Holier Than Thou (or at Least Holier Than Rudy)


Michael Scherer has the story of the week, a report on irate religious right leaders and their poorly-concealed planning for a third party movement if Rudy Giuliani gets the GOP nomination.

Giuliani was the last major Republican candidate to accept the invitation to [James Dobson's] Values Voter Summit. As a result, he is now scheduled to address the crowd just a few hours before religious and conservative leaders meet in private to discuss strategies for derailing his bid for the White House. "It is going to be an interesting juxtaposition," said one other participant in the Salt Lake meeting, who plans to attend the summit. "We will see what effect it has." Among the expected speakers at the private Saturday meeting is James Clymer, who chairs the U.S. Constitution Party, according to a person familiar with the planning.

I've heard conservatives talking like this for months, no one taking them very seriously. Richard Viguerie spoke to a Libertarian Party conference about how a "third movement" might be needed to scare Republicans straight. "But Viguerie's a harmless old crank!" went the chorus. Well, he doesn't look so harmless now.

On one hand I respect what the Dobsonites are doing here. On the opposite trenches of the culture wars, the professional lefties the two million or so people who voted Nader in 2000, are collapsing into the Democratic Party and asking nothing from it. Hillary Clinton says "I'll end the war," then mulls plans to keep troops in Iraq indefinitely; well, nobody's perfect!

There is a big difference, though, that sort of scuttles that comparison. The lefties of 2000 had nowhere to go after Sen. Paul Wellstone backed off on his possible presidential bid. The Dobson crowd have a perfectly adequate candidate in Mike Huckabee: Married for three decades, a former preacher, trigger-happy in the Middle East. So why don't they support him in an effort to stop Rudy? Maybe Huckabee's lazy campaign and failure to court them effectively has convinced them he's a loser. Or maybe it's better for the long-term power of these conservatives to throw a tantrum about the frontrunner than to back a dark horse and possibly lose. (I wonder if twice-married Sen. George Allen would have really been acceptable to this crowd.)

If they actually do bolt the party and scout for a Constