Rudy and the Religious Right's Denial

“The most important ‘traditional value’ in this election is keeping the Clintons out of the White House,” says Greg Alterton, an evangelical Christian who writes for and counts himself among Rudolph W. Giuliani’s social-conservative supporters.

People like Alterton are important, if overlooked, in the Republican presidential sweepstakes. Anti-Giuliani Religious Rightists are far more visible. Also conspicuous are pundits whose cartoon version of social conservatism regards abortion and gay rights as “the social issues,” excluding other traditionalist concerns.

New York’s former mayor “has abandoned social conservatism,” commentator Maggie Gallagher complains. He “is anathema to social conservatives,” veteran columnist Robert Novak recently wrote. Focus on the Family founder Dr. James Dobson has said: “I cannot, and will not, vote for Rudy Giuliani in 2008.” Dobson and a cadre of Religious Right leaders threaten to deploy a pro-life, third-party candidate should Giuliani be nominated.

This “Rudyphobia” ignores Giuliani’s pro-family/anti-abortion ideas, his socially conservative mayoral record, and his popularity among churchgoing Republicans.

While Giuliani accepts a woman’s right to an abortion, he told Iowa voters in August: “By working together to promote personal responsibility and a culture of life, Americans can limit abortions and increase adoptions.” Among Giuliani’s relevant proposals:

*“My administration will streamline the adoption process by removing the heartbreaking bureaucratic delays that burden the current process.” Giuliani notes that sclerotic court schedules, exhausted social workers, and tangled red tape prevent moms and dads from adopting some 115,000 boys and girls in foster care.

*Giuliani wants the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives to promote organizations that help women choose adoption over abortion.

*He would like to make permanent the $10,000 adoption tax credit.

*Giuliani also would encourage states and cities to report timely and complete statistics to measure progress in abortion reduction.

This is no sudden conversion on the road to Washington. As mayor, Giuliani did nothing to advance abortion. On his watch, total abortions fell 13 percent across America, but slid 17 percent in New York. Between 1993 and 2001, Gotham’s tax-funded Medicaid abortions plunged 23 percent.

Giuliani’s campaign for personal responsibility created a climate that seemingly discouraged abortion. Moving 58 percent of recipients from welfare to work may have encouraged women and men to avoid unwanted pregnancies. New York’s 57 percent overall-crime reduction and 67 percent homicide drop probably reinforced such self-control.

Compared to the eight Democratic years before he arrived, adoptions under Giuliani soared 133 percent.

*Giuliani also proposed eliminating the city’s $2,000 marriage penalty. He chopped it to $400.

*Giuliani opposed gay marriage in 1989. “My definition of family is what it is,” Giuliani told Newsday 18 years ago. “It does not include gay marriage as part of that definition.”

*He jettisoned New York’s minority and women-owned business set-aside program. Giuliani explained: “The whole idea of quotas to me perpetuates discrimination.”

*Giuliani sliced or scrapped 23 taxes totaling $9.8 billion and shrank Gotham’s tax burden 17 percent. This left parents more money for children’s healthcare, private-school tuition, etc.

Giuliani could have governed comfortably as a pro-abortion, pro-welfare, pro-quota, soft-on-crime, tax-and-spend, liberal Republican. Instead, Giuliani relentlessly pushed Reaganesque socio-economic reforms through a City Council populated by seven Republicans and 44 Democrats.

These accomplishments may explain why he leads his competitors and impresses churchgoers. Among Republicans in an October 3 ABC/Washington Post poll, Giuliani outran former senator Fred Thompson, 34 percent to 17, versus Senator John McCain’s 12 percent, and Willard Mitt Romney’s 11. As “most electable,” Giuliani scored 50 percent, versus McCain’s 15, Thompson’s 13, and Romney’s 6.

An October 3 Gallup survey found Giuliani enjoying a 38 percent net-favorable rating among churchgoing Catholics, compared to McCain’s 29, and Thompson’s 25. Among Protestant churchgoers, Thompson edges Giuliani 26 percent to 23, with McCain at 16, and Romney at 7.

Religious Right leaders should study Giuliani’s entire, socially conservative record, not just the “socially liberal” caricature of it that hostile commentators and lazy journalists keep sketching. Social conservatives should not make the perfect the enemy of the outstanding. Ultimately, they should recognize that a pro-life, third-party candidate would subtract votes from Giuliani in November 2008.

This would raise the curtain on a 3-D horror movie for social conservatives: “The Clintons Reconquer Washington” — bigger, badder, and more vindictive than ever