Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

More On Guiliani’s Appeal

. . . can be found here. Brendan Miniter makes a strong case supporting the idea that social conservatives will find it easy to come around to Guiliani in the end. He is especially impressed with Rudy’s ability to make the issue of school choice work for him in wooing this block of voters. According to Miniter, it’s been working for him in South Carolina where Christian Conservatives make up the core of the school choice movement. After attending a meeting of one of these groups where Guiliani spoke, Miniter reports: "One woman who attended told me she wonders whether electing a president who successfully took on the mob in New York is what it will take to finally break through the entrenched education political culture." Maybe that’s exactly what is needed. In any event I think it is a fair argument to value action on the school choice front over inaction and platitudes on the abortion front . . . particularly if Guiliani is inclined to select judges in the mold of Roberts and Alito as he claims.

Discussions - 34 Comments

“There’s no way conservatives could stand for Giuliani becoming the Republican nominee,” said Richard Viguerie, one of the founders of the modern conservative movement. “I guarantee whoever the Democrats nominate would be the next president.”

From Newsday.

See the full article here.

I hope Mr. Viguerie is correct and conservatives are waking up to the Rudy threat and are drawing a line in the sand.

"action on the school choice front over inaction and platitudes on the abortion front." Very well put. I would add that public order in America, even apart from national security issues, is a topic that will only grow in importance. Uncontrolled immigration and the general decline of civilized standards both guarantee this. And Rudy, not Romney, has the serious record on public order. In comparison, abortion is a secondary issue.

"Uncontrolled immigration and the general decline of civilized standards both guarantee this. And Rudy, not Romney, has the serious record on public order. In comparison, abortion is a secondary issue."

Hello David. Rudy is pro-amnesty and sued the federal government to make NYC a safe haven for illegals. Public order, indeed.

These are serious problems, but we need to look at the totality of Rudy’s positions across the board. We also have to recognize how radical every plausible Democratic candidate is likely to be. We also need to understand any difference in his post-9/11 views and his post-mayoral views. I suspect that such differences may have more substance to them than Romney’s alleged conversion/s.

I think the issue of public order will play a big part in the next election, particularly with crime rates rising around the country.

Rudy for next president? As a republican, how in the world, he is going to win New York? Right now, I can’t think of any republican candidate who can win. Democrats need to nomiate some one as weak as George W Bush or John Kerry to lose next presidential election.

I’d say that Rudy has a darned good chance of taking New York...and maybe the rest of the country. I’m willing to compromise on SOME of the social conservative stuff to support him (although, immigration just has to be addressed).

Anyone read this in NROnline today:

Turns out Rudy is one mean SOB. I had a vague notion of his ability to mistreat his wife but was not aware of the details. I think this is required reading for conservatives trying to convince themselves a compromise on their principles is necessary next year...

David F.: I think you’re exactly right about general public order issues and their great appeal to the public. These are the things that hit home with most people on a daily basis. Of course--and this may shock some here who like to dismiss me (and Lincoln) as some kind of big-government neo-conservative--most of these issues are STATE issues and do not come under the rubric of serious federal legislation or enforcement (or at least, ought not to come under it). So you’re right to point to immigration as one way to address these things on the national level. Tricky, but possible. Another way: judges. He needs to talk (alot) about the kinds of judges he will appoint but MORE IMPORTANTLY, he needs to talk about WHY he’ll appoint them. This means talking about the Constitution and our principles and the things that make people proud to be Americans. It’s also the sort of talk that will frustrate Hillary in my view. Not wonkish enough for her to keep up. It will make her look boring and obtuse and school-marmish. School choice is a good start for these "conversations," as Hillary likes to call them. It provides a direct path to higher principles and it’s something everyone can understand.

8: The column is not a very convincing attack on Giuliani. Mean? Give me a break. There are many, many sinister people in New York who absolutely deserve "mean" treatment. I find it reassuring in a potential president, not a problem. He treated his second wife badly? Well, do we know Rudy’s side of the story there? And in any case, isn’t the real question how good a president he would be? Is "meanness" incompatible with statesmanship? I’m not sure it is.

Yes, Julie, very good points.

So, a man who calls a press conference to announce his divorce (before even telling his wife) does not have serious character issues?? Hum, not sure what "her side of the story" would add. "Mean" seems to be apt, what term would you use? Then of course, I have perhaps an old fashioned (and Christian) sense of what it means to be "family". Character counts, as they say.

