As the 2008 season gains momentum, political commentators are starting to address key questions about each serious candidate.
- Can Hillary Clinton reconcile with her leftist friends who are disturbed by her vote in support of the Iraq war?
- Can a man who wears neither boxers nor briefs because he is Mormon and his church prescribes something different, appeal to evangelical Christians?
- Will John McCain's comb-over, or something under it, come unglued?
- Can Barack Obama say anything that isn't painfully platitudinous, mindlessly leftist, or both?
All these questions are interesting but the most engaging political question at this stage in process of picking our next president has to do with Rudy Giuliani.
- Can America's mayor win support from enough social conservatives to win the Republican nomination?
Maybe not, but social conservatives should think long and hard before they decide to pass on Giuliani. This may be difficult advice to credit. Giuliani is thoroughly alienated from the dominant concerns of the social right.
The bundle of social issues that provoke so much vitriol in our politics arise out of the effort to reverse society's moral decay. Social conservatives see a country with declining respect for the value of human life, and they don't want government to hasten the decline by celebrating abortion and indiscriminately funding the destruction of human embryos for research. They see a country that no longer understands what sex is for and they don't want government promoting further confusion by equating homosexual alliances with traditional marriage.
Giuliani's career in electoral politics began in New York City where moral decay was both far enough advanced to be immune from direct attack and eclipsed by other more immediate concerns. Giuliani couldn't have done any good by preaching to New Yorkers about the value of human life and the teleology of sex. They needed someone to protect their lives from rampant crime and their livings from a local government that had been determined to beggar them all.
Mayor Giuliani delivered what they needed most. He reclaimed New York City from the toxic leftism of his predecessors but in the process identified himself with the moral elements of their leftism. He proclaimed himself "pro-choice" and even indicated he would vote against banning partial birth abortion. He has been open to "civil unions" and doesn't seem to understand the downside of giving a government stamp of approval to homosexual relationships.
All of this is disturbing, but social conservatives are concerned about social rot and Giuliani is one of the very few executives in the history of the world with a record of reversing rot. This is appealing. On September 11, 2001 and the days that followed he auditioned for commander in chief and the audition went well. This too is appealing. If we don't bestir ourselves to win our war with Islamic fascism, the moral state of our civilization won't matter. We won't be around to wallow in sin.
Giuliani's upside has earned him front-runner status in the opening months of the presidential election process. Conventional wisdom says, however, that Giuliani will stumble when socially conservative Republican primary voters get to know his record.
Conventional wisdom is usually wrong and this time is unlikely to be an exception. Social conservatives will probably be drawn to Giuliani in ever greater numbers as the campaign progresses. Many of them will conclude that he is more likely to advance their agenda than nearly anyone else their party could nominate. They will reach this conclusion because it is probably true.
A president who fully grasps both the value of human life and the destructive nature of the homosexual "rights" movement isn't necessarily of much use to the social right. Consider the example of the present incumbent.
George W. Bush has socially conservative opinions but he avoids confrontation with the cultural left the way cats avoid water. Even when he does the right thing he feels compelled to do it in an apologetic, almost cringing way that empowers his enemies and dispirits his supporters.
He will nominate sound judges (most of the time) but never make the case that Roe v. Wade needs to be overturned because it is the cornerstone of the left's profoundly destructive jurisprudence of judicial supremacy. He will stand against federal funding of embryonic stem-cell research but never articulate the strong libertarian basis for that stand or attack the callous disdain his political opponents show for the inherent value of human life. He will say as little as humanly possible about the drive for "gay marriage."
Social conservatives could benefit from the presidency of someone who agrees with them less but fights for them more. This is the crux of Giuliani's appeal to the social right and every other Republican constituency. He is a fighter, and Republicans of all sorts are sick and tired of turning the other cheek and seeking common cause with the enemy both at home and abroad.
Unlike any current or former president named Bush, Rudy Giuliani has never been afraid to appall the left. He may very well be ideally situated to puncture two of the left's most cherished idiocies and hand social conservatives near total victory in the long-running culture war. The first of those idiocies has to do with abortion the second with "gay rights."
The "pro-choice" argument has always been incoherent because it depends on the absurd idea that there can be a constitutional right to do wrong. Rational and decent people can believe that abortion should be legal, but only a monster or a moron can maintain that a civilized nation should celebrate abortion as a constitutional right.
Social conservatives don't need a president who will mount a crusade to re-criminalize abortion nationwide. They need a president who can persuade the American people that proclaiming a constitutional right to abort is barbaric. In all the decades since Roe v. Wade no politician has ever made this point clearly and forcefully.
Giuliani could be the first. He could argue that there can't be a right to do wrong more persuasively and with much less political risk than any pro-life true believer. Just as it took a career anti-Communist to normalize relations with China, it may take a politician with no pro-life credentials to terminate Harry Blackmun's reign of error. By fighting for the proposition that Roe v. Wade has distorted our constitutional law long enough, Giuliani could do more to defeat the culture of death than any of his Republican predecessors.
The animating idea of the "gay rights" movement is every bit as ridiculous as the case for the right to "choose." The left would have us believe that society has no grounds for its ancient disapproval of homosexuality. If society approves of heterosexual relationships that typically serve to create and sustain families it must also approve of homosexual relationships that typically do not serve that purpose. Those of us who approve of one and not the other are bigots in need of punishment and reeducation.
Nobody ever makes this argument. When clearly stated it is self-refuting nonsense.
Nevertheless, the left cheerfully assumes that all disapproval of homosexuality is bigotry. It goes on its merry way agitating for changes in law and society which would suppress every expression of this society's distaste for homosexuality and eliminate every distinction between traditional marriage and other sexual relationships.
Rudy Giuliani has long been sympathetic with the movement to make society less hostile to homosexuals. This shouldn't trouble social conservatives. I've never met one who burned with hatred for same sex couples and longed to make sodomy a capital crime. The caricatures of the left notwithstanding, there is no substantial conservative constituency which is hostile to homosexual indidividuals.
Social conservatives don't need a president fond of quoting Leviticus, 18:22 and fulminating about abominations. They need president who understands that the moral distinction between sex which creates and sustains families and every other sort of sex is a key part of this society's foundation. They need a president who can make the case that society can't always treat homosexuals the same as everyone else because in one important respect they aren't the same as everyone else.
This is a case that can't effectively be made by a born-again Christian or a Mormon. Too many hearts and minds are barred shut against any discussion of sexual morality which has exposed religious roots. It may take a notorious sinner with vaguely unconventional views and a very secular image to tell America the obvious in a convincing way. If he chooses to lead in this area Giuliani could make himself a hero to the social right without repudiating any statements or actions in his past.
The fact that Giuliani could win social conservatives by defending the right to disapprove of homosexuality and attacking Roe v. Wade doesn't mean that he will. If he does, however, his campaign might well prove unstoppable. It will be interesting to see how he chooses to proceed.
Social conservatives should hear him out. He just might represent a rare opportunity which won't be repeated any time soon. J. Peter Mulhern is a an attorney in the Wahsington, DC area and a frequent contributor to American Thinker.