Friday, February 16, 2007

Rudy Giuliani and the New Social Conservatism

Jennifer Rubin, at the American Spectator (via Memeorandum), dispels the myth that Rudy Giuliani's a "social liberal." Religious conservatives have concerns about Giuliani's position on key bedrock issues, but as Rubin points out, those worries are misplaced:

If the definition of "social conservative" is merely a checklist of several hot button issues, specifically abortion and gay rights, Giuliani is certainly to the left of his principal rivals. He might give assurances to appoint strict constructionist judges and might stipulate that his support of civil unions is not the same as support for gay marriage. However, on these issues he is unlikely to win the hearts of single-issue voters who care passionately about a candidate's beliefs and not just the likely outcomes of a candidate's policies.

But the commentators and consultants may have gotten the questions wrong. The better, at least the more interesting, question is whether Giuliani can establish a new description of what it means to be "socially conservative." Perhaps to be socially conservative means something more than just fidelity to pro-life and anti-gay marriage positions. Giuliani has a convincing argument that he is an ethical or cultural conservative who in the end will protect the values that most conservative Republicans hold dear. What does this mean? It means that he sees the world as a battle between good and evil, and politics as a struggle between decent hard working people and elites who have too little respect for their values -- public safety, respect for religion and public virtue.

It must be news indeed to liberal New York elites -- the ACLU, the teachers' unions, the New York Times, the upper West Side art crowd -- to hear that the former mayor is a "social liberal." Whether inspired by his Catholic education or by his often-quoted parents, Giuliani never seemed "liberal" in any sense to them. This was the mayor who scrubbed Times Square of the porn shops, railed against the ACLU for challenging aggressive police tactics, and routinely insulted proponents of racial and special interest politics. Defending his crusade against petty crimes he took the side of ordinary people over "squeegee men shaking down the motorist waiting at a light." Certainly Chris Matthews has figured out his crusade for social order belied the term "liberal," going so far as to suggest (outrageously) the mayor might be "a little bit of a fascist." Far from accepting all family arrangements as equal, Giuliani enraged welfare advocates by requiring that deadbeat dads find a job or participate in the city's workfare program to help support their children. He succinctly described the best social program for ending poverty: "fatherhood."

Rank-and-file Republicans don't seem to be too concerned about Rudy's issue positions,
as indicated by his double-digit lead over Senator John McCain in a Gallup/USA Today survey out this week.

Perhaps that support will help Giuliani in the money game. Candidates for 2008 are expected to need at least $100 million to run a competitive presidential campaign. This Washington Post article on Giuliani's presidential announcement indicates that the Giuliani organization is preparing for that type of effort. Giuliani's a popular GOP fundraiser, as this USA Today report indicates, and his strategy is to focus on large contributors, who are likely to push him past the $100 million mark.

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