Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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The End of the Litmus Test?

Over at the Weekly Standard, Noemie Emery suggests that if Rudy Giuliani is the Republican nominee in 2008, it will represent an end to the litmus test that social conservatives have imposed on the party’s candidates since 1980. This appears increasingly likely, as the war looms largest in most Republicans’ minds in terms of importance, and because the Democrats’ victories in 2006 have left the GOP desperate to retain its status as majority party.

The deal in the works has been carefully crafted to make sure that no one loses too much. Conservatives would be getting a pro-choice nominee, but one who would not push a pro-choice agenda, and one who would give them (as far as presidents can be sure in these matters) the kind of judges they long for. Giuliani would not be required to renounce his beliefs, merely to appoint the right kind of judges and to remain more or less neutral in a policy area in which, to be honest, he has never shown that much interest. The Republicans will remain the pro-life party--as desired by the bulk of their voters and required by the workings of the two-party system--though now with a larger, more varied, and in some ways more competitive field of candidates. And it is worth noting in this altered context that the Democrats also are starting to change. One of the reasons Democrats now run both the houses of Congress is that canny recruiters defied their own culture war lobbies and rammed a number of pro-life and pro-gun candidates down the throats of their interest groups, assessing correctly that control of Congress was worth a few unhappy activists. They are not yet at the point of nominating a pro-life candidate on the national level, but the lid has been pried open a crack. Someday, they too may find a candidate whom they find attractive--say, for irony’s sake, a Bob Casey Jr.--except for this single and glaring impediment. And at that point, they too might deal.

For Emery this development is to be welcomed, for the litmus test

...has been a very good deal for the people who imposed it, but a very bad one for the country at large. It has meant that a candidate for national office must begin by embracing ideas that have been rejected by seven in ten of Americans, while a candidate who comes close to the center of public opinion would never be allowed to compete. It has made candidates for the post of commander in chief of the world’s greatest power kick off their campaigns by groveling before leaders of interest groups, which does not make them seem leaderly and causes voters to lose all respect. Worst of all, it posed the real possibility that a candidate would come forth who seemed equipped to deal with a crisis, but who, because he held the "wrong views" in the eyes of the interest groups, would not be allowed to emerge. In Giuliani, some social conservatives think they have found such a candidate and do not want to waste him. And so, they are making a deal.

Discussions - 14 Comments

I actually think the litmus test remins on the issue of whether ROE was rightly decided. RG is admitting that he has to say no and appt. judges who will say no if he is to be Republican president. (Privately, of course, he doesn’t give a damn about ROE and is trying to divert as much attention as possible away from the issue of "judicial activism.") And no national Demo can express doubt about the rightness of ROE. If and when Roe is reversed, then Americans will have to confront the issue of abortion policy in a democracy. The Republicans have no real reason to look forward to that contentious time, but it still has to come.

A not-so-bold prediction: If the Republican Party effectively drops the "litmus-test", a third party consisting of disaffected pro-lifers will form immediately. To many, this isn’t first and foremost about winning elections, it’s about upholding the truth. And, yes, I know that political power can only be wielded when holding political power, and forming a third party is problematic at best, but a pro-choice presidential candidate (even with the "Guiliani caveats" described above) is unacceptable for a large group of pro-lifers. Rudy *may* well be the Republican nominee, but if so, he won’t have the same party behind him.
I believe Peter is right: Roe *will* be overturned, and then a messy and long overdue democratic fight will unfold within the several state legislatures. And the results will be mixed at best. Where is our Lincoln? It’s.......unlikely that he (or she) will hail from NYC.

Well, Gary is right...But will you, Gary, support Rudy if he makes it clear that he understands that the issue is judicial activism for now. Could you trust him to appoint Alito-type judges? Who are you for instead this time?

Peter: Can I trust Guliani? Respondeo: Could his first wife (two wives?) trust him to keep his word when his passions "changed"? (I realize that’s a deeply cynical answer.....but if it applies to Newt it applies to Rudy.) Character counts.
For now I’m quixotically supporting Brownback. I’m unsure of your basis for questioning his prudence. I agree that his chances of winning the nomination, much less the election, are slim-to-none. But it’s important that someone with conviction articulate the very arguments you called for. I’m willing to support that effort morally and financially. I need to go see "Wilberforce" to {analogously} sustain my hopes.

