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September 13, 2004


Wait, is Giuliani even a Republican?

Today in the Times, Joyce Purnick examines the politics of Republicans like Giuliani and Pataki, and speculates on their future in the Republican party. These men's views on issues like gay rights, gun control, and abortion diverge from the party platform, and while Arnold says that you can disagree with the Republican party on a number of issues and still be a Republican, some of the party's more conservative figures disagree. Pat Buchanan and Phyllis Schlafly aren't buying this welcoming attitude in their party; Schlafly says of Giuliani's potential future run for President, "Giuliani revives the old fight between the Rockefeller branch and the grass-rooters. [By "grass-rooters", she apparently means "radical conservatives." -Amy] I don't think he could succeed. I don't see how he could modify his position enough." She refers here to Nelson Rockefeller, perhaps the last of the first wave of "liberal" Republicans, (if you can call them that) and his ideological loss to Barry Goldwater in 1964. Interesting that the current wave of relatively socially progressive Republicans also comes from New York.

The RNC courted speakers like Giuliani and Pataki at their convention, so they are clearly aware that there are registered Republicans out there who disagree with some key issues of the party platform. I don't think anyone believes in the Bush administration's concept of "compassionate conservatism" anymore, no matter what Arnold and Rudy said at the convention. So how long is the Republican party going to be able to keep playing both sides, promoting a "big tent" image of all-inclusiveness, while screwing over Republican voters who genuinely consider themselves "compassionate" and want better social policies? (See our previous post about Errol Morris' new "Switch" ad campaign for first-hand accounts from these pissed-off people.) Other groups of Republicans, like the fiscally conservative ones, are also getting increasingly frustrated at Bush's overspending. The fact is, the Republican party can't survive with a collection of politicians who are all over the political spectrum. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention says of Giuliani, "If he succeeded in getting nominated, the nomination wouldn't be worth having. It would split the party apart."

Eventually, people may realize that the Republican party is just pretending to be flexible on these issues, and the party will have to stick to a clearer platform. If they keep suggesting that anybody can be a Republican, they could dilute their image and become the Unitarians of politics. But if they openly reject Giuliani and Pataki's views on social issues, they'll probably lose the voters who don't agree with the party platform. If "the conservative voter dominates" in the Republican party, as Buchanan says, they'll have nothing to worry about. But I didn't see old Pat getting any air time during the RNC. It looks like the Republicans value their unconvincing image of tolerance within the party, but they'll lose that image if they don't change their behavior.

categories: Politics
posted by amy at 1:58 PM | #