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Dividing (and conquering?) religious conservatives?

Near the beginning of his busy, busy day over at The Corner, our friend Jonah Goldberg wondered whether the splintering of religious conservatives would be a good or bad thing politically. He received some responses.

Let me offer mine here, taking as a point of departure this most excellent RC2 post (which I urge you to read so that I don’t have to repeat her points). I’d like to begin by stressing two things in particular. First, "Christian conservative" is a vast oversimplification, covering up the complexities of both terms ("Christian" and "conservative"), not to mention the varieties of the ways in which they interact. The former term includes everything from charismatic Pentecostals to the Eastern Orthodox, and from traditionalists to modernists. (Permit me for the moment to be "catholic" and not "fundamentalist" in the use of the adjective.) "Conservative" also admits an array of meanings (once again: "catholic," not "fundamentalist").

Second, even if one speaks of "mere Christianity" and "mere conservatism," there remains questions of prudence or political judgment. How do we weigh various considerations of policy, politics, and personality? God knows the right answer, but, as a fallible human being, I have to admit that there’s a range of possibilities available to "reasonable people."

In other words, there’s nothing about the term "Christian conservative" that even implies a political monolith, even if you leave out the following consideration: there are in fact lots of morally and theologically conservative Christians who rather consistently support Democratic/liberal candidates. Most of them are African-American, and they make a "prudential" judgment about how they can protect and project their genuinely conservative moral and theological concerns in the political arena. But I guess you’d call them "conservative Christians," not "Christian conservatives."

In the end, I’d be surprised if "Christian conservatives" ever and early coalesced around one candidate, even if they might occasionally be unified in their opposition to someone.

Two more points and I’m done. First, Jonah wonders if it wouldn’t be better for conservatism if there were some conservatives who were Democrats. Some moral and theological conservatives already are (see above). And in the past, some conservatives were--when there was still such a thing as a Southern "yellow dog" Democrat. In Georgia at least, they’re pretty much gone, and the Democratic Party that remains in my state is awfully hard to distinguish from its national counterpart.

Second, Jonah excerpts an email wondering whether some Christians are drifting toward Christian Democracy and away from "American constitutionalism." If "American constitutionalism" is short-hand for a small national government with limited responsibilities and a heavy emphasis on federalism, it seems to me that Christian conservatives are not the only ones drifting.

Discussions - 26 Comments

First, Jonah wonders if it wouldn’t be better for conservatism if there were some conservatives who were Democrats.

Some are, though not on the coasts. There is bipartisan immigration legislation moving through the House supported by forty-something conservative Democats.


The Democratic Senators from the mid-west and mountain-west are a good deal more conservative than their counterparts in NY and CA. One of Bush's many missteps was that he reached out repeatedly to Ted Kennedy instead of people like Dorgan or Nelson.

If "American constitutionalism" is short-hand for a small national government with limited responsibilities and a heavy emphasis on federalism, it seems to me that Christian conservatives are the only ones drifting.

That looks like it may be a misprint. Did you mean "Christian conservatives are NOT the only ones drifting"?

Constitutionalism should simply mean following the Constitution as originally intended. "Small" and "limited" are meaningless by themselves. Small compared to what? Limited by what? One look at our budget should easily prove that EVERYONE is drifting from this standard except Ron Paul. Who is Jonah kidding?

Have you guys tuned into Laura Ingraham of late? She's on her own little jihad trying to strong arm Conservatives behind somebody, anybody but Giuliani. It's pathetic.

And shortsighted, and politically immature. And I must say I'm stunned that she's become so unhinged.

Pushing for Romney, deluding yourself on Romney, quaffing the Kool-Aid, and for what, for a guy who went off and invented some song and dance about a "seminar" that he attended, which prompted his second thoughts on abortion. Yet there's tape of the guy subsequent to his second thoughts "seminar" where he's belting out that same old liberal tune.

It's real difficult for me to respect Romney. There's something SO squalid, unutterably squalid about someone prostituting himself in that fashion, and for what? For high office, for the Presidential library, because he's bored to tears.

