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Christian Conservatives May Bolt GOP

Some influential leaders of the Religious Right are threatening to leave the Republican party and support a third party candidate if Rudy Giuliani gets the nomination, David Kirkpatrick reports.

The group making the threat, which came together Saturday in Salt Lake City during a break-away gathering during a meeting of the secretive Council for National Policy, includes Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family, who is perhaps the most influential of the group, as well as Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, the direct mail pioneer Richard Viguerie and dozens of other politically-oriented conservative Christians, participants said. Almost everyone present expressed support for a written resolution that “if the Republican Party nominates a pro-abortion candidate we will consider running a third party candidate.”

The participants spoke on condition of anonymity because the both the Council for National Policy and the smaller meeting were secret, but they said members of the intend to publicize its resolution. These participants said the group chose the qualified term “consider” because they have not yet identified an alternative third party candidate, but the group was largely united in its plans to bolt the party if Mr. Giuliani became the candidate.

A revolt of Christian conservative leaders could be a significant setback to the Giuliani campaign because white evangelical Protestants make up a major portion of Republican primary voters. But the threat is risky for the credibility of the Christian conservative movement as well. Some of its usual grass-roots supporters could still choose to support even a pro-choice Republican like Mr. Giuliani, either because they dislike the Democratic nominee even more or because they are worried about war, terrorism and other issues.

While I find the notion that Christian conservatives have been insufficiently pandered to by the GOP somewhat amusing, I can understand their trepidation over Giuliani. He would be, by far, the least socially conservative nominee since Richard Nixon.

Then again, I’d argue that the issues where Giuliani is off the reservation are completely irrelevant from a policy standpoint. Ronald Reagan, the first president to ride the Moral Majority wave, served two terms and had a Republican majority in the Senate his first six years. George W. Bush is in his second term and had a Republican majority in both Houses of Congress for most of his first six years. What difference did it make on the social issues?

The courts, not the president, decides most of the key policy debates. Abortion is still legal thirty four years after Roe v. Wade and twenty seven years after Reagan was elected. It’s almost inconceivable that a Justice who would be a sure bet to overturn could get confirmed. Prayer in the schools? Nobody even talks about that these days. Gay marriage? Inevitable.

So, what issues that matter to social conservatives would, say, a President Fred Thompson be more likely to affect in a positive direction than Rudy Giuliani?

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. markm says:

    Any first amendment issues. Rudi does not seem gun owner friendly.

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  2. Dale says:

    As for me, I say, “don’t let the door hit ya on the way out.” I don’t vote Republican because of their stance on social issues.

    Abortion: Its the woman’s choice (hopefully with input from the father), the wrong choice in my opinion but her choice none the less.

    Gay Marriage: Who cares, I’m not gay and don’t know any gay people (that I’m aware of) so it doesn’t affect me. I figure that one should be able to give their benefits, social security, etc. to whomever he/she chooses. Its not the gov’t's business who I give my benefits to.

    Religion: That’s between me and God. Its no one’s place to tell me how to worship (or not) nor is it my place to preach to anyone else. God and I will sort that out at the end of the day.

    I vote Republican because of their strong stance on national security, relative fiscal conservatism (when compared to the Democrats) and their perceived somewhat nationalist outlook on things.

    In my opinion, if the evangelicals want to hit the road they can go right ahead. A candidate that is willing to move the Republican party more toward the center of American politics will most likely do the party good in the long run.

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  3. whippoorwill says:

    So far we’ve gotten a quick peep inside Giuliani’s closet and it looks pretty weird. If he gets the nomination we’ll learn his closet is really a warehouse of unsavory and unchristian like shenanigans. It wouldn’t bother me a bit cause I like colorful politicians, as long as their not crooks, but it would drive the republican religious brethren absolutely bananas, even more than they already are. So I say go for it with a new Christian Right party. Then say Hi to President Hilary.

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  4. Steve Plunk says:

    And bolt to where? The Democratic party? While they may be trying to get more attention (all interest groups do) the fact is they will stay aligned with the party closest to the positions they adhere to. The talk is bluster.

    I stand by their right to influence the party through participation but pulling away will do more damage to both the party and them.

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  5. MikeT says:

    Dale,

    If it’s a woman’s choice, then it should be entirely her responsibility what happens after she gives birth. No input for the man should mean no legal responsibility for the man. That argument that if he didn’t want to have a baby, he shouldn’t have had sex doesn’t fly anymore. If she didn’t want a baby, she could just have an abortion. It is thus entirely her moral responsibility, so long as abortion is legal, to care for that child without a prior, written agreement on his part.

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  6. bob in fl says:

    At this point it is all a political shell game. What the evangelicals want is to influence the GOP more in line with their own agenda. In other words, if you don’t do it our way, we’ll pick up our marbles & go elsewhere.

    If in the end, they do move to another Party, good. And if MoveOn chooses to do the same with the Democrats, also good. I really would like to see our 2 Party system become a multi-party system. This may be what it takes to accomplish that.

