Rudy Giuliani possesses strenghts as a presiential candidate that rightly make him a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination. He may be the most accomplished municipal leader in American history, with a record he compiled while facing down the steady opposition of the New York Times and other malefactors. The qualities of leadership he displayed as mayor are remarkable. And he has emerged as a leading candidate because of his strength on issues of national security. He seems to be the candidate with the best chance of winning a national election on a playing field tilted toward the Democratic candidate.
Yet Mayor Giuliani's social liberalism remains a liability with the social conservatives who have formed an essential part of the Republican coalition. Social conservative leaders such as James Dobson threaten to support a third-party candidate. In the course of two good columns -- here (last week's "The GOP needs a survival instinct") and here (today's "Electoral pragmatism reconsidered"), Tony Blankley has instructed conservatives in the prudential considerations that may dictate subordination of their primary political concerns to the survival of their coalition with the Republican Party. The upshot of Blankley's teaching is this:
Every faction within the GOP coalition should agree immediately to make no further demands of their party. Just as the liberals did in 1991 and 1992, the conservatives of 2007 and 2008 simply should let their strongest candidate campaign in a way most likely to gain victory. Every conservative principle thereby would be safer than if heavy demands yield a Hillary presidency. Given the grotesque irresponsibility of the national Democrats, keeping them out of the White House should be the first calling of every patriotic conservative.I agree with this, and it is my approach to the Republican field. I watch and wonder who would be the strongest candidate in a difficult year. I am happy to sit back and let my fellow Republicans sort out the candidates in the upcoming primaries, trusting that many Republicans share my primary concerns.
Nevertheless, the same prudential considerations in which Blankley instructs Republican voters apply to Republican candidates. If you want to lead the party to national victory, find a way to enlist the party's core voters in your cause (without alienating the independent voters without whom victory is impossible). Mayor Giuliani seems not to have done this, preeminently on the subject of abortion. Perhaps it is not possible for him to do. But I should think that it would have been possible for him to say what is implicit in his comments on selecting judges -- that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided -- and that the issue of abortion should be returned to the states, where it was when the Supreme Court upset the applecart in 1973. Or perhaps Mayor Giuliani offers the formulation of his approach to selecting judges as the ground on which he can meet social conservatives halfway. I have to say that, contemplating the retirement of several Supreme Court justices during the next presidential term, it satisfies me if he means it.
I am afraid that not even this would satisfy Amherst's Professor Hadley Arkes. Professor Arkes has been one of the leading intellectual lights in the constellation of pro-life conservatives, an architect of the legislation protecting partially born infants. In his talk on social issues and the Republican Party at the APSA/Claremont panel in Chicago over Labor Day weekend, Professor Arkes argued:
Now with Mr. Giuliani we would have the advent of a candidate whose ascension in the party would mark the end of the Republican party as the pro-life party in our politics. Over the last twenty years the pro-life movement has sought a series of measures quite modest, moving step by step, with the object of putting the right to abortion “in the course of ultimate extinction,” to borrow a phrase from Lincoln. But the object of that design, put in place by Giuliani, would be to put the pro-life movement itself in the course of ultimate extinction.As if to confirm Professor Arkes's observation, Mayor Giuliani's comments on abortion posted on his Giuliani 2008 Web site, Mayor Giuliani devotes himself largely to the subject of pornography.
Professor Arkes wondered in the course of his remarks whether it would be better to lose with Romney than to win with Giuliani. Better for whom? My notes don't reflect whether Professor Arkes specified, but it was there that he lost me. It seemed to me to be lacking in the prudence Blankley counsels in his thoughtful (if not entirely persuasive) columns.
To comment on this post, go here.