Too bad Duncan Hunter wasn't a prominent Governor, too bad he didn't have some name recognition.

Well, it's Giuliani's. Happy Face Huckabee, the aged Thompson, Romney of the Technicolour dream coat, all of 'em, they should just step aside and let Giuliani save the money for the match against Hillary of Borg, who wants to assimilate us all into her creepy village.

Recall too, this isn't really splintering, this is just part of the nomination process. For a true splintering to occur, we would have to see 3d party candidates, voting boycotts in the general.

I've no doubt that when Giuliani is confirmed the GOP nominee in early February, 2008, the long year of campaigning thereafter will serve to gather together all Conservatives to his standard.

It's not going to be like the '06 election.

And Iraq could play TO OUR ADVANTAGE, because the Party as a whole will have demonstrated tough-mindedness in the face of severe criticism.

Giuliani is a decent, savvy, witty man, with steel running down his spine. And the American people are going to select him as their next President of the United States. Hopefully Giuliani will select a true, staunch Conservative to compliment his ticket. And I hope he picks Duncan Hunter. That's a one-two ticket of utter SERIOUSNESS. Whereas Hillary's entire jaunt for high office is like some freakish parade marching down Market street. It's surreal, it's strange, it's unnatural........

Dan, since you are determined to turn this into a discussion on Giuliani, why don't you try to make the conservative case for him as best you can?

I have to admit, I can't think of a single solitary reason why conservatives should support the man. And believe me, I've looked.

Hopefully Giuliani will select a true, staunch Conservative to compliment his ticket.

I'm not seeing why we should not, you know, just put that true, staunch Conservative at the top of the ticket, and let Rudy get back to doing whatever it is he's been doing for the past several years.

Giuliani is a decent, savvy, witty man, ..

Here is Rudy Giuliani, , savvy, witty man, responding to a constituient.

(David Guthartz, founder of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Ferrets, called a radio show Giuliani was hosting to complain about the citywide ban on ferrets. Giuliani responded:)

"There is something deranged about you. ... The excessive concern you have for ferrets is something you should examine with a therapist. ... There is something really, really very sad about you. ... This excessive concern with little weasels is a sickness. ... You should go consult a psychologist. ... Your compulsion about—your excessive concern with it is a sign that there is something wrong in your personality. ... You have a sickness, and I know it's hard for you to accept that. ... You need help.

The Giuliani who exists in the minds of many of his supporters bears no resemblance to the actual real life Rudy. This sort of thing was the norm while he was Mayor, not the exception.

Well John, I hate to support Dan...but what if Guiliani is right? I mean here is a mayor trying to focus on serious concerns and subjects and he comes face to face with someone who worships ferrets...someone who think ferrets are the issue du jour. Guiliani is basically saying look I am not about prioritizing ferrets. It is a free country, you can worship what you want but just because you can start up a society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Ferrets does not mean that the mayor of New York has to be worshipful or concerned. Guiliani is certainly not being pious in dismissing ferrets worship, but do you really want a president who lays kisses at the feet of all the idols?

What would be your gut reaction if a group went to the Republican National Convention and wanted a plank on ferret cruelty?

You could say that this is exagerrating matters, but sometimes you have to wonder what the heck some of these groups are thinking...maybe he could have controled himself and said that he was fully invested in examining the effects of his policies on the issue of animal cruelty and invited the man to take part in a special commitee dedicated to persuing the matter.

There are tactfull ways of handling the issue and in the bit you quote Guiliani comes off sounding like how Democrats portray Dick Cheney. An evil callous human being unconcerned with the plight of poor animals. But here is a question: How many great loves can a politician have?

Can a politician say: I care about everything? I care about every concern? I am deeply troubled by everything... I hold all of your priorities in just the same order as you do?

I don't buy Goldberg's implicit claim that "Christian conservatives" are making the GOP more fiscally liberal. The fiscally liberal republicans are not, in general, Christian, or even very religious.

