Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

HRC’s religion

Michael Gerson argues--following Paul G. Kengor’s new book, God and Hillary Clinton--that HRC is sincere about her religion and very sincere about her support for the right to an abortion. Here’s MG’s prediction regarding 2008:

How are religious voters likely to respond to a religious believer who is also a social liberal? Roman Catholics, with their strong commitment to the poor, should be open to a Democratic message of economic justice. A majority of Christians, Catholic and Protestant, support the goals of broader health coverage and increased humanitarian aid abroad. But the most intensely religious Americans of both traditions also tend to be the most conservative on moral issues such as abortion. And it is hard to imagine that these voters will be successfully courted by the most comprehensively pro-choice presidential candidate in American history.

That might change under one circumstance: if Rudy Giuliani were the Republican nominee. Whatever Giuliani promised concerning the appointment of conservative judges, a pro-choice Republican nominee would blur the contrast between the parties on abortion. And between two pro-choice options, a larger number of religious voters might support the one with a stronger emphasis on poverty -- because, after all, Jesus did have a lot to say about how we treat the poor.

I’ll repeat what I’ve said many times before: there’s also an argument about how best to help the least among us, one that Republicans had better engage if they want to remain competitive in national elections, for the reasons Gerson offers.

If you want to read an interview with the exceedingly prolific Kengor (it seems like it was just yesterday that he sent me a copy of this book), go here.

Update: Yuval Levin makes a quick political point in agreement with Gerson. Patrick D. goes on at greater length about the problematical character of what he hopes will be "the corpse of the Frankenstein-like Christian-libertarian Republican coalition." He’s less confident than Gerson that a Giuliani-Clinton race will cause loads of bleeding from R to D; but he does think that those who are discontented with modernity might be persuaded to support a new William Jennings Bryan, thus handing the victory to HRC. I’ll suspend judgment until he comes up with a plausible WJB.

Discussions - 13 Comments

This is the problem with putting up Rudy against either Hillary or Obama.
Even if the Republicans put forward some market-driven party program, Rudy's indifference to the so-called social issues will cause Evangelical bleeding.

While I agree with the difficulty of having a GOP pro-abortion candidate like RG, isn't it possible for him to emphasize the issue of judicial appointments, comparing his to HRC's, enough to make the difference clear even or especially on social issues? Would he not understand the need for this, and wouldn't making the courts a primary concern keep most of the religious right base in the Republican column?

I myself think of RG as the mirror image of Mario Cuomo, the bete noir of religious conservatives. Mario was "personally opposed to abortion," but refused to apply his personal position to his public policies. Isn't RG the reverse, "personally pro-choice" but unwilling to impose his personal position in public policy? If Cuomo's position was so disliked by social issue conservatives, shouldn't Giuliani's be at least tolerable? Isn't it ideologically purist to demand personal conviction as well as good policy?

to dennis: rudy, as i said in the post, has to say that ROE was wrongly decided and explain clearly and with conviction why. otherwise, his practical position is exactly the same as cuomo's, and that's the problem.

You know there's a problem brewing when the Claremont Institute sponsors an APSA roundtable with the title "Is Social Conservatism Good for Conservatism." Wow - what a giveaway!

As for a candidate, Huckabee could be someone, though I don't know if he'd consider a third party run if he's not offered the VP slot (assuming, for the moment, he doesn't get the nomination). But, as you free market types like to point out, where there's a demand, supply will rush in to fill it. It seems obvious to me that if there's a Giulary/Hilliani race, a demand will be created, and if you build it, He will come....

Peter, I understand you but don't precisely agree. In fact I believe that no GOP candidate since Reagan has said anything about the reasons for reversing Roe. However, Giuliani has expressly said that he would appoint Justices modeled after Roberts, Alito, Thomas, and Scalia. Certainly Cuomo would never say such a thing, nor of course Hill. I don't think any other Republican will say why Roe should be reversed either, but in the absence of that -- assuming Giuliani isn't lying thru his teeth or abysmally ignorant of what he has committed to -- it isn't a bad appeal to social conservatives at all, faced with Hill as the alternative.

G, has not even begun to explain why such justices are good. And he said enough to suggest that his real opinion is that a woman has a const. right to an abortion. G. is the only R. that's clearly pro-choice personally, and so he's the only one from whom a clear explanation on the compatibility between the pro-choice and anti-ROE position is required. The others create the impression that they're all personally against abortion in some sense, although I agree that they're all very short on explanation.

Pat, To be fair to Claremont, the panel was stacked against the libertarian guy.

In the not too distant past, Giuliani was saying that Roe was good constitutional law which should not be overturned. Merely invoking federalism will not extricate him from that position.

Rudy's indifference to the so-called social issues will cause Evangelical bleeding.

I think he'll lose votes among the "Reagan Democrats" also, who were broadly populist and nationalistic. As well as among NRA members.

Rudy is a liberal globalist. Arguably the same is true of Bush and the other GOP front runners also. But that's not where the party in general is.

Peter -
Well, then maybe the answer (according to the composition of the panel) is yes - except that the question is pretty absurd. It should have been called, "Are Social Conservatives Necessary for the Republican Party?" The libertarian guy made a pretty compelling electoral case that they're not. So, I'm not sure the fact that the panel was so stacked really resulted in an automatic win (that's why they play the games).

There's a book out arguing that the Democrats can win without the South. The libertarian guy wants the Republicans to win without the South. You guys are becoming the problem children for both the parties. But, it turns out you really can't win without the South (all that resistance to our libertarian paradise). So, who's it going to be?

I'm leaning more and more towards Romney because at the end of the day I really don't trust Rudy to carry through on his promises to the social conservatives. Call Romney a flip-flopper all you want, but I think he was truly a social conservative who played politics to get elected in a liberal state. Rudy is a social liberal who got elected in a liberal state. Thompson's campaign is going nowhere fast (which doesn't surprise me), so I really think it comes down to Romney and Rudy. All the people out there who were excited about Thompson or keep trying to pretend you're excited about Huckabee seem to believe there is a Ronald Reagan out there who is going to ride in and save the day. There isn't. Accept it and get serious - time is of the essence.

To Pat: It's true that libertarians are blaming Southern extremists for ruining the Republican party. But of course the last election turned on corruption and incompetence, and not "ideology." But I also agree that soft libertarian utopianism has infected both parties to some extent. To Andrew: What you say makes sense, but only if Romney gets focused and less boring, really catches on, and minimizes somehow the Mormon problem.
There is no Reagan out there to unite and save us, and Hillary is acceptable to her whole party in a way none of the Republicans is to his.

Time is not really of the essence yet. It is still 13 1/2 months until the electon. Plenty of time for Mike Huckabee to save the party.


God and Hillary Clinton: A Spiritual Life. Cover: Hillary's weathered countenance reflects the afternoon sun; behold the bucolic portrait of liberal beatitude. “For nearly three decades, political observers have sought to understand the complex relationship between Hillary Clinton's faith and her politics. Now, in this first spiritual biography of the former first lady, acclaimed historian Paul Kengor sets out to answer the elusive question: What does Hillary Clinton believe?”

This just in: the Clintons have been insulting our intelligence for over thirty-five years. “Take the image we have of Jesus—of Jesus as the Shepherd,” says Hillary. There isn’t a soul who doesn’t believe that if the Good Shepherd returned today, he wouldn’t smack Hillary Clinton into the middle of next week. I pity the fool who believes the Clintons; I pity the fool who spends $24.95 on Kengor’s inane book. But, despite Hillary’s manifest virtue and desire to do good works, every now and then there’s a moment of truth:

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