The Republicans have no real reason to look forward to that contentious time, but it still has to come.

I’m curious as to why you think that. I’d guess that neither party much wants the matter to be resolved in the legislature, which is why they have managed to keep it in the courts for the past thirty years. But if Roe goes, its not an obvious advantage to either party.

Gary, There’s reason to wonder about Brownback as commander-in-chief. (When you email by the way, it gets caught in my spamcatcher, I just discovered a Dec 24 from you there--Merry Christmas!) On "Amazing Grace" (featuring the most admirable Wilberforce), after seeing the movie I’m still not sure what happened in England. Politically the movie wasn’t very realistic, although it was old-fashioned in the good sense in according reward to virtue and making honor real (not that honor isn’t really real). [And I thought the Albert Finney character was just a mess.] The movie did some justice to the prudence of Pitt, with which W. couldn’t have succeeded. But Giuliani perhaps can’t be compared to Pitt; on the life issues even his heart probably isn’t in the right place.

Roe is the definitive example of a judiciary run amok. Just like the recent homosexual ruling, another example of judges acting more like activists. As such, Roe’s continued place of prominence in the body of our law forces Americans to either defend it, or denounce it. It’s binary, there isn’t ground for compromise. The best that can be achieved is the overthrow of Roe, and it’s equally problematic progeny, and the return of the issue to the several states.

It should be noted however, that the tide is with the pro-life movement. In Europe and Japan, the demographic implosion is FORCING governments to overthrow the regnant radical pro-abortion views. And moreover, science is beginning to be heard on the subject. Every year, science is providing increasingly better views of what goes on during a pregnancy, and those views are casting light, a very graphic and illuminating light, earlier and earlier in the pregnancy. Every year, Newsweek and Time run cover photos of fetuses in the womb, and those pictures, amazing graphic, are increasingly swaying the public.

Polls taken by Planned Parenthood indicate that now a slight majority of women are against abortion. That number is only going to grow, as more and more women are exposed to sonogram pictures and videos.

Think of it this way, when a college co-ed who is a radical pro-abortionists, goes home for break, and is show pictures of her niece in the womb of her sister, pretty early in a pregnancy, IT’S BOUND to cause psychological, cultural and moral ripples in the mind and soul of the pro-abortionist. Those pictures are driving the debate, and as the science improves, the pictures will improve.

Thus this isn’t the time for the GOP to yield ground on Roe, not when the public and the science are finally beginning to come around to their position.

Roe flows from Lochner. It has to be overturned. It’s the modern equivalent to Dred Scott. And all of the other social and sexual decisions that move in Roe’s wake, that move around serving as prop and protection to Roe, they too, must be overthrown.

I saw a stat that demonstrated that roughly 90% of the abortions occurring today occur in California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey.

EACH of those states has ALREADY taken action ensuring that if Roe is overthrown, that legal abortion will still be available within their jurisdictions. So the overthrow of Roe will not lead to a significant reduction in the number of abortions taking place.

I’m surprised that Republicans don’t make more use of that statistic. It’s a way of blunting hysteria in some of the blue states, blunting donations, blunting ads, blunting energy. Furthermore, it would make people in a frenzy about preserving Roe seem strange, weird, creepy, obsessed. It would make them look like genuine fanatics.

There’s always political advantage to be found in making your political opponent look like a fanatic. Democrats have taught that lesson to Republicans ever since FDR’s tenure. You think that some operative in our party would have FINALLY learned that hard lesson.

But then again, a party that raises an Andy Card to White House Chief of Staff isn’t likely to have learned much.

Peter: What is it about Brownback’s CV that makes you wonder about him as C-I-C? Do you find more reason to "wonder" about Brownback as CIC than, say, Romney? I’d say Brownback has TONS more experience in foreign affairs (and has actually moved the debate and policy) than George W. Bush had prior to becoming president.
(Your spamcatcher was obviously acting as a surrogate guardian angel. Happy New Year to you!)

There is definitely a group of conservatives who will bolt if Rudy is the nominee. Not just on life, but on immigrations, guns, gays, etc.

Check out this site The Conservative Exodus Project

Ahhh, the return of the east coast Republican.

Work well for us in the past ... right?

Tancredo for CIC! Hell yes!

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