nomination....

If the definition of "social conservative" is merely a checklist of several hot button issues, specifically abortion and gay rights, Giuliani is certainly to the left of his principal rivals. He might give assurances to appoint strict constructionist judges and might stipulate that his support of civil unions is not the same as support for gay marriage. However, on these issues he is unlikely to win the hearts of single-issue voters who care passionately about a candidate's beliefs and not just the likely outcomes of a candidate's policies.

But the commentators and consultants may have gotten the questions wrong. The better, at least the more interesting, question is whether Giuliani can establish a new description of what it means to be "socially conservative." Perhaps to be socially conservative means something more than just fidelity to pro-life and anti-gay marriage positions. Giuliani has a convincing argument that he is an ethical or cultural conservative who in the end will protect the values that most conservative Republicans hold dear. What does this mean? It means that he sees the world as a battle between good and evil, and politics as a struggle between decent hard working people and elites who have too little respect for their values -- public safety, respect for religion and public virtue.
Read Rubin's whole piece. Giuliani's the guy who removed porn shops from Times Square, vigorously defended New York's aggressive policing against cries of "racism," kicked Yassir Arafat out of the Lincoln Center, and argued that fatherhood's "the best social program for ending poverty."