Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Socon bolt a signal?

Jay Cost wonders if the muttering about Giuliani’s unacceptability and the likelihood of a third party candidacy is mostly a signal to religious conservative voters about the substance of RG’s stance. The news coverage is even cheaper and more likely to get people’s attention than an email blast. If they get the message and vote for someone else in the primaries, the (empty) threats will have served their purpose.

Our friend the Friar thinks that this is a mighty generous interpretation.

Discussions - 15 Comments

If the social conservatives want to energize around an alternative candidate in the primaries, that's great. That's what primaries are all about. But that's a whole different thing than sitting on their hands in the primaries and then, when (and if) Guiliani is the nominee, bolting for a third-party candidate.

I haven't heard anyone proposing sitting out the primaries.

But for some blockheads, such as Dobson, talk of a 3d party is just that, talk, empty talk.

Some of those Bible belters actually expect the party to go with Huckabee, creepy Brownback or even Romney, {he of a thousand positions...}.

To be perfectly frank, {whenever am I not...}, there are some in the Bible Belt who wouldn't be happy with anyone less than some Harriet Meirs type. The very same people who went to the mattresses for her, are now issuing demands to the rest of us who pulled them back from the brink.

Whatever I suppose. A Conservative's work is never done...............

Joe wrote: " I haven't heard anyone proposing sitting out the primaries."

My point is this ... if the social conservatives are really opposed to a Guiliani candidacy, they'd rally their resources behind one of the other candidates and make certain that candidate defeats Guiliani in the key early states.

Question: who's the consensus alternative candidate, if not Guiliani?

Answer: there isn't one. The social conservatives are whining about Guiliani but they're not really centering down on someone else. Sure, there's a scattered sense of support for Huckabee, shared with some for Thompson, with Brownback getting a percent or two. But there's no coordinated, organized effort by the major names in the social conservative movement to get behind a non-Guiliani candidate and work for that candidate's success.

Am I wrong about this?

I think Don is quite right as what else are primaries for? That there is no one, apparently, to rally around in any clear way shows just how much the social conservatives are in disarray. I have read of some 20% of Republican voters who are still solid Bush supporters and I wonder who they look to at this point. Does anyone here know?


I think you're right that ABG seems still to be focused on "Anybody," which may well not be productive in heading off RG. I'd watch the Values Voters summit later this month to see if there's any movement, and I'd also watch Giuliani to see if he makes any conciliatory noises.

It may be that religious conservative leaders are waiting for someone to catch fire, emerging as the principal alternative to RG (after which they'll throw their support). It may also be that Giuliani could move far enough in their direction for them to declare victory (though I doubt it).

Viewed from the religious concservative point of view, all of the so-called first-tier candidates have liabilities, but many could in the end be acceptable.

Joe wrote: "...and I'd also watch Giuliani to see if he makes any conciliatory noises."

Now that's something I hadn't factored sufficiently. It may well be that the social conservatives are making noise about a third party candidate simply to get Guiliani to go public with statements lending support to "the cause." Once done, Guiliani becomes "acceptable" (though perhaps not perfect) and the SCs then drop in line behind him if he's the nominee. In other words, it's a negotiation taking place between the SCs and RG, and it's taking place in the public sphere.

Joe wrote: "Viewed from the religious conservative point of view, all of the so-called first-tier candidates have liabilities, but many could in the end be acceptable."

Agree. But if in the end the social conservatives reject the nominee in favor of a "pure" third party candidate that puts HRC in the White House, then my regard for the SCs diminishes further still. The world of representative politics is not a "pure" endeavor. The GOP is not in a favorable position. When playing with such a poor hand the strategy often comes down to minimizing maximum harm. Eight years of HRC with a Democrat-majority Congress would be maximum harm.

Isn't it possible that the socons, esp. Dobson, are going public about a third party because that is what they actually intend to do? I think there is some strategy involved in trying to get primary voters to understand that Rudy is not the "prudent" choice because he would fracture the party, but I do not think this is about getting Rudy to come their way.

Trust me. Dobson will never support Rudy. It is simply a matter of how hard and publicly he will work against him.

Bauer, Evans, and Perkins might, if they lose their nerve, tacitly endorse Rudy or just not openly oppose him, but Dobson will not.

I really can not think like the pragmatist here. That mindset drives me nutty. Is there no higher good than avoiding the election of Hillary? Is the highest good a negative? Personally I would lose all respect for the socons, what respect I have left after their support of the War, if they cave and support Rudy. That to me is just craven.

So Don in AZ, you would respect a sheepish, socon movement that proves they are in the hip pocket of the GOP, but would lose respect for a movement that refuses to cave in and vote for a clearly bad candidate in Giuliani? What value is it that you are respecting? Lack of a spine?

