Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Factional Account

I caught a post at Darwin Catholic discussing the candidacy of Rudolf Giuliani for the Republican presidential nomination and the fact that he is not pro-life. He concludes with the following:

So even though I would find myself in agreement more with Giuliani than with Hillary or Obama, as of this point I have to think that it would be better for the long term political landscape for Giuliani (if nominated) to lose to the Democrats, underscoring that a conservative coalition without social conservatives doesn't work.

So, is self-sabotage good for the Republican soul? Can we really predict the impact that a president will have before he is elected? Can we, with any real certainty, know whether the damage done by an unfavorable candidate will be outweighed by some long-term gain? I postulate that we cannot know what shaping events will come in the next two years, let alone the next four. Can we really make a long term cost-benefit calculus when future events can be so unpredictable?

It might be instructive to look at what was believed about previous ascending presidents, and how they actually turned out. One of the major issues of the Kennedy-Nixon campaign was the protection of the islands of Kemoy and Matsu. These islands played little or no part in the Kennedy presidency. Instead, a recently "liberated" French colony, Viet Nam, ended up being part of the lasting legacy of his presidency. Theodore Roosevelt was supposed to be a Republican lightweight, but he turned the big business practices of the time on their ears. And who, in the election of 2000, would have believed that a global war on terror would be the central issue of an 8-year George W. Bush presidency?

So, what's a pro-lifer to do? First of all, it is imperative that you cast a vote in the primary election for the pro-life candidate of your choice. If you are indeed a one- issue voter, this is your chance to have your say. At the general election, the parties' positions have already been set: the primary is where the partisan electorate has a chance to influence those positions. For a one-issue voter and for the voter who has strong opinions on an issue, the primary vote may be more important than the general election vote. Be heard in the formation process. Many a "frontrunner" going into the primary season has lost his place by the time the voting is done -- just ask Ted Kennedy and Jimmy Carter. By the time the general election campaign is set, the one-issue voter will, most likely, have one or no candidates for which to vote, and, thus, the campaign speeches, rhetoric, and commercials will not be aimed at them. To be heard, vote early.

Now, what should you do if a pro-life candidate is not nominated by any party? What other issues matter to you? Could you live with socialized medicine, further restrictions on free speech, or coercive union practices? Do you believe that money should be donated, rather than coerced, for worthwile charitable projects? Do you believe that what happens between a man and a woman is marriage, and other partnerships do not deserve the label? Do you believe the defense of the U.S. is a worthwile pursuit? If these issues matter to you, you will cast your vote based on them. An unfavorable candidate can do a lot of damage on other issues in four years while the party is being "taught a lesson."

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5 Comments:

Blogger Darwin said...

Hmmm. I may post back at you in a bit. I'll have to think about it.

As I said, I'm far from being a single issue voter. But in a sense, that almost compounds the issue. I'm very pro-gun, and Giuliani is anti gun. I feel strongly about the gay marriage issue, and Giuliani is squishy at best on that one. (I'm highly skeptical he'd be any better than the Democrats on that one.) I'm in favor or lower taxes, no socialized medicine, and a reduction in the size of government -- none of which Giuliani is good on.

I'm against organized crime in New York, and on that I guess we see eye to eye. But is that much of a presidential issue?

He's supposed to be 'tough on terror' -- but I'm not really clear what unprescidented actions he's exptected to take there. I do think he'd do a better job on foreign policy than Hillary or Obama, yes. But I think _any_ of the Republican candidates would.

I guess my big concern is that (looking at things in terms of issues rather than parties for a moment -- and discounting the fact I have a very strong tribal affinity to the GOP) while a Democratic victory would mean a four year set back for my ideology (and perhaps not even that big a one, given the split in congress and the fact there's be a good chance of winning the congress back at the mid term) a Giuliani victory might mean that I wouldn't have _any_ good candidate to vote for for 8-12 years.

Now by comparison, the Clinton administration gave us one of the most conservative congresses we'd have in a _very_ long time, and caused comparatively little damage.

There are things that might change my mind -- mostly having to do with how the convention and VP selection went if there was a Rudy candidacy -- but at first blush I'm honestly not sure whether Rudy or Hillary would do more damage to my core set of 4-5 issues as president.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Paul, just this guy, you know? said...

No, I won't vote for a pro-abortion candidate.

It's a simple matter of math. If a party thinks they can get both pro-aborts and pro-lifers with a pro-abort candidate, then why would they nominate a pro-lifer?

I heard this last year in the Illinois governor's race. People said that the GOP nominee, Topinka agreed with me 90%, and that I should support her on that basis.

Rudy claims to agree with me 80%.

Well, show me that 80%. Abortion is a big issue for me. It's not just a policy issue, but a character issue as well.

Everything I've heard about Giuliani makes me believe that he lacks the character to President. I will not vote for him.

Party unity be damned. The party must nominate someone I can support if it expects to get my vote.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Darwin said...

It's not that case that I won't vote for pro-choice candidates at all. I voted for Republican candidates for governor back in California who were pro-choice, and also Republican candidates for US Senator in CA who were pro-choice.

And if I lifed in NY, I wouldn't have a problem with voting for Rudy against Hillary for US Senator there either.

The thing is, I think that with the presidential election this year there's a lot at stake as far as future direction of the GOP, and in a sense I think it's more important to maintain control of the GOP as a viable social conservative party than it is to win the White House.

In a sense, far left Democrates made the same choice back in 2000 when they gave Nader enough of the vote to (arguably in a couple key places) let Bush win the election. There were huge fusses about party unity at the time, but the result was that now no major Democratic candidate dares to offend the hard left, pacifist faction within the party.