Just a thought, but why should morally principled Republicans concede the titular head of the Party of Lincoln to someone who believes his professedly moral concern for the life of the unborn has no substantive political implications? See Matthew Franck's National Review Online editorial. What will the GOP stand for with Giuliani at the helm? What national dialogue will his candidacy stir that will invite a consideration of, let alone promote, the longstanding principles and policies of the Republican Party? If he and Clinton get nominated, what will become of the Republican Party as a result of whatever discussions they choose to make the front-burner issues of the nation?

I mean here is a mayor trying to focus on serious concerns and subjects

Geez, you are not following along here. The serious concerns and subjects which Giuliani was concerned with as mayor were exactly things like banning ferrets. This guy was not distracting Rudy from his other work. Keeping the ban on ferrets was what Rudy was concerned about. Before Nurse Bloomberg, there was Nurse Rudy.

The City Council of New York was considering lifting an existing ban on ferrets. Giuliani was adamantly opposed. That is the back-story to this exchange, not some guy pestering a busy mayor with a topic he didn't want to deal with.

The abuse the supposedly "decent" mayor heaped on this unfortunate citizen of NYC gives a glimpse of Hizzoner which a lot of people are unaware of - that of nasty bully.

Dan, if Giuliani is half as great as you say he is, there is no need for the other candidates to step aside because he should be able to handle them easily. I'm afraid I must conclude the G. has a few troubles on the horizon, Kerik anyone?

You could say that this is exagerrating matters, but sometimes you have to wonder what the heck some of these groups are thinking...maybe he could have controled himself and said that he was fully invested in examining the effects of his policies on the issue of animal cruelty and invited the man to take part in a special commitee dedicated to persuing the matter.

It is probably a good idea in principle to know something about the matter under discussion before opining on it. Google is your friend here.

This is late, but John caught a typo I've corrected.

This fiscally liberal Christian stuff is a myth. Go into a conservative evangelical church and find me one. You will have a very hard time, esp. in the South. Some of the leadership is adopting some of these issues but it is a PR move. They do not represent the rank and file. A few state Christian Coalition groups disaffiliated themselves because of the liberal direction ("broadening their issues") of the national CC.

Wait and watch.

But it would be nice for the pretenders to step aside, so as to save the money and spare the Party. Not to mention spare themselves the wear and tear on their souls, which they inflict by deliberate falsehoods about their record. It's a shame that millions and millions more will be dumped on behalf of a few men {Romney, Thompson and Huckabee}, all in the attempt to obfuscate their record, misrepresent their deeds, mischaracterize their "convictions" and their former polices.

THUS millions for dishonesty, which forces Giuliani to go out there and drop millions explaining what he did for NYC.

Far better for Romney to stop spending a king's ransom trying to make himself out what he isn't, ... and never was, ... nor intends ever to become! He once enjoyed the support of "the Bushies," and "the Bushies" haven't a track record of support staunch Conservatives. "Bushies" prefer men like Lugar, Hagel, Specter. So if it was "the Bushies" who lined up behind Romney, as Hugh Hewitt never ceased to brag about, that's the kiss of death. Our Party needs to break free of the death grip of the Bush family, and their minions, men like Card.

Far better for some people to look in the mirror, and stop deluding themselves that they're the answer to a nation's prayers.

The Republican Party is getting a good look at the humour of Giuliani in the debates, his temper, how his mind moves, his ability to articulate himself clearly, ........... and they like what they see. So the description fits.

I know that some dearly love, {and sadly need...} to subscribe to the view of Giuliani articulated by Al Sharpton, Charlie Rangel, et al. But America declines to share that twisted view, the view dictated by the rancor of politics, and dictated by the morbid ambitions of a few misguided men.

Much of it of course now flows from the Romney camp.

Romney can't buy himself the nomination, because he can't buy himself character.

