In the wake of Jim’s piece today, just a quick note about James Dobson threatening to support a third party candidate in the event of a Giuliani nomination.
Although I do not consider myself a fan of Dobson, I have a problem with some of the harsh reaction from partisan commentators lashing out at social conservatives for suggesting the possibility of a third party, arguing that they’d be to blame for a Clinton victory. What bothers me is the underlying assumption that the Republican candidate is somehow entitled to the votes of social conservatives. I may not vote based on social issues, but there are issues that I am quite passionate about, and if the Republicans’ nominated somebody who held opposing views on those issues, I’d have a tough time voting for that candidate and would resent any suggestion that I have to, so I empathize with social conservatives who were attracted to the Republican Party because of its stance on life. If a third party splinters the Republican vote and elects Hillary Clinton, it will not be the fault of social conservatives, but the fault of the Republican Party for not nominating a candidate who is worthy of their support. So, while I do think social conservatives should still support Giuliani were he the nominee, I think the onus will be on Rudy to convince them that he deserves their support.
For me, one of the many things that changed on Sept. 11 was that I shifted from an idealistic view of politics to a much more pragmatic one. The event demonstrated to me that anything could happen over the course of a presidency, and it’s important to choose the best candidate with a chance to win, rather than hold out for ideological purity.
That’s why I think, ultimately, that social conservatives would be mistaken to vote for a third party. And to those who say they simply cannot vote for somebody who does not recognize the rights of the unborn, I would say that they should still vote based on which one of the two candidates with a chance to win would ultimately do more to advance their cause. While I know some conservatives are unconvinced that Giuliani is serious about appointing strict constructionist judges, there is no doubt about the fact that Clinton would appoint judges in the Ginsburg mold. Also, Giuliani’s political appointees are much more likely to be pro-life than Clinton’s. The idea that there is no real difference between Giuliani and Clinton is an absurd one that will be much more apparent during the heated general election.
There is plenty of time to have this debate, of course, and in the midst of the Republican primary, conservatives can still rally around another candidate who is pro-life. But the point I’m trying to get to on this post, is that those who are arguing against a third party need to be respectful of those who are considering it, rather than lash out and act as if social conservatives must vote for any candidate with an ‘R’ next to his name.