Politics & Policy

Confessions of a Social Conservative

Why Rudy can be the Right's guy.

In a column on National Review Online Thursday morning, Douglas Sylva asked the question, “Can [Rudy] Giuliani appeal to the pro-Life, pro-family voters?” As a self-identified social conservative — and one who ran as the Republican nominee for the governorship of California on that platform — I can answer that question without even a moment’s hesitation: Yes.

A growing number of social conservatives are supporting Rudy Giuliani because there is much common ground that we share. As Republicans and as Americans, what brings us together is far greater than what drives us apart. George Will has called Rudy’s time as mayor of New York “the most successful episode of conservative governance in this country in the last 50 years.” That testimonial is not simply a recognition of his unmatched fiscal record, but is a statement borne of the understanding that Rudy, for years, fought on the front lines of the culture war — in the very heart of American liberalism.

Those who remember New York City prior to Rudy’s tenure may recall its depraved state. Prostitutes and porn shops lined Times Square, the center of the city. Violent criminals ran roughshod over defenseless tourists and residents alike, turning America’s most recognizable city into what some called the crime capital of the Western world. Drug dealers, beggars, the infamous “squeegee men”–they all contributed to the moral decay of what was once a proud, vibrant, quintessential American city. And over one million New Yorkers — one of every seven residents — was on welfare.

But Times Square is a dramatically different place today, as is almost all of New York. That is no accident. Rudy systematically went after the root causes of the dramatic social decline that had occurred in New York, and he did it successfully. The porn, the prostitutes, the criminals — they no longer occupy Times Square, having been replaced by family-friendly activities such as the Disney Store. Under Rudy, New York City became the safest large city in America. And the one million citizens on welfare? Over 640,000 of them were moved from the public dole to the private sector payroll. If that’s not a socially conservative success, then I’m not sure what is.

Much has been made of Rudy’s position on abortion and the concern it has caused members of the pro-life movement. But as a committed pro-lifer, let me explain why I am entirely comfortable with Rudy Giuliani as the Republican nominee, and why I know he will be a far better friend to social conservatives than Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

First, the primary battles on the life issue are being fought in the courts, and the ultimate determination regarding our nation’s policy on abortion will come from the nine Justices of the Supreme Court. We have made tremendous progress over the last six years in populating the Federal Judiciary with judges who are committed interpreting, not inventing, the law — with the culmination of that effort being the confirmation of Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. That is progress we simply cannot afford to lose. Rudy Giuliani, relying on the advice of such conservative legal stalwarts like Ted Olson, Miguel Estrada, and Steve Calabresi, will appoint strict constructionist judges in the vein of Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas. I assure you that’s not the type of justice we’ll get out of another Clinton administration.

Rudy has also pledged to uphold the Hyde Amendment’s restrictions on the funding of abortions here at home, and the Mexico City Policy, ensuring that taxpayer dollars will not be distributed to non-governmental organizations that perform or promote abortions overseas. He supports parental notification laws and agrees with the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the partial-birth-abortion ban.

As one of his 12 Commitments to the American People, a bold vision aimed at moving America forward, Rudy has declared, “I will increase adoptions, decrease abortions, and protect the quality of life for our children.”

This declaration, like so much of what Rudy says, means more because he has a record of results to back it up. During his time in New York, he created the first independent agency dedicated to protecting children, helping to increase adoptions in the city by 133 percent. During his tenure, abortions fell almost 17 percent, which is 30 percent faster than the nation as a whole. By getting people off welfare and into jobs, cleaning up the streets, reducing crime 56 percent and boosting the economy, Rudy had changed the culture to one that instilled personal responsibility and real hope for the future.

Our many areas of agreement manifest themselves in many of his other commitments. Rudy is the strongest supporter of school choice in the race. What is more socially conservative than empowering parents to provide their children with the best education possible — and one that reflects their values? His health care reforms would transform our health care system so that Americans could choose to keep their employer-based health insurance or, if they prefer, purchase insurance that better reflects their moral, ethical, and religious convictions. And as social conservatives, we should all support Rudy’s commitment to implement the Adam Walsh Act and defend our children from sexual predators and child pornography. With his experience in law enforcement, he’s by far the best candidate to get this done.

The truth is, while there may be disagreements with Rudy on some issues, there is much more agreement. He shares our concerns and is eager to work with social conservatives to achieve real results. And he has a record of delivering social reforms that dramatically changed a culture that was defined by its moral deviancy. Social conservatives, like myself, have a friend in Rudy Giuliani and someone whom they can rely upon.

 – William E. Simon is Rudy Giuliani’s policy director.

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