He can't buy himself decades worth of experience in the cultural trenches. He chose Massachusetts to run in, that was his choice. He chose to base himself there, he could have gone elsewhere, he could have gone someplace much more in tune with his alleged conservative inclinations. But he chose Massachusetts, he chose to run to the political left of Kennedy; he chose to make fervent defenses of some really weird social pathologies.

That's Romney. That's his record. And only temporarily unhinged people like Laura Ingraham are going to quaff the Kool-Aid he's offering. Or purchase into the excuses churned out by his flacks, for his YEARS of liberal grandstanding.

As for Huckabee, why bother. He doesn't have "IT." "It" being that something undefinable, indescribable, but nonetheless tangible, present, real. McCain has "it." Likewise Giuliani.

Clara Bow had it of course, hence her title, which was well deserved by the way, of "The It Girl." Reagan had it, TR had it, Scalia has it, Tony Romo has it, MacArthur and Nelson had loads of it. But Huckabee, Thompson and Romney have NONE of it. And their supporters seem genuinely nonplussed when so informed.

But why? Why the fantasies?

Whatever.

Dan, you are mentally ill.

Seek professional help immediately.

Dan your "analysis" is very tired. I'm not sure what you are saying, and it doesn't seem honed in on reality. If Giuliani wins, it will only be because the conservative vote was split in the primary.

Michael, I have been saying that all along. The normal MO of the "official" religious right is to line up behind an establishment candidate who is not blatantly objectionable against outsider candidates who are clearly better on their issues. Dole over Buchanan being the primary example. The difference this year is that the establishment candidates (Rudy and Romney) are objectionable.

The Paul supporters take a lot of abuse, some of it deserved. But the most annoying supporters on the web are actually the Giuliani people. I've seen too many Dan's around the web. There is a qualitative difference between the people who back Romney or Thompson or McCain and those backing Giuliani.

There's never a trace of practical, prudential, political reasoning among these people. The Rudy movement is more of a cult of personality. This kind of slavish devotion to a "great leader" is quite un-American.

Where are the Conservatives in the race that would split the Conservative vote?

Reagan, Gingrich, Goldwater, they're not in this race.

Instead we have guys like Huckabee, Thompson and Romney.

It's as Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly said: "Conservatives don't have a candidate in this race." He confessed to waiting and hoping for such a candidate to enter. But that hasn't happened.

That being the case, we're left with some hard choices.

I've said before that I much preferred Gingrich.

But he isn't running.

For the record, by the time anyone gets around to asking for my vote in a GOP primary, the race is long decided. I don't live in a state that's even a factor in the battle for the nomination.

Conservatives have candidates in the race - people like Tancredo and Hunter.

And in any case, you offer no justification for supporting the man who is far and away the least conservative of the bunch.

Dan, Limbaugh is clearly an idiot. Conservatives have a pure Constitutionalist in Ron Paul. For those who are fixated on the War and interventionism, there is Tancredo and Hunter as John said. What issue is Tancredo wrong on from a movement conservative perspective?

I like Duncan Hunter. He enjoys the support of Chuck Yeager and Ann Coulter. He has that certain orneriness which I think we need in The White House.

Just one problem though on the road to his inauguration, he isn't finding traction. His name recognition simply isn't getting it done. And the GOP as a whole isn't inclined to choose a somewhat obscure member of the House of Representatives.

I appreciate Tancredo's moxy taking on the establishment on immigration. Unfortunately, his cause would have been served better had he performed better at the debates. But Tancredo isn't getting the nomination either. And I'm not fully on board with all of his policy proposals.

As for Ron Paul, .......... why bother discussing him? He's going nowhere, and his quasi-conspiracy version of 9/11, and his take on our war effort thereafter, leaves me cold, .............. ice cold. Paul doesn't want to tangle with islam at large, or any portion thereof. For my part, I'm spoiling for a fight; I don't like what they're doing, and I want to unleash and unload on 'em. And I don't have much patience for the policies of parley, or pusillanimousness.

Tancredo, Hunter, and Paul, oh my! How about I just write in "Mickey Mouse". I just hope all of you support whoever the GOP nominates - we're going to need all the help we can get.

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