Noemie Emery argues in the Weekly Standard that if the Republicans nominate Rudy Giuliani, an increasingly likely prospect, “it may see the end of the social issues litmus test in the Republican party.” In that event, the litmus test will have been “done in not by the party’s left wing, which is shrunken and powerless, but by a fairly large cadre of social conservatives convinced that, in a time of national peril, the test is a luxury they cannot afford.”
Noemie perceptively identifies the four reasons for the possible demise of the traditional litmus test: (1) the war on terror, (2) Giuliani’s status as a different kind of pro-choice Republican — “the furthest thing possible from a liberal on a wide range of issues (law and order among them),” (3) the flaws, from a conservative perspective, in Giuliani’s competitors, and (4) the realization after 30 years that, apart from appointing non-activist judges — which Rudy says he will do — a president is not well-positioned to turn the tide on abortion.
It seems to me that Rudy’s nomination would signal not that the social issues litmus test has ended but that it has been modified, with the focus now on a commitment to appointing judges who agree, in the words of Power Line which Noemie quotes, “that issues like gay marriage and abortion should be decided democratically, and not by the courts.” This shift in the litmus test might very well carry Rudy to the nomination. But I still think that a considerable number of social conservatives would refuse to vote for him in the general election, placing him under extra pressure to win moderate voters even as he’s forcefully taking conservative stands on nearly every issue other than abortion and gay marriage.
JOHN adds: I agree, except that I doubt that a lot of social conservatives, faced with a choice between Giuliani and any foreseeable Democratic nominee, would sit out the 2008 election.
Noemie’s article suggests that Giuliani is now the front-runner, in part, because he has taken the path we charted in 2005. I doubt that we had any influence on Guiliani and his advisers, but it is gratifying to see Giuliani taking a course that we think is good for the Republican Party, and, for the reasons Noemie lays out, the country. And it is nice to see most conservatives responding the way we thought they would.
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