Still, many many conservatives (this blog being small evidence) are trying real hard to convince themselves that Giuliani is their man. I feel for ya! With are two party system it’s always a terrible compromise. Actually, "compromise" is not the right term, since you get so little out of the deal. I am not sure conservatives will have a real place until a viable third party (or forth or fifth) gains traction...

Yes, Christopher. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea for Rudy to bring up "family values." But I, for one, will be happy to have a vacation from the kind of inane language that usually marks the attempts of politicians to address these issues. Platitudes about "family values" like platitudes about abortion, accomplish very little in the end. When formulated in the stupid way they’ve been formulated in the last couple of decades, they don’t even do much to move public opinion. I think one could even argue that the uninspired language of a good number of Republicans on "family values" has done much to move public opinion away from good sense and (consequently) over to the Dems. If a guy can’t do a thing right, he’s better off to leave it to the experts. I don’t mean to say that Rudy can’t talk about these things because he’s failed in the past (who hasn’t?). I believe in that old-fashioned and Christian thing called Repentance. Of course, I don’t think Rudy has shown himself to be particularly repentant (though I confess to having a genuine lack of curiosity about his marital situation, so maybe he has). More important, I just don’t think Rudy would be very good at this kind of talk--it’s not his "thing." It wouldn’t be real. It would be pandering to what he thinks people want to hear and it would sound as insincere as it probably would be.

Third parties are always a loser. They just are. The two parties keep us sane--though perpetually slightly unhappy. That’s not a bad thing, you know. Working within the party and exercising patience do a body (and the party) good. It gives us all time for deliberation, reflection, and then choice. And it gives public opinion time to catch up. Let me put it another way that may shock you: If I could by some magic, snap my fingers and fill the halls of government at every level, with people who think and would act as I do on every particular (or even most particulars), I would not do it. It would be awful. If public opinion is not ready to accept these views then it would be a disaster and it would turn public opinion even further away from the things I hold dear. So the question really is how do you turn public opinion? I don’t know the full answer to that question but I do know this: it’s not by picking up your toys and stomping off to start your own party. If you can’t persuade the people within the GOP, what chance will you have of getting at the vast electorate with an upstart little nothing of a party? I understand the frustration, but at bottom the suggestion comes from nothing but frustration. That’s not where you want to be when you make important decisions.

David suggests another view of the matter: Because I might vote for the man, must I necessarily say I would have him for a husband? I have my doubts about whether Rudy would measure up to the high standard of "statesmanship." But I don’t think "meanness" is a thing that is incompatible with being a "pretty good" president either. In any event, I’d rather have a mean but "pretty good" president than a "nice" but awful president--as HC would certainly be.


I see your point, he would be a bit insincere. I don’t think you can say he has done anything resembling repentance, not that we are privy to his "heart of hearts". Still, we can’t assume he has - that would be "cheap forgiveness" that seems to common these days.

I would not characterize the battle for "family values" as "uninspired". On the contrary - it would not have succeeded as much as it has with out a little inspiration. The left (and the Devil) have certainly waged a dirty and bloody battle in this ’cultural war’. It has set the stage for what little action we have seen from the politicos.

Where we really part ways is the idea that two parties "keep us sane". Your right desire for a multiplicity of views in the public square is hurt, not helped by the two party system. We have a liberal (slightly classical liberal - but mostly liberal ) party and a wacko / Euro / militantly secular / socialist party. There is no conservative option. The conservative wing of the GOP just has not produced any results. It’s time to expand our options. We have been patiently waiting for results since Goldwater and before. The only sane decision (born out of reason and patience, not frustration) is to spend the next 10, 20, or 30 years building the grassroots for a conservative option - "little upstart" though it will be. In the mean time, it would be a waste to continue to pull for a GOP that is not conservative and can’t be for all the reasons you cited...

"So the question really is how do you turn public opinion?"

Absolutely that is an essential question. Do you move public opinion by caving into it, or do you take a firm, principled stand. Voting for Rudy would be the former. Voting third party and deliberately tanking Rudy would send a much clearer message than would sheepishly voting for him as the lesser of two evils.

There is no way to record a vote "with reservations." Your vote is a 100% endorsement. So the fact that you are holding your nose while voting makes NO practical difference. The only way to send a message to move right is to vote for a rightist third party.

But this is all mute anyway, because I am sure all the good conservatives at NLT are going to be supporting clearly the best candidate, Ron Paul, and we will together put him over the top.

Ron Paul? That left-winger? He has forsaken the old gods, and has abandoned clay tablets in favor of that modernist contrivance of the pen and paper. Feh, I spit upon him!

