Wednesday, November 14, 2007

What Might Giuliani's Nomination Mean?

In the (current) December 2007 issue of First Things, Hadley Arkes offers a compelling essay on what the cost of nominating and electing former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani as President by the Republican Party would be. I won't pretend to know how American Whigs would have stood regarding today's "life issues." This was, after all, a party that failed to survive the slavery debate. But neither were the Whigs afraid to play the "personal morality card" at election time.

It is fair to be clear about my perspective as I introduce Prof. Arkes' essay. Just before going to bed on the eve of the 2004 election, I wrote the following on LutherLink's Table Talk on my decision on for whom I was going to vote. I began with some thoughts on the Democratic candidate's record regarding the war in Iraq, then continued:
[Sen. Kerry] is a Catholic who is able to make a difference in our culture of death, and not only does he choose not to do so, he tries to make support of that culture sound morally virtuous. Whether the ones to be killed are pre-born infants or the enemies of our nation, it doesn't seem to matter.

My phrasing of the above comments, plus others I've made on TABLE TALK the last couple of years, make plain that I am not enamored of President Bush, either. His expansion of federal power over that of state and local governments (plus schools), his administration's obsession for secrecy, and his unwillingness to exercise any control over federal spending (the massive expansion of Medicare entitlements when the program is already plunging into bankruptcy is merely the icing, granted, a thick gob of icing, on cakes of pork) had me gagging over his presidency from the beginning. The pretexts for war with Iraq -- WMD, if anyone cares to recall, was actually only one of them, and one for which there was no dispute except where to find them until our boys were already surrounding Iraq and poised to invade -- were the most obscene since the US invaded to start the Mexican War. Alas, unlike 1846-47 there were no Whigs 2 years ago to challenge the President and even NPR was as anti-war as Hearst's papers had been in 1898.

As an expatriate Californian resident in Illinois, it's pretty clear that "my" electoral votes will be cast for the Democrat. And until last week, I fully intended to vote for Michael Badnarik, the Libertarian.

But in the morning, while I may hold my nose doing it, I'm going to vote for President Bush's re-election. With him in office the mass sacrifice of human embryos to blood-thirsty gods of "science" will be (at least for a time) averted and the world will know that the United States of America, for all her faults, will not be afraid to act boldly in her defense.
I vote pro-life. And with that, here's the beginning of Hadley Arkes' essay:
Abortion Politics 2008
by Hadley Arkes

For reasons quite plausible, even to people on the pro-life side, Rudolph Giuliani persists in standing well ahead of the pack of the Republican candidates for president. He has sounded the traditional Republican themes: preserving the Bush tax cuts, seeking free-market solutions to problems such as medical care, and standing firm on the war in Iraq.

But there is in his campaign a sobering truth that cannot be evaded: The nomination and election of Rudy Giuliani would mark the end of the Republican party as the pro-life party in our politics. And that would be the case regardless of whether pro-lifers respond to his nomination by refusing to vote for Giuliani, forming a third party, or folding themselves into a coalition that succeeds in electing Giuliani.

I often meet, here in the East, conservatives of an old stripe: eager to vote for a Republican but repelled by what they have seen as a party in which the religious and the pro-lifers have a marked leverage. Are there enough of these voters to convert, say, New Jersey and Connecticut into Red States? There might be if the old-line conservatives see a massive defection from the party on the part of the pro-lifers. For that will be a sign that the party is becoming habitable again for people like themselves, who may come to define again its character.

What is engaged here is a truth about the nature of political parties that has gone remarkably unappreciated: Parties have the means of changing their own constituencies or their composition. By altering their appeals, they drive some groups out and bring others in. If a Republican party, reconstituted in this way, manages to win, the Republican establishment will readily draw the lesson that they can win convincingly without pro-lifers and their bundle of causes: the destruction of embryos in research, assisted suicide, the resistance to same-sex marriage. Indeed, a Republican party shorn of those people and their baggage may seem to offer a stronger, more durable majority than the party that eked out victories by narrow margins in 2000 and 2004.

Pro-life voters may subordinate their concerns and join the new coalition, but the lesson extracted will be the same: “The Republican party can win when the pro-life issue is thrust from the center to the periphery of the party’s concerns. Even the pro-lifers do not see themselves as one-issue voters; they will give primacy to other concerns as the crises before us make other issues indeed more urgent. They will content themselves with symbolic gestures or modest measures rationed out to them. For they know that, when their interest collides with others, the party will have to subordinate their concerns to nearly anything that seems more pressing.” And, for all practical purposes, nearly any interest will trump the interests of the pro-life community.

For those concerned about the life issues, the choices offered by a Giuliani nomination are bleak. This melancholy state of things is deepened by the awareness that there are powerful considerations moving the pro-lifers toward accommodation. Since the days of Ronald Reagan, the Republican party has become, ever more clearly, the pro-life party in our politics. And, just as clearly, the “right to abortion,” with its theme of sexual liberation, has become the central peg on which the interests of the Democratic party have been arranged. Under these conditions, the pro-life movement has become bound up inescapably with the fate of the Republican party.

But the White House cannot be preserved for the Republicans—and the pro-life movement—without solving the problem of the war in Iraq. To this task Giuliani brings no military credentials, but he seems to have the tenacity to see the war through to victory and to bring the Republicans through as a party that need not apologize for a war that was undertaken for good reasons. Even the pro-lifers may recognize then that the war claims a certain precedence or preeminence in the issues now pressing. The pro-life issue may have to be submerged at this moment as a matter of high strategy, for the interests of the country and for the survival of the Republican party as the pro-life party.

For years now, the pro-life movement has followed a strategy of moving in incremental steps, unfolding a plan of principle with, to borrow a phrase from Lincoln, the object being to put abortion “in the course of ultimate extinction.” But a successful candidacy by Giuliani would subtly put in place a scheme whose tendency and object would be to put the pro-life movement itself on the course of ultimate extinction.
For the rest, read here -- but you will need to be a registered subscriber to First Things (which I recommend highly) to read. Or read a copy in the library or (go ahead, buy it!) at your newsstand now.

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