Recall a similar thing happened when there was talk of Powell as the nominee or as VP. They even held a press conference saying Powell was unacceptable. It included prominent socons, but also beltway movement conservatives - Morton Blackwell, Weyrich, Vigueri?, Keene? etc.

Weyrich and Vig have publicly stated they will not support Rudy? I think they need to have a similar press conference again.

Red Phillips wrote: "So Don in AZ, you would respect a sheepish, socon movement that proves they are in the hip pocket of the GOP, but would lose respect for a movement that refuses to cave in and vote for a clearly bad candidate in Giuliani? What value is it that you are respecting? Lack of a spine?"

What I would respect is a socon movement that was actively backing one of the other candidates. That would mean they're throwing in with who they deem as best. Right now they're sitting on the sidelines, hinting negatively about Guiliani, but nothing more. I see no principled reason why they would not be offering full-throated support for the candidate they deem best ... other than they don't want to be caught out when that candidate doesn't win the nomination.

So, bottom line ... the social conservatives are being sheepish right now. If Huckabee is the best on abortion, than Dobson, Bauer, Evans, and Perkins ought to be out actively campaigning for Huckabee. But they're not. They're sheepishly standing on the sidelines, waiting to see what happens.

That's not principled leadership. That's calculated risk avoidance.

Am I being clear enough?

Don in AZ,

The socon movement is not monolithic. They can't just command that everyone support candidate X and expect that to happen. Any more than the pragma"cons" (can I copyright that?) can demand all their folks support Rudy or Mitt or whoever.

In the past the socons haven't always coalesced around anyone either. The difference is that then the front runner and eventual nominee was always at least marginally acceptable on their issues. (Of coursed they were duped as Bush I, Dole, and Bush II never cared about their issues.)

The problem now is that all the front runners, as determined by the MSM and powers that be, are deeply flawed.

I recognize that the social conservatives aren't a monolithic voting block. Still, there's an element of that faction that's making noise about the current crop of candidates being "flawed." (Or "deeply flawed" by your language.)

You used the phrase "as determined by the MSM" ... meaning, I presume, that the current front-runners (Guiliani, Thompson, Romney and McCain) are not what the social conservatives would opt for had they been given a voice.

I'll ask ... who is acceptable?

Then I'll ask ... if the GOP front-runners are "deeply flawed" -- which, incidentally, brings up a question: flawed by who's standard? If the socons aren't a monolithic group, how can it be determined the front-runners are flawed? Is that your opinion? Or the movement's opinion? -- then why isn't there more effort to make sure none of them make it out of the early primaries. Primaries are notorious for being highly leveraged by activists. If socons feel strongly enough to vacate the GOP for a third party, why don't they feel strongly enough to put Huckabee or Brownback into the front-runner status?

Or is the problem that nobody in the GOP field is acceptable? If that's the case, then I would argue back this point: no national majority can be formed around an extreme position. The White House can be had only through the construction of a coalition. How do you propose to get that coalition if the candidate you desire is so strong on socon issues they'd alienate more than 50% of the population?

Frankly, I'm of the belief that the more strident socons don't want the issue of abortion resolved. They'd rather have the issue than the result.

I see over on NRO they're reporting that Gary Bauer has made a tacit nod to Fred Thompson. Not a full endorsement, but a request that socons keep "an open mind" about Fred.

Might this be the first stirrings of a socon effort to get "Anybody But Guiliani" as the nominee?

Excellent points, Don in AZ. I couldn't agree with you more that the "Not Rudy" vote is more a sign of timidity rather than principledness. As the saying goes, "crap or get off the pot."

I can't speak for the socons as I am a paleo/Constitutionalist with socon sympathies. Of course none of the top tier are acceptable to me. Mitt is an opportunistic flip-flopper. McCain is a pro-amnesty sell out who has had harsh words to say about the socons in the past. (Because they tanked him in South Carolina.) Rudy is Rudy. Thompson is the best of the sorry lot, but he is a CFR/AEI neocon on foreign policy and was week on immigration in the Senate. (Of the four, Mitt would probably be the best on foreign policy.)

I think Thompson and maybe McCain would be acceptable to the socon leadership, although Dobson isn't crazy about Thompson.

I think this is all about Rudy.

"Frankly, I'm of the belief that the more strident socons don't want the issue of abortion resolved. They'd rather have the issue than the result."

You have that exactly backwards. The pro-lifers are sincere. In fact, I think they are the most sincere element in all of politics. It is the GOP that doesn't want the issue to go away because they can use it every four years to keep dissatisfied conservatives in line. If they really wanted to do something about abortion they would have passed legislation restricting the jurisdiction of the SC when they had the majority.

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