Speaking of the New Republic, Bradford Plumer has a piece arguing that the past or present social moderation of the Republican frontrunners won’t really matter — they will all toe the socially conservative line due to the structure of today’s GOP.
He has half a point. Social conservatives have become such an important part of the GOP coalition that even a socially moderate Republican would probably give them some policy victories. (Perhaps especially a socially moderate Republican.) Certainly, they would face fewer liabilities than under a Democratic administration. It’s not likely that the Giuliani administration would try to use the RICO laws against pro-life demonstrators, for example.
But it’s also worth noting that social conservatives rarely do much better than this under avowedly conservative Republican presidents. Most of their major policy goals remain unrealized. It is doubtful that a President Giuliani or even a President McCain — who is less of a moderate, especially on social issues, than Plumer implies — would give them more than a President Reagan or the current President Bush.