Fr. Fox had a post up over the weekend on a Weekly Standard article which it seems essentially said: So what if Rudy isn't pro-life. Pro-lifers shouldn't care, and what's really important is that we win.
There's been a lot of discussion lately in conservative Catholic circles about Rudy's "front runner" status (how you can exactly be a front runner this early in the game I'm not clear) and whether the GOP has ceased to be a safe harbor for the pro-life movement.
I'm a little on the younger side to have the fullest perspective, but frankly this whole thing sounds a bit familiar from the early stages of the 2000 primaries, and also the 1996 primaries. (Remember when Elizabeth Dole was going to bring in the dynamic new, pro-choice, progressive Republican era?) There lurk within the Republican party a number of different and not necessarily friendly factions.
Among these, are what one might term inertia conservatives: people who don't like the idea of radical social or economic change and generally prefer that those who are currently on top of the social and political order remain there. For these people (and they are in cases people with lots of money) abortion has been around for quite a while and is really not very polite to discuss anyway. Pro-lifers are an embarrassment to them, as are any people with too much enthusiasm, whether it be for tax reform, foreign policy, gun rights, or right to work.
Also present in increasing numbers are Republicans of a vaguely libertarian bent. The key work is vaguely. The libertarian ideal of 'freedom in all things that don't restrict the freedom of others' relies heavily on one's own assumptions of what exactly restricts the freedom of others, and is thus a useful reason for rhetorical purposes, but provides little concrete guidance on its own in actually arriving at political convictions. (For instance, is gun ownership a matter of person freedom, or does an excessively armed society restrict the freedom of others, creating -- as those who don't like guns claim -- a culture of fear?)
Now, a lot of people in the Catholic blogsphere have said that the GOP's pro-life plank is the only reason why they support the party, and that they will immediately head elsewhere if the Republicans nominate a pro-abortion presidential candidate. Other have asked the question if (given both major party candidates being pro-abortion) it wouldn't still be preferable to have Rudy in the White House rather than Hillary or Obama.
On the one hand, I'm certainly not a single issue voter, in the sense that even if abortion were not an issue on the American political scene, I would still find myself a strong Republican since I find myself in agreement with them (or at least more in agreement with them than with the Democrats) on almost every major issue in play: taxes, guns, foreign policy, education, racial quotas, unions, regulation, health care, the list goes on...
However, there are two battles going on in any wide open elections season: first the battle for what the parties stand for, and second the battle for dominance between the parties. Nor does the first battle cease when the second one begins.
The great danger for those who care about the pro-life movement is that a pro-abortion candidate such as Giuliani, if he won, would create a new consensus about how the Republican party can win. We haven't had that big a shift since the move from the party of Nixon and Ford to that of Reagan. That one was essentially in our favor, but a shift from the last 25 years during which the moral conservatives have had a fairly decent place at the table to a Giuliani presidency would me a massive shift away from moral conservatism. If Giuliani is anything, he is a strong executive personality capable of putting together a powerful management machine. Be assured, if he becomes president, the Rupblican party will morph into a tough-on-crime, foreign policy heavy but otherwise Rockerfeller Republican model for the next 10-20 years at least.
Thus, beating Giuliani in the primaries and making sure that if he is nominated, he loses becomes one and the same battle for social conservatives. If Giuliani wins the White House, it will send a message throughout the Republican party about how a winning ticket should be put together -- a message which could at that point only be erased by multiple losses, or a scandal so big that it turned the tide back in another direction. (Which given Giuliani's personal life is always possible, though certainly not preferable.)
So even though I would find myself in agreement more with Giuliani than with Hillary or Obama, as of this point I have to think that it would be better for the long term political landscape for Giuliani (if nominated) to lose to the Democrats, underscoring that a conservative coalition without social conservatives doesn't work.
Learning Notes Week of April 17
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