    But chances are, if the theocrats do leave the Republican Party, they are only going to insure a Democratic landslide. I don’t think they really want to see that happen. I’m not sure I do either.

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  7. Anderson says:

    As Bob in FL notes, the Religious Right (RR) has no choice. That’s the consequence of their narrow ideology.

    So long as they define “Christian issues” as abortion and gay marriage — as opposed to all that stuff Jesus talked about — they’re going to have to vote against the Democratic candidate, no matter whom the Repubs nominate.

    A 3d-party candidate would, as Bob notes, spell defeat in 2008, but perhaps with a long-term effect in their favor, pushing future candidates to make greater concessions.

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  8. Brian says:

    In other words: “If we’re going to be stuck with a pro-abortion President we’d rather have it be someone who holds 25 other stances with which we also disagree.”

    I happen to be a Christian and a Conservative though I don’t claim to be part of the group mentioned here … certainly not now.

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  9. Paul says:

    From a religious right perspective (which is not my own), I could see the logic of helping Hillary beat Rudy. You could figure if she later tanks the GOP might regain Congress in 2010 (like 1994) and that you could look forward to maybe beating her with a candidate you like in 2012, rather than being stuck running Rudy again in 2012 and most likely remaining the minority on the Hill for awhile. It is the logic the Republicans should have used in 2004 to let Bush go; if they had, they would still control Congress, Iraq would either have become Kerry’s Nixon-Vietnam (an ultimate irony) or be over (at least for the US), and the Republicans would be positioned much better than they are right now to win in 2008.

    As for abortion voters, I have always credited the Republican leadership with the ability to make just the minimum number of “mistakes” in Supreme Court nominees to make sure Roe isn’t overturned. The issue is far more useful if Roe is still the law than if it weren’t. That is all the issue was ever about for Reagan or Bush 41. I have frankly given up on trying to figure out how Bush 43 thinks so I am not sure whether his nominees will continue the tradition — one that Guiliani or Thompson surely would continue, and one that Brownback surely would not.

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  10. Billy says:

    If it’s a woman’s choice, then it should be entirely her responsibility what happens after she gives birth.

    I realize you were making a rhetorical point about abortion, but your comment misunderstands the justification for a father’s responsibility to a child. It is not the woman’s right to contribution for the child’s upbringing, it is the child’s right. It is unjustifiable to deny a child the right to support from his or her father merely because abortion is legal, whatever you might think about abortion itself.

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  11. DL says:

    “It’s a woman’s choice” is mentally deficient poppycock.
    Choice to murder innocent life, is a great evil, regardless of how comfortably we disguise it.
    It is the father’s child as well and it is a distinctly different human being -precious and unique. When we lose that understanding we become no different than a Mao, a Stalin, or a Hitler treating innocent life as an inconvenience to be slaughtered under the evil euphamism of “choice.”

    There, and I said that without mentioning the most offended of all -the person who created the murdered child – God!

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  12. Anderson says:

    So, DL, howya feel about Rudy?

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  13. G.A.Phillips says:

    Gay Marriage: Who cares, I’m not gay and don’t know any gay people (that I’m aware of) so it doesn’t affect me. I figure that one should be able to give their benefits, social security, etc. to whomever he/she chooses. Its not the gov’t's business who I give my benefits to.

    Great, but what does this have to do with gay marriage?

    Religion: That’s between me and God. Its no one’s place to tell me how to worship (or not) nor is it my place to preach to anyone else. God and I will sort that out at the end of the day.

    what God are you talking about, it’s not the God of the Bible or of the Qur’an.

    In my opinion, if the evangelicals want to hit the road they can go right ahead. A candidate that is willing to move the Republican party more toward the center of American politics will most likely do the party good in the long run.

    thats just briliant, get the base and the closest thing to the way our Forefathers wanted us to live to leave the party, Im sorry but you sound just like a liberal, mabee your the one that should leave.

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  14. Bandit says:

    That’s not reporting – that’s campaigning

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  15. Grewgills says:

    Santorum recently said he wanted to get back into politics. They should draft him.

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  16. Bithead says:

    Rudy’s not my first choice, but he’s still better than any Democrat, period.

    As for Dobson and company, they’ve been making the same noises since Nixon. they’ve yet to pull that string, including when Robertson ran. that’s because at the bottom line, they recognize that the democrats are not the lesser evil.

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  17. [...] Also Blogging: OTB [...]

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  18. hln says:

    From a Christian conservative perspective, I think what’s missing here in the issues listed thus far is embryonic stem cell research. That’s pretty big – and something that can still be affected on the federal funding level at least.

    Dobson seems to be proposing to cut off his foot to spite his leg. And there’s nothing at all to be gained by actually doing that. The political posturing by making the statement at this point pre-election is the best he can achieve. But I’m merely stating the obvious.

    hln

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  19. Andy says:

    I’m just waiting to hear from the Christianists about all of the 4th to ~300th trimester abortions that have happened in Iraq.

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