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?