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November 10, 2007

Time To Worry About Giuliani

by Stephen of the Thinkery

David Kurtz at TPM points us to this insight on Pat Robertson's Giuliani endorsement from Walter Shapiro:

The Washington press conference announcing the Robertson endorsement was carefully constructed to make it all look like an alliance of strict-constructionist legal philosophers. Introducing the televangelist was not the campaign's director of evangelical outreach, or a political figure known for sharing Robertson's literal reading of the Book of Revelation. Instead the task fell to Ted Olson, the former solicitor general in the Bush Justice Department, a leading conservative legal thinker. The message was clear: This melding of minds was about putting more Antonin Scalias on the Supreme Court, not about Giuliani's personal life and beliefs.

I've been saying this for a while now. Giuliani isn't trying to win over the Religious Right by acting as if he's had a coming to Jesus moment on abortion or homosexuality. He's going to appeal to them through the judiciary.

He's saying that a Giuliani Administration, whatever the personal beliefs and/or actions of Giuliani himself, will result in "strict-constructionist," anti-choice, anti-equal rights judges appointed to every available judgeship in the nation.

Liberals – at least those of the ‘netroots’ -
have pretty much laughed off this endorsement because Robertson is supposedly so crazy that even the Religious Right won't have anything to do with him. That is a dangerous mistake and clear evidence of how little they know about America’s Evangelical subculture. Robertson still has his media empire, still has followers, and what he said on 9/13/2001 isn't any different than what has been said from countless pulpits, in countless small groups and Sunday School classes, in countless fellowship halls throughout the USA for the last 6 years. Most Evangelicals only criticize Robertson for not having enough tact.

There has always been a strain in American Christianity that understands the USA to be the spiritual successor to the Israel of the Hebrew Bible (not that this is unusual; most European and European-descended cultures have done this at one time or another). There are millions of people in this country who still believe that their Old Testament is a guide and warning, that the threats and promises God made to Israel have been made, in the same way, to the United States. And they believe that they currently live in the decisive moment, the crisis point at which the USA can either remain God's Chosen or can be destroyed and its people sent into exile. That's why 2 Chronicles 7:14 is now found everywhere in conservative American churches:

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.

They are fighting for the very existence of America and for its status as God's Most Favored Nation. And when your goals are that big, when your cause is that righteous, then you'll accept a thrice-divorced, cross-dressing, kissed-Trump-on-the-lips, homosexual-rights-supporting former mayor of a liberal East Coast city, as long as he gets the job done. The job is to appoint judges, appoint judges and appoint judges. If we will remember the lessons that David Neiwart has been teaching for years now, we will understand that the rightwing complaints about “judicial activism” have been yet another smoke screen thrown up to disguise a concerted effort to twist the judiciary to their own goals. The talk among GOP Congressional members about passing laws to limit judicial oversight was an anomaly brought on by the now-discredited belief that Karl “Moses” Rove was bringing the GOP into the Permanent Majority Promised Land.

When Robertson endorsed Giuliani, then, he made it clear that Giuliani is exactly the man to get the job done. And I don’t think Giuliani is finished with this. He's going to start making clearer promises about judges, and through that he's going to get some more support. Coupling this strategy with his constant 9/11 rhetoric means that Giuliani doesn't care one bit about Democrats, Independents or even the shrinking contingent of moderate Republicans.
He's not going to try and convince anyone that he's not a far-right authoritarian whackjob who will seek to undo every advance in civil rights of the last 144 years. Giuliani's strategy is to resurrect the Religious Right as the potent force in American politics and to ride their frenzied support through the GOP nomination to the White House.

I don't know if he can do it or not. But that's where this is heading, and those of us on the other side need to stop dismissing the Religious Right and Giuliani just because we think they're silly. They're dedicated to a degree that would shock the most hardened liberal activists, and we can only beat them if we're alert.

November 10, 2007 | Permalink


I have always been a lert.

I haven't seen this dismissal of Robertson you speak of - I got the impression that people took it seriously, but the grain of salt to it is that even with Robertson to prop him up, Giuliani remains a deeply flawed man and a flawed candidate whose only appeal to the religious right is those judges. Of course we should take Giuliani seriously, and of course we should realize that his "noun verb 9/11" campaign style will resonate. But he's still also the much-divorced, gay friendly, abortion accepting, Kerik defender who may not even be able to win his own state (i will continue to bet money that in a Clinton/Giuliani race, she'd carry New York).

As for the theology... I think the best defense remains their offense - that notion of us as "God's Chosen" really only works for them when it's kind of quiet and less when it becomes the focus of discussion. Most Americans find that kind of theological intensity a bit off-putting (to say nothing of how most Jewish people find it, just for starters). If the religious right wants to sell that line... make them put it out front. And make Rudy defend it. Because I bet he doesn't believe it, and won't really hide that.

Posted by: weboy | Nov 10, 2007 7:38:59 PM

this is a damn fine post, Stephen

Posted by: bend | Nov 10, 2007 7:53:16 PM

Your post is right on, but there's some more aligning of forces going on as well for Guliani.