TC, because you can’t or won’t argue facts, you resort to shear silliness.

Please show me one paleo who has ever argued for just a mindless, endless appeal to the ancient? We are trying to preserve/restore a specific tradition/time/place/society. That tradition is specifically Christian, so your snide remarks about Zeus are ignorant.

Ron Paul is a paleolibertarian. If you were interested in political philosophy instead of just being childish, then we could actually have a serious debate about where libertarianism falls on the political spectrum. How do paleolibertarians differ from other libertarians? There may be some truth that Ron Paul’s underlying philosophy is left-wing. His politics are for practical purposes however, very conservative.

On what ground do you privilege Christianity (the Protestant version--less than 500 years old, no less) over older pagan traditions? Do you do this to honor your Christian ancestors, who explicitly dishonored THEIR ancestors by forsaking the old gods? It seems that you are more or less randomly settling on 17th century England as your model society. On what other basis can you be choosing this, over the countless other periods in the history of your race? Surely, based on your comments, you don’t think that man’s foolish reason can be relied upon for the purposes of making such a critical judgment. So what is it, then, that drives your choice?

Does this still sound silly to you?

"On what ground do you privilege Christianity … over older pagan traditions?"

Because Christianity is true and the older pagan traditions are not. Although we can learn things and should from the pagan tradition.

I support a pre-modern polity because the modern polity has made such a mess of things. It has facilitated material prosperity, but at the cost of our soul. It is costing us our future, as Western society dies a slow death from the excesses of its own liberalism.

I thought the point you were making was similar to the one I always hear when I invoke the old ways. “So I guess you want to give up penicillin.” Which is of course a silly point. If that is not what you were getting at then what was the reference to clay tablets?

Christopher: From where will you cull your converts to this new third party over the next 10-30 (!) years? From the ranks of existing Republicans, most likely. You may get some disaffected Dems and some other stragglers, but be real for a moment. Most of them are going to be disaffected old members of the GOP. So isn’t it a bit of wasted energy and treasure to re-build a structure that only needs re-modeling (even if it is a serious re-modeling)? You’d have to make a darn good case (and you haven’t) to tear down the whole thing and start from scratch. You have to, for instance, make a convincing case that in so doing you would not . . . oh, say hand over national security and the borders to the deranged madmen (and women) on the left. You can’t make that case because the fact of the matter is that this is exactly what will happen if the GOP self-destructs.

Can’t conservatives just build their army from within the party? If we can’t (and you’ve given us at least 30 more years for the effort--so this shouldn’t be that tall of an order) then I think it may be time to start asking ourselves some very hard questions about what we are doing wrong. I think that’s exactly the problem we (meaning all conservatives) are having in the GOP. We’re not making a compelling case about anything--at least not one that resonates with the electorate. The conservatives within the GOP cannot leave to form a new party! What would that even look like? It would be the protestant reformation all over again! We’d splinter into utter meaninglessness before we ever came back together again for a stupid pancake breakfast. We cannot be a separate party when we don’t even agree about the things with which we disagree within the GOP! We are a dysfunctional family, I suppose. But, like the family in the wonderful movie Little Miss Sunshine, we’re a damn sight better than the other families at the beauty pageant. Perhaps it’s the pageant we should leave, not the family.

I’m getting so tired of conservatives bitching about their inability to get control of the agenda. Everyone looks in the wrong places for an explanation. It’s a general inability to be persuasive that is to blame. And that, I think, stems from a general lack of consensus among us and a general detachment from the hearts and minds of the people.

The truth of the matter is that like moths are drawn to a powerful light, the opportunistic and power-hungry are driven to support our two major political parties. Most of these people don’t support the ideals that their party espouses. All they care is that their candidate wins and they have power and control.

Conservatives cannot get control of the agenda because most of the people who actually control the power and money (consultants, lobbyists, and the like) care about one thing: winning. A popular saying seems to be something along the line: "I support Republicans first and conservatives second."

It’s not that we are not persuasive enough...It’s that the people who drive the party simply don’t care. They’re too busy with focus groups and polling to care about convictions.

You’ll probably say I’m too cynical, but I believe you should save judgment until you actually spend time around the people who create and mold public opinion.

