Is it principles or pragmatism?
What's a traditional "family-values" Republican to do? Where can religiously conservative Republicans turn now that the presidential candidate who best represents their views and beliefs has dropped out?...
What's a traditional "family-values" Republican to do? Where can religiously conservative Republicans turn now that the presidential candidate who best represents their views and beliefs has dropped out?
Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback pulled out of the presidential primaries last week. He could not raise sufficient funds for a serious challenge. His support among Republicans was surprisingly thin, given his genuine conservative credentials and his consistent positions on social issues such as abortion (against it), traditional marriage (for it) and prayer in public schools (for it).
Yet, the senator has been but a blip on the screen. Instead, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and (in some polls) former senator and actor Fred Thompson lead the field.
What gives? The front runners, fine fellows all, don't fit the candidate profile a powerful segment of the Republican base - religious conservatives - favor. Yet, the three front-runners have bushels of money and considerable Republican support.
Could it be the lust for winning has overcome values? Could it be that even people who say their lives are defined by their faith have succumbed to the "anyone-but-Hillary" clarion call? Can faith be compromised by political fear?
Giuliani's record on family values would make a great made-for-TV movie. His marital saga is better than soap opera. When he got entangled with his current wife while still married to his former wife (was she number two?), he got booted from the mayor's mansion and bunked in with a gay friend. His positions (modified a mite recently in order to seem more conservative) on everything from gun control to abortion to gay rights are a catalog of everything the religious right abhors.
Romney makes the Christian right jumpy because he's a member of the Church of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons. When it comes to an exemplar of real-life family values, the Romneys measure up. But many in the religious right camp will never support a candidate they view as an adherent of a cult, which is what they believe about Mormonism.
Newcomer Thompson's high standing in Republican polls seems to be linked to the failure of other candidates to excite party faithful. The former senator did not distinguish himself in the Senate and had a reputation for liking the ladies, which in and of itself does not disqualify him for political office. Still, he's redefined himself as the only "true conservative" in the field, in the manner of Ronald Reagan. It's working.
Sen. John McCain certainly is a social conservative, but in 2000 he dismissed Christian right leaders as "agents of intolerance." Not the way to win friends among that crowd.
Mike Huckabee of Arkansas is a Southern Baptist minister with genuine conservative Christian credentials, but his campaign is going nowhere.
The contest among religious conservatives is between "pure principle and pure pragmatism," said a social conservative leader in Florida. That sums it up. At this point, the polls suggest pragmatism is winning. But there's a long way to go. It remains to be seen if religious conservatives in the Republican Party are willing to scuttle the Giuliani, Romney and Thompson campaigns on principle, and risk electing a Democrat (Hillary Clinton?) to the White House in 2008.
Zaleski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (701) 241-5521.
Is it principles or pragmatism? Jack Zaleski 20071021