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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Order, Not Faith

One of the more interesting subtexts of the 2008 presidential campaign has been Rudy Giuliani's popularity among religious conservatives. Given his stark pro-abortion views, his sympathy toward gay rights, and the "turbulence" of his private life, one might expect especially evangelicals to view his candidacy with skepticism.

Just to be clear, I've said before around here that under no circumstances would I vote for Giuliani given his very robust abortion rights stance. Others apparently disagree, at least as evidenced by the very warm reception he received at Pat Robertson's Regent College. Apparently, whatever other virtues Giuliani has outweigh in these folks' mind his clear disagreements with their putative claims. Of course, it's probably a mistake to expect some intellectual and moral consistency (not to mention integrity) from Pat Robertson, but if the polls are right, some significant portion of religious conservatives are willing to forbear on their movement's signature issues. Why?

There are, I think, two answers. First is the War on Terror. They think he'd be the best guy on that set of issues. More broadly, though, it suggests that at least some portion of what's termed the Christian Right is as much concerned about what we might call "social order" as it is about "social issues". Here's what I mean. Giuliani seems to me to be running essentially on two things: a promise to fight successfully against the Islamists and a promise to help "clean up" (my phrase, not his) the nation in the same way that he helped clean up NYC. Conservative Protestants were mobilized into politics in the 1970s much more by what they saw as threats to the moral and social order than by the specific issues of abortion and gay rights. (The SBC didn't affirm a pro-life view until, if I'm not mistaken, 1979, for example.) The disorder of the late 1960s and 1970s was unleashed by the sexual revolution and social permissiveness of the era and the "Christian Right" hoped to reverse those. (Hence the term "Moral Majority.") Giuliani appeals to them, I'm hypothesizing, on the grounds that he is promising "order," and at least some of them are buying.


Evanston2 said...

Michael, another factor is that Rudy isn't lying to us. What I mean by that is that other Republicans give lip service to being pro-life but have no real fire in the belly for the subject. So, in truth, there may be a very slim difference between Rudy and McCain or Romney.

Plus, as a practical matter, a Republican President may not be able to do much but hold back the tide. With a Senate dominated by Democrats, the odds of nominating more Scalias or even Roberts' are low.

Finally, Giuliani is the most reassuring guy in the field. The Public may be wrong, but it thinks it knows him. This should be contrasted with McCain, who enjoys being a maverick, or Romney, who has never been a national figure (and dare I say it -- is a Mormon?), or Thompson, who may have a decent political record but is honestly known to most people through TV and movies...these guys are unpredictable.

People think they already know "Rudy" and they think he's OK -- particularly in comparison to any conceivable Democrat. So while I am a born again Christian and staunchly pro-life, I would vote for Giuliani.

Tom Van Dyke said...

It appears that at least in the general election, the center will hold for the GOP.

Dandy observations, both of you. We might say that Rudy is "conservative," if the term is used in contradistinction to "radical," which seems on offer with the Democrats, specifically Barack Obama.

If "centrist" Hillary is their nominee, and Bloomberg and Nader are skulking around, it remains to be seen if the center-left will hold.

I hope not. ;-)

Mike D'Virgilio said...

Michael, if by "under no circumstances would I vote for Giuliani" you mean in the primaries I would agree with you. If, however, you mean that in the general election if he happened to get the nomination and was running against Hillary, for instance then I don't. I think it would be incredibly shortsighted for social conservatives to stay home and let Hillary become president. No argument that I've read or heard has convinced me otherwise. Nor can it. I'll take Rudy over any Democrat anytime.

Kathy Hutchins said...

I'll take Rudy over any Democrat anytime.

Any Democrat on the national ticket since 1972, certainly. And therein lies a problem the Democrats have never faced, but will probably have to at some time -- if they hadn't made abortion rights their Holy Grail, a matchup between say Guiliani and a latter day Sargent Shriver could make someone like me, or Michael S, or presumably Mike d'V extremely uncomfortable.

I certainly cannot and will not vote for Guiliani in the primary. If my choice is Guiliani vs. anyone the 2008 Democratic Party has a prayer of nominating, I have no problem voting for him in the general election.

Michael Simpson said...

Well, those are well-considered comments, especially evanston2. There is something to the "genuineness" idea. But let me offer a couple of dissents.

I don't think it's right to say that a Republican President could only "hold back the tide." Or, maybe better, that's precisely what we should expect of a Republican President, and I'm not sure that Giuliani would be up to it. Would anyone other than a very stubborn George W Bush stand up against the very popular embryonic stem cell bill? Rudy certainly would not have, and whatever his inclinations now, I'm just not sure that he would do anything to hold back a Democratic Congress that would use foreign aid to promote international abortion, provide federal funding for abortion, and so on.

And, yes, when I say that I won't vote for Giuliani, I mean in both the primaries and general election. The truth is that my vote doesn't matter (no matter how much MTV tells me differently) and voting is best thought of as an expressive activity, a way of signaling what you think is good and proper. And I think Giuliani is a lover of a barbarism and I just couldn't pull the lever for him (or push the touch-screen, as the case may be). If I were in political life and were asked to work with him, that's fine - that's statesmanship and you do what you have to. But I don't have to vote and if given the choice between two morally unacceptable choices, I'd prefer not to take either.