Wake Up: Do you really think that the politicians popping out of the mold you describe are now shaping public opinion? On the contrary! They are shaped by it! Thus it is that he who shapes public opinion shapes everything. Right now, that’s not us conservatives (at least not to the extent that it needs to be us for the good of the country). Again, I say that your protests, though obviously heartfelt and certainly grounded in some bits of truth, do not address the central issue. Pardon me, but it sounds a bit like whining and conspiracy theory stuff. Do you imagine that these evil puppeteers pulling the strings behind the scenes; these vile creatures who ignore you at every turn, would keep that up if you had the kind of following that they needed to support their marionettes? Your complaint amounts to this: Republican government is hard. Getting people to think clearly about it is hard. Yup . . . so what’s your point?

Dan Phillips: You say Christianity is true and to be privileged over and against pagan tradition. That’s a fair point--though I do see much logic in TC’s tounge-in-cheek critique of your position. But I have a real question for you: Do you arrive at your position that Christianity is true because of faith, tradition, reason, or some combination of these things? Just genuinely curious.


: From where will you cull your converts to this new third party over the next 10-30 (!) years? From the ranks of existing Republicans, most likely.


So isn’t it a bit of wasted energy and treasure to re-build a structure that only needs re-modeling (even if it is a serious re-modeling)?

No. What is wasteful is working in a system that by definition can not be "re-modeled", let alone "re-built". Two parties mean "big tent", and "big tent" means compromise way past acceptable compromise to always be unacceptable compromise. Not that conservatives have even really gotten much compromise, even when the conditions were as good as they were ever likely to be (94-06).

national security and the borders to the deranged madmen (and women) on the left.

That is already how it is now. Conservatives have been trying to convince themselves that they have made a real difference even in this crucial area, but it’s wishful thinking. The "lesser of two evils" paradigm just does not work when both evils are really, really evil :)

Can’t conservatives just build their army from within the party?

No. They have been trying for at least 50 years now, to no avail. You can not by definition, because "big tent" two party system is too exclusionary (I know, people always want to turn it around and say it’s "in-clusionary").

We cannot be a separate party when we don’t even agree about the things with which we disagree within the GOP! We are a dysfunctional family, I suppose.

That’s comes back to the "big tent" - libertarians, Rockefeller Repubs, Big Business liberals, politicized evangelicals - all these and more are not traditional conservatives and conservatives are not these things. We are not a family at all, we a wondering band of travelers who happen to find themselves on the same road, the road going to nowhere any of us want to go because it’s all a big unacceptable compromise.

Go back to your earlier point about persuasion - how can a "big tent" find consensus on the un-consentable and persuade anyone with an unacceptable compromise? It can’t, and never will.


I wrote the above post in that familiar line by line style, and it came across more adversarial than I intended. We obviously disagree as to whether conservativism can succeed in the GOP, but I merely want to discuss it :)

You do realize that what you are advocating is a party system similar to that of European nations where every silly little faction has equal access to the electorate. Thus you get a conglomerate of socialists, social-democrats, Communists, neo-Nazis, nationalists, etc. And what does that accomplish? This gives none of them anything to talk about together or any reason to try. Also, their nations are not founded--as ours is--upon central unifying themes. Even crazy lunatic leftists, if they want to gain traction here, must make some kind of appeal to the Constitution and the principles of American democracy. It may be a cursory or insincere nod, but it’s still required. When that’s no longer required you will have chaos. The Constitution will be spit upon. It will be the kind of moral relativism you deplore writ large. I still prefer to see parties acknowledge their constitutional bona fides--even if they are pretending and even if they are wrong. At least this way we continue to hold out the hope that one day we will look toward those things and get it right.

Further, without meaning to sound dismissive, I don’t find anything you said above to be founded in anything other than a justified impatience and frustration. I share your impatience. I am just as irritated with the establishment GOP as you are. But it’s not right to give in to that impatience. Put it to good use and go persuade 10 friends to become conservatives AND to join the GOP. Get them to do the same. If all the angry conservatives out there had spent more time doing this and less time whining, it wouldn’t have taken us 50 years to get here and it won’t take us another 30 to get to where we want to be. You give party hacks way too much credit if you think they are actively working to keep conservatives out of politics. They just want to win, like you said. And I’m glad there are people who can dedicate themselves to that sort of work. But we have to show them that we can win and we aren’t doing that when we talk silly talk about forming 3rd parties every time we don’t get our way.

"Also, their nations are not founded--as ours is--upon central unifying themes."

There is that Strauss/Jaffa left-wing "proposition nation" myth again. Would you please do me one little favor and at least admit that is a left-wing idea?

"The Constitution will be spit upon."

