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Hullabaloo


Friday, May 25, 2007

 
Giuliani Time

by digby

Ask and ye shall receive. Here's Thomas Edsall in TNR with an interesting take on Rudy's effect on the GOP.


Giuliani is the beneficiary of an upheaval within the Republican electorate--an upheaval that was catalyzed by September 11 but is becoming apparent only now, as the GOP hosts its first primary battle since the terrorist attacks. In brief, among Republican voters, the litmus test issues of abortion and gay marriage have been losing traction, subordinated to the Iraq war and terrorism. According to the Pew Research Center, 31 percent of GOP voters name Iraq as their top priority, and 17 percent choose terrorism and security. Just 7 percent name abortion and 1 percent name gay marriage.

The roots of this transformation predate September 11 and are partly the result of demographics. The lions of the Christian right--Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, James Dobson--no longer dominate Republican politics as they once did. Their grip is slackening as their older followers are slowly replaced by a generation for which the social, cultural, and sexual mores that were overturned by the 1960s are history, not memory. In retrospect, these men reached the height of their power in the late '80s, when, by a 51-to-42 majority, voters agreed that "school boards ought to have the right to fire teachers who are known homosexuals." Now a decisive 66-to-28 majority disagrees, according to Pew. In 1987, the electorate was roughly split on the question of whether "aids might be God's punishment for immoral sexual behavior." Today, 72 percent disagree with that statement, while just 23 percent concur.

Giuliani is on the cutting edge of these trends, seeking to exploit new ideological lines between conservatism and liberalism. He rejects conservatism based on sexuality and reproductive issues; and his personal life amounts to a repudiation of conservatism focused on family structure, parental responsibility, fidelity, and lifelong monogamy. Ed Gillespie, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, notes that, even as voters learn about Giuliani's more centrist positions, "it does not seem to move his numbers." The former mayor, Gillespie says, is "challenging the notion that abortion and gay marriage are vote-determinative for everybody in the party."

It isn't just average voters who are driving this shift; many members of the GOP elite--whose overwhelming concern is cutting taxes, a Giuliani forte--would privately welcome the chance to downplay, if not discard, the party's rearguard war against the sexual and women's rights revolutions. Much of the Republican Party's consulting community and country club elite always viewed abortion and gay rights as distasteful but necessary tools to win elections, easily disposable once they no longer served their purpose. Now, with most of the leading GOP contenders demonstrating at best equivocal support for the sexual status quo ante, that time appears to be drawing near.

For the moment, at least, September 11 has replaced abortion, gay marriage, and other social-sexual matters as the issue that binds the GOP together as a party. And no one, of course, owns September 11 quite like Rudy Giuliani. "This is a different world from 2000, when we last had Republican primaries without an incumbent president. 9/11 scrambled the priorities, and it may very well be that the war on terror pushes social issues down," says Whit Ayres, a Georgia-based pollster currently unaffiliated with any presidential campaign. "Giuliani is an authentic American hero, and Southerners love American heroes." No wonder the Yankee centrist suddenly has a chance in South Carolina.


I agree with the fact that the GOP is ready to vote for "a hero," but I don't think it signals any kind of substantive change in the GOP. The "values" obsession was just the code of the times for the standard Southern Strategy of white male prerogatives and macho ass-kicking that the Republicans have been running on for 40 years. They are just once more re-packaging their tired old crap in patriotism instead of the Bible, (which they often cycle with "states rights" and "traditional values" among other things.)

Nothing has changed. The Republicans are actually just being more honest than they've been in recent years when they didn't have a boogeyman to beat liberals over the head with and needed to erase the hideous image of that nasty man Newt Gingrich as the face of the Republican Party. "Values" was always just the girly-man version of "Giuliani Time."

The modern Republican party is all about authoritarianism, militarism and domination over minorities, women and gays. Rudy is a perfect candidate. After all, there is no candidate in the race who has humiliated women more masterfully or condoned official violence against racial minorities with more fervor. Of course the South Carolina Republicans love him.

And this is why Democrats should stop running their campaigns based upon whatever stupid bumper sticker the GOP comes up every few years with and figure out how to beat them at the basic game they are playing.




*I should note that the conservative evangelical poohbahs are not going to be happy about publicly losing clout. But they'll go along because Rudy will promise them some good stuff --- which he will fail to deliver. That's how it works. I see no reason to believe it's going to change.


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