Dan Nejfelt, Faith in Public Life’s Messaging and Trainings Manager, worked at Sojourners magazine as part of his graduate study of journalism at the University of Missouri before coming to FPL. Prior to that, he taught remedial reading and writing to 7th and 8th graders in rural Arkansas as a Teach For America corps member. Dan blogs about health care, the Religious Right and budget issues.
Last night James Dobson appeared on Hannity & Colmes to reiterate that he is gravely serious about opposing Giuliani’s nomination, even going so far as to say he’d prefer another President Clinton. She would set the “pro-family” cause back, Giuliani would doom it.
Sean Hannity, ever the sycophantic shill, was begging Dobson back into the fold, but he appears to be off the reservation, maybe for good.
Note the portentous signoff:
DOBSON: Sean, this is a matter for prayer. I’m sure you agree with that.
HANNITY: I pray everyday, and I absolutely agree. Prayer and fasting, that’s all the help I need. Thank you for being with us.
If Rudy Giuliani wins the Republican nomination and a third party campaign is backed by Christian conservative leaders, 27% of Republican voters say they’d vote for the third party option rather than Giuliani. A Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that a three-way race with Hillary Clinton would end up with the former First Lady getting 46% of the vote, Giuliani with 30% and the third-party option picking up 14%. In head-to-head match-ups with Clinton, Giuliani is much more competitive.
Over this past weekend, several Christian conservative leaders indicated they might back a pro-life, third-party, candidate if Giuliani wins the nomination.
…I firmly believe that the selection of a president should begin with a recommitment to traditional moral values and beliefs. Those include the sanctity of human life, the institution of marriage, and other inviolable pro-family principles. Only after that determination is made can the acceptability of a nominee be assessed.
The other approach, which I find problematic, is to choose a candidate according to the likelihood of electoral success or failure. Polls don’t measure right and wrong; voting according to the possibility of winning or losing can lead directly to the compromise of one’s principles. In the present political climate, it could result in the abandonment of cherished beliefs that conservative Christians have promoted and defended for decades. Winning the presidential election is vitally important, but not at the expense of what we hold most dear.
Whether the Religious Right is playing chicken with the Republican party or genuinely pushing away from the table is anybody’s guess right now, but bluff or no, the very public nature of the fight is a sure sign that the Republican coalition is cracking. At issue is whether the party’s strongest bloc can force upon the party a nominee with dimmer general election prospects than the favorite. That is no mere quibble. The future of the party appears to be at stake.
In anticipation of Bush’s veto of S-CHIP, leaders from Sojourners, NETWORK, PICO, and numerous denominations spoke at a press conference on Capitol Hill yesterday marking the death of compassionate conservatism.
Today, as promised and expected, President Bush confirmed Wallis’ judgment by vetoing an expansion of SCHIP that would have covered most of the country’s 9-10 million uninsured children. The moral bankruptcy of valuing the interests of insurance providers over the health of children is self-evident. This commercial from FamiliesUSA is a pointed reminder of who is hurt by President Bush’s fealty to private insurers and why SCHIP is a moral issue:
Salon.com’s Michael Scherer reports that the religious right seems to be falling out of love with the Republican party:
A powerful group of conservative Christian leaders decided Saturday at a private meeting in Salt Lake City to consider supporting a third-party candidate for president if a pro-choice nominee like Rudy Giuliani wins the Republican nomination.
The meeting of about 50 leaders, including Focus on the Family’s James Dobson, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who called in by phone, took place at the Grand America Hotel during a gathering of the Council for National Policy, a powerful shadow group of mostly religious conservatives…
“The conclusion was that if there is a pro-abortion nominee they will consider working with a third party,” said the person, who spoke to Salon on the condition of anonymity. The private meeting was not a part of the official CNP schedule, which is itself a closely held secret. “Dobson came in just for this meeting,” the person said.
The decision confirms the fears of many Republican Party officials, who have worried that a Giuliani nomination would irrevocably split the GOP in advance of the 2008 general election, given Giuliani’s relatively liberal stands on gay unions and abortion, as well as his rocky marital history. The private meeting was held Saturday afternoon, during a lull in the official CNP schedule. Earlier in the day, Vice President Dick Cheney had traveled to Utah to deliver a brief address to the larger CNP gathering. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney also addressed the larger group.
Over at The Carpetbagger Report, Steve Benen weighs in on a possible underlying strategy:
the religious right may very well be bluffing about breaking off from the GOP if the party nominates Giuliani, but it’s worth remembering that there’s some self-preservation at play here. Dobson & Co., not to mention their loyal followers, believe they have enormous influence in Republican circles, and can dictate the party’s direction. If the Republicans nominate a pro-choice, pro-gay, pro-gun control, thrice-married serial adulterer who wants to invest in stem-cell research, the religious right’s masquerade will be over. It will be obvious that the movement is practically powerless in the party, and the groups’ benefactors will have far less reason to keep writing the checks that keeps the movement afloat.
So, what happens next? Watch for two things to happen: one, the religious right may have no choice but to coalesce around a single, credible candidate, if only to block Giuliani. And two, watch for Dobson & Co. to take the gloves off and go after Giuliani relentlessly. These guys don’t want to bolt for a third party; they’d much prefer to stay where they are with a nominee they can live with.
The Politico’s Jonathan Martin and The New York Times’ David Kirkpatrick provide further context and sources. It all adds up to a giant looming schism on the right. Should Giuliani win the nomination, religious conservatives will have to abandon the priorities they’ve loudly espoused for decades or walk away from power altogether.