It is already being spit upon. The 3 trillion dollar budget is again all the proof anyone needs to cite. No Great Centralizer in 1861, no 3 trillion dollar budget today.

Re. # 26. I, like the pre-modern Western tradition, think human reason is important. There is much that can be discerned through it. But it is not sufficient. We must also rely on Revelation as well. The Revelation of the Bible. The Revelation of nature. And the individual Revelation of the Holy Spirit.

History, tradition, and nature are an important element and serve as a guard against the excesses of philosophizing. This has always been the conservative position. It is liberals who have overly relied on philosophizing.

"From where will you cull your converts to this new third party over the next 10-30 (!) years? From the ranks of existing Republicans, most likely. You may get some disaffected Dems and some other stragglers, but be real for a moment. Most of them are going to be disaffected old members of the GOP."

I actually agree with Julie entirely here. I have been having this argument with fellow conservatives for years. Some want a "revolution from the middle." Some want to awaken the slumbering masses. Some want to form a new coalition. (I’m not sure all the elements of a new coalition would be good.) But a new conservative movement is going to rise from the ashes of the old conservative movement if it ever comes. That is part of the reason I sometimes hang out at mainstream conservative sites. These are future converts. What is the use of setting around talking solely to ourselves.

I am not as dogmatic on the third party issue as Chris. I think it is fine for conservatives to work in the GOP in the primaries. They just can’t commit themselves to automatically voting for the GOP nominee if he is unsatisfactory. Then it is time to vote third party.

The American system is rigged, not originally intentionally, to a two party system. So the question is will it be easier to reform the GOP or replace it. I don’t know the answer to that.

Julie, where we disagree is that a purely pragmatic strategy NEVER gets you bask where you want to return to. At best it gets you to where you don’t want to be more slowly. If we end up supporting Rudy in 08 for example, do you really think that some point down the road some magical conservative is going to appear who will say we need to return to the Constitution and everyone is going to cheer? If then, why not now? Actually Rudy would more likely forever shift the baseline.

Please show me a strategy where we return to Constitutional government by slow pragmatism. Today if a conservative "slows the rate of growth" of something they pat themselves on the back like they have accomplished something. But that is just slower change in the wrong direction.

Quite frankly, I think most mainstream conservatives have just come to terms with unconstitutional government and talk of slow pragmatic change in the right direction is just to pacify the grumpy hard right like me.

I am realistic. I think a return to Constitutional government is unlikely. I think a governmental and societal collapse from excessive spending and an inflated currency is much more likely. But I ain’t going down without a fight. I just ain’t in me to do that.

We must draw a line in the sand now. Throw down the gauntlet now. Not in 2012. Not in 2016. Now.

If you have a leak in your roof, Dan, the time to throw down the gauntlet is when you have a reliable roofer. Until then, you get some buckets. You don’t quit collecting the water because you’re mad that no reliable roofer is available. Perhaps you’re the type who tries to "do it himself"--unless you’re very handy that almost always makes the problem worse. It doesn’t surprise me though that you are so anxious to throw down this gauntlet because, as you say, I think a return to Constitutional government is unlikely. I think a governmental and societal collapse from excessive spending and an inflated currency is much more likely. But I ain’t going down without a fight. That worked very well for your side in the past too, didn’t it? But let’s not go there and enjoy this rare moment of (some, probably superficial) agreement.

For the record, however, I have always said that I don’t like the term "conservative" because it doesn’t mean anything. If it were hyphenated with American in front, it might be a bit better. But "conservative" alone is relativistic. I don’t want to conserve everything and anything just because it is old. I only want to conserve those things that are good and true. Anyway, that is my test and if--because you think I elevate reason over piety in using that test--you want to call me "left wing" I guess I can’t stop you. I’ve been called worse. But can you not admit that there is such a thing as "stupid piety?"

And Dan, if you think you’re grumpy about the trend away from the Constitution, you ought to meet some of my friends! I’m no Pollyanna here, I know we’re in it deep. But it just ain’t in me to think that we Americans, who have accomplished so much and at such great cost, are actually going to allow it to engulf us. I like us. I think we are still a wonderful people. We have many, many problems. But our greatness transcends those problems. I still believe we’re capable of mighty things when presented with the right circumstances and the right arguments. But therein lies my hope: I believe in those arguments. I’ll keep on digging within the GOP as I think that’s actually doing some good.

In the spirit of agreeableness, I also very much enjoyed Little Miss Sunshine. I hope it wins the Oscar. In a year of bad movies, it really was a ray of Sunshine.

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