Saturday, May 12, 2007

Giuliani takes a stand (in the middle of the road?)

Via the NYT - Giuliani Takes On G.O.P. Orthodoxy on Social Issues
Rudolph W. Giuliani directly challenged Republican orthodoxy on Friday, asserting that his support for abortion rights, gun control and gay rights should not disqualify him from winning the party’s presidential nomination.

He said that Republicans needed to be tolerant of dissenting views on those issues if they wanted to retain the White House.

[. . .]

Mr. Giuliani’s speech appeared to reflect two calculations by his campaign. The first is that Republicans are so alarmed at the prospect of losing the White House, particularly after Democrats took control of Congress last year, that they will be willing to overlook differences on issues like abortion. The second is that voters often reward politicians for candor and independence though disagreeing with them on issues.
I do applaud Giuliani for actually saying what he believes instead of simply saying what he thinks the hard-liners in the party want to hear. I don't know how it will serve him in the primary election, however. If he can win the nomination of his party it may serve him well in the general election, but he has to get there first.

I think this issue illustrates well one of the problems with the two party system that we current operate under. Each party is actually a coalition of many smaller groups whose core issues often have little or nothing to do with the core issues of other groups in the coalition. Therefore, we end up with many groups calling themselves Republicans (or Democrats) for wildly varying reasons. Most often, candidates find themselves playing to one audience in the primary and then having to shift gears when the general election rolls around.

I'm not sure if this is better or worse than the alternative. If we have many small parties that could focus on their own pet issue, we would still require coalitions to form a working government. To get bills passed in Congress, different groups would still need to caucus together to pass legislation. At least in this system, the voters know which group their candidate is going to caucus with and they have some say so at the voting booth, but in the smaller party scenario, these smaller parties might be able to caucus differently on different issues and stay truer to what their constituency truly favors in terms of legislation, but once in office it may be difficult for voters to influence who caucuses with whom. To me, it is a difficult choice to make.

In this instance, Giuliani seems willing to abandon the hardcore social conservatives in the Republican party, banking on the fact that they have no where else to go, party-wise. My guess is that he assumes they are actually a small enough percentage (although very vocal part) of the party that he can gain the nomination without them, and not alienate himself from the moderate voters out there without a party affiliation. We will have to see if that gamble pays off.

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