Conservative Justices: Yeh, hallelujah! But equally support for Israel and the whole anti-Moslem/anti-terrorism thing as well. Recalling that the Bush/Cheney incarnation of the GOP is Theo-Cons, Neo-Cons and CorpCons, the evangelical base is only a third pillar of support, and the other two are key as well.

The evangelicals support Israel and are anti-moslem for theological reasons. But the neo-cons are for hard-edged confrontation (and preventative war as well) with terrorist-supporting nations: Syria, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan et.al, and Rudy is singing their hymnn as well. The pro-torture bent, the unitary executive thing, and no-accomdation/no diplomacy in the right is neo-con chapter and verse. Rudy's the neo-con's man, not any of the other GOP candidates.

As for the Corp Cons, who better speaks for Wall Street than the ex-mayor, ex-DA of NYC - a man with a lifetime of corporate friendly tendencies (including support and tolerance for corruption above accountability). The man who thought his term-ending as mayor could just be set aside for 'necessity' of the 9/11 trauma and was pro-white, anti-minority to his bones.

Finally, the modern GOP triad is held together by Bush/Cheney worship. This cultism is basically based in power: power derived from keeping the total Bush base together. Ted Olson's presence at the Robertson event is a strong signal that Bush/Cheney are prepared to back Rudy at all costs - not just on the judicial thing, but the entire triad of Bush's base.

The once thing that distinguished this GOP nomination fight from the lead up to the 2000 election (and going all the way back to Reagan's drive for the nomination) is the lack to date of 'the annointing' which signals the GOP power centers have come together out of the limelight to make a candidate inevitable.

When Bush in 1998/2000 was raising huge amounts of cash and support from the various parts of the base, it effectively made the primaries a foregone conclusion. We will see this again in the 2008 primaries. Rudy's faults don't mean any more than Bush's record of business failures, teen-like drunken/drugie behavior, and AWOL status in the Texas Air National Guard. These inconvenient truths about Rudy will be covered over, dismissed as insignificant, or ignored in pursuit of the larger truth that Giuliani is the chosen one, just as they were for Bush and Reagan.

Winning is everything for the GOP because power is everything in the GOP. The power structure in the Republican is about to come together for Rudy because the GOP electorate must be 'led', not followed. This is too important to leave up to fickle voters in primaries. Giuliani is about to emerge as the 'the man' that fulfills the expectations of each of the three major parts of the modern Republican base, with the TheoCons and NeoCons in the vanguard, and the Corp Cons will be satisfied when the triad is complete and unified for victory. Then the money will flow, non-stop, along with media pressure, arm-twisting, and dog-whistles of unity for victory (read continued control of real Power).

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Nov 10, 2007 10:55:14 PM

Interesting theory, that the pseudo-macho, misogynist Repubs are actually destined to be followers of the 'the man.' Kind of a Yin-Yang thing.

Posted by: Don Bacon | Nov 10, 2007 11:13:48 PM

You went way too far at the end there.

Guiliani isn't trying to resurrect the evangelical, christian right political machine. He's trying to pacify it.

There is no way that Daddy Dobson is going to get enthusiastic over the thought of a Guiliani presidency. It's not going to happen. The most Guiliani can hope for is for the serious anti-gay forces to refrain from running a third-party challenger.

Posted by: rufustfyrfly | Nov 10, 2007 11:41:38 PM

Liberals – at least those of the ‘netroots’ - have pretty much laughed off this endorsement because Robertson is supposedly so crazy that even the Religious Right won't have anything to do with him. That is a dangerous mistake and clear evidence of how little they know about America’s Evangelical subculture.

It may be a mistake, but I'm not quite sure why it's such a "dangerous" one. We have basically zero input into who wins the GOP nomination. Whoever does win, obviously we win focus on them at the time.

It may indeed be naive for liberals to write off Rudy's chances with the Jesus brigade, but it doesn't really matter. Either he'll end up appealing to them, or he won't, and we'll deal with it then.

Posted by: Jason C. | Nov 11, 2007 2:12:03 AM

There's this amazing belief among a lot of bloggers that a campaign has to lose a great number of supporters for them to be fatally wounded in terms of the general election. That's just not true. If 5-10% of either party's base were to stay home, that would be more than enough to ensure that they could never be elected. A loss of 2-3% would be a very serious setback.

A lot of people act like this is still 20 years ago, and elections results display a large gap between the winner and the loser. They don't do that anymore, so a loss of even a small percentage of your base can be an unrecoverable error.

Posted by: soullite | Nov 11, 2007 7:46:09 AM

I posted above on Neil's before I saw this.

We should all remember Harriet Miers & Terry Schiavo. The Christian Right knows it has a lot of control over Republican Senators, and thru that control got Bush to drop a SCOTUS nomination, and fly up from Texas at their bidding. I am sure Rudy understands this also, and understands he will have, if elected, even less power over Republican Senatoes than Bush did.

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Nov 11, 2007 9:11:08 AM

They do do very patient subterranean things
to get very innocuous appearing people
who've been stealth like..forever
on courts everywhere they can
and then keep them there, if they can...forever.
[Exemplar...John, such a NICE man Roberts].

And do see what's become of something we used to take for granted...
The right of woman to her own body, her very self.

Posted by: has_te | Nov 11, 2007 4:12:02 PM

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