“The most important ‘traditional value’ in this election is keeping the Clintons out of the White House,” says Greg Alterton, an evangelical Christian who has “spent my entire professional career considering how my faith impacts, or should impact, the arena in which I work” — government and politics. Alterton writes for SoConsForRudy.com 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. It is an irrevocable decision.” Dobson and a cadre of Religious Right leaders threaten to deploy a pro-life, third-party candidate should Giuliani be nominated.
This “Rudyphobia” ignores three key factors: 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 on August 7: “By working together to promote personal responsibility and a culture of life, Americans can limit abortions and increase adoptions.” Among Giuliani’s proposals to achieve this end:
‐ “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 trap some 115,000 boys and girls in foster care and prevent moms and dads from adopting them.
‐ Giuliani proposes that the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives promote organizations that help women choose adoption over abortion.
‐ He would 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. That helps explains why, on his watch, total abortions fell 13 percent across America, but slid 17 percent in New York. More significant, between 1993 and 2001, Gotham’s tax-funded Medicaid abortions plunged 23 percent.
Medicaid reimbursement figures from the New York State Division of the Budget allow a rough calculation of the Giuliani administration’s expenditures on taxpayer-financed abortions. This estimated funding dropped 22.85 percent, from $1,226,414 in 1993 to $946,175 in 2001. (See more here.)
Giuliani’s campaign for personal responsibility helped create a climate that discouraged abortion. Moving 58 percent of welfare recipients from public assistance to self-reliance, starting before President Clinton signed federal welfare reform, may have encouraged women and men to avoid unwanted pregnancies. New York’s transformation from chaos to order — which helped slash overall crime by 57 percent and homicide by 67 percent — probably reinforced such self-control.
Compared to the eight Democratic years before he arrived, adoptions under Giuliani soared 133 percent. Fiscal years 1987 to 1994 saw 11,287 adoptions; this grew to 27,561 between FY 1995 and FY 2002.
‐ In another pro-family policy, Giuliani divested 78 percent of City Hall’s vast portfolio of confiscated, property-tax-delinquent homes. These were privatized and sold to families and individuals.
‐ Giuliani proposed eliminating the city’s $2,000 marriage penalty. (As individuals, a husband and wife each would enjoy a $7,500 standard deduction, but only write off $13,000 if they jointly filed taxes.) He chopped it to just $400, letting joint-filers share a $14,600 deduction.
‐ Giuliani also opposed gay marriage in 1989, long before it shot onto the radar. “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.”
‐ On Day 24 of his mayoralty, Giuliani jettisoned New York’s minority and women-owned business set-aside program. He later explained: “The whole idea of quotas to me perpetuates discrimination.” During the 12-year “Republican Revolution,” Congress deserted the fight for colorblindness.
‐ Giuliani sliced or scrapped 23 taxes totaling $9.8 billion and shrank Gotham’s tax burden by 17 percent. This left parents more money for children’s healthcare, private-school tuition, etc.
‐ On education, Giuliani launched a $10 million fund to support 17 new charter schools. Zero existed before he arrived. Giuliani also ended tenure for principals, fought for vouchers, and torpedoed City University’s open admissions and social-promotion policies.
‐ “I took a city that was also known as the pornography capitol of this country,” Giuliani told New Hampshire voters last June. “I got through a ground-breaking re-zoning that was challenged in the courts. We won. And now, if you go to New York City, you don’t have to be bombarded with pornography. And the city has grown dramatically — economically, physically, and spiritually.”
Giuliani accomplished this and plenty more — not in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but in New York City. He 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. What’s so liberal about that?
This record, and Giuliani’s headstrong style, may explain why he leads his competitors and impresses churchgoers. An October 3 ABC/Washington Post poll of 398 Republican and GOP-leaning adults found Giuliani outrunning former senator Fred Thompson, 34 percent to 17, versus Senator John McCain’s 12 percent, and Willard Mitt Romney’s 11. (Error margin +/- 5 percent.) As “most electable,” Giuliani took 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.
What do Giuliani’s Religious Right detractors really fear he will do about abortion? If he can overcome their suspicions, secure the GOP nomination, and win the White House, do Giuliani’s critics actually believe he would squander that victory and enrage the GOP base by pushing abortion? Do his foes honestly think Giuliani would request federal abortion funding in violation of the Hyde Amendment he says he supports or appoint activist Supreme Court justices, rather than Antonin Scalia- and Clarence Thomas-style constitutionalists, as he says he would?
Having kept or exceeded his mayoral promises on taxes, spending, crime, welfare, and quality of life, why would he break his presidential promises on such a signature GOP issue? What kind of bait and switch do Giuliani’s foes truly worry he will attempt?
The contrast between Giuliani and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton, meanwhile, could not be sharper. She would appoint pro-abortion justices and lower-court judges. These jurists also would be softer on crime, racial preferences, unions, and eminent-domain abuse than Giuliani’s would be.
Hillary Clinton also would take President Bush’s embryonic stem-cell program and expand it in every direction. If Giuliani does not padlock it, he at least would be more sympathetic than Clinton to privatizing it. If America must banish embryos to Petri dishes, let Lilly, Merck, and Pfizer do this. It is inconceivable that Hillary Clinton would shift anything from Washington to the private sector, especially America’s “greedy, wicked” pharmaceutical companies.
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. Giuliani’s October 20 appearance before the Family Research Council will permit exactly that. Also, while Giuliani may not be their dream contender, 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.
That would raise the curtain on a 3-D horror epic for social conservatives: “The Clintons Reconquer Washington” — bigger, badder, and more vindictive than ever.
– Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a media fellow with the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace at Stanford University.