It seems to me that there are two factions within the GOP that have similarly important issues that they'd be willing to walk from the party over. One is the hawks -- and as a result I don't think we'll see a serious GOP candidate who's in favor of cutting and running. The other is social conservative issues, and it seems to me that that's very much in play right now as to how well the party can try to live without it.

5:26 AM  
Blogger CMinor said...

Electoral politics are more D's bailiwick than mine, but as he's not going to see the combox until much later today, I might as well put my oar in.

You will vote, or not vote, for whom you darn well please. If your conscience won't allow you to vote for a proabortion candidate even when there are no other viable options, you will either support a third-party kamikaze or stay home. That's your option. But don't, for Pete's sake, play political games. There is no guarantee you will get the expected result, and you just might end up far worse off than you ever imagined possible.

Before we get off too far along on this issue, let the record show that I've voted solidly pro-life since Reagan -- the first time. This includes a number of years when "voting my conscience" virtually guaranteed I'd be on the losing side. I'm not crazy about Giuliani, and the chance of me casting a primary vote for him would be somewhere between fat and slim. If, however, I'm left with a choice of him, a very proabortion Democrat who will certainly appoint far-left SCOTUS nominees (and whom the Catholic left will be unlikely to desert,) and a prolife candidate with no chance of getting elected and every chance of ensuring that the proabortion Democrat gets elected, I can't say I wouldn't hold my nose and vote for him in the election, if only as the lesser of two evils.

That said, however, I do think we're putting the cart before the horse getting all excited about Giuliani's purported 'frontrunner' status. Why, first of all, is he the frontrunner? Name recognition? Palatability to the media, who figure he's an 'ok' Republican if, God forbid, they should be stuck with another one of those for four years? Fontrunner status is an elusive thing this far out: think Howard Dean. In the next year, Giuliani may well collapse under the weight of his pesonal scandals, or tick off the wrong people. In the meantime, what pro-lifers need to do is get behind a candidate who will present a formidable opposition to Giuliani in the primaries, and maybe do a little Euro coalition-building with other groups that stand to be disenfranchised if Giuliani gets the nomination. Running around like decapitated Leghorns because some pundits are rah-rahing the guy is a pointless exercise. (Not your post, Darwin-- we've seen some of the other chatter on this out there in the blogosphere)

I am also not sure why the election of one proabortion Republican is presumed to be a guaranteed setback for the prolife movement, especially if it comes down to a choice between two prochoice candidates and there is at least the possibility that the Republican may be forced to exercise a little more restraint. I have no delusions that anything short of a Republican majority in Congress and the Senate will restrain a proabortion Democrat (ref. Clinton,) and that's a whole other set of elections. No president is going to have much effect, beyond choice of SCOTUS nominees, on the immediate legal status of abortion. Even if Roe v. Wade were overturned tomorrow, it would be far more important to have a prolife majority in as many states as possible than to have a prolife president. There are some strong prolife candidates out there in the states with a lot of potential for the future, but if they all vacate the Republican party (which for all its flaws has been far more accepting of the prolife position than has the Democratic party) they will lose considerable ground. And it's not as if a lot of progress hasn't been made. At the time of Roe v. Wade, and for some time after, pro-lifers were literally the red-headed stepchild of the party. We're now a force to be reckoned with. Don't assume the Republican party is unaware that it needs to listen to us.

Vote your conscience, by all means; but be very, very careful with the numbers game. Don't scuttle what progress has already been made.

11:46 AM  
Blogger DMinor said...

First of all, thanks to all for a very interesting conversation (you too, C!)

I intentionally avoided the direct evaluation of Rudy Giuliani as a presidential candidate because I really haven't done enough research on his national views. Needless to say, I do know he is not pro-life, and that is a strike (or two) against him in my book. His personal life, and how that was all handled also gives me pause. In a similar vein, I do like some of the things that Newt Gingrich says, but he has similar (if not more severe) personal baggage. Such things go into my personal accounting when sizing up a candidate for president. My post was more a plea to work the system than an endorsement of Rudy.

Paul brings up party electoral strategy, and how we can help to shape it. Where I think he misses the mark is where and when that strategy is shaped, and not the desire to shape it.

It's a simple matter of math. If a party thinks they can get both pro-aborts and pro-lifers with a pro-abort candidate, then why would they nominate a pro-lifer?


I am sure that "they" would do this if "they" had the exclusive reins on the decision. But who are "they?" I think that you will find that "we" are part of "them." It is true that those with money can buy advertising and support the candidates of their choice. But (and it hasn't always been this way), the electorate that bothers to show up for the primary election has a considerable say in who gets nominated. And while money can do a lot of things, it cannot absolutely guarantee an election. In his first gubanatorial election in 2002, Sonny Purdue of Georgia was outspent 13:1, but still beat the incumbent, Roy Barnes. If enough pro-life "Republicans" go to the polls in the primaries, the party will be shaped and a proper candidate selected. Were there enough pro-life Democrats, they could do the same in their primaries.

In terms of voting issues (vice party), the primary vote appears to me to have surpassed the general election in importance.

Now, having said that, I still would be very reticent to say that I would not vote in a general election. There have been forces in the last eight years or so (if I were so inclined, I would cry conspiracy, but then I would have to fit myself for a tinfoil hat) that have knowingly or unknowingly been working to undermine the U.S. citizenry's faith in the electoral system. Accusations of fraud, ballot stuffing, racial intimidation, machine tampering, and machine inadequacy all seem to have the intent of convincing voters that they do not matter, and that election results are as in doubt as the outcome of a pro wrestling match. Such lack of faith can, and has in other countries, led to tyranny.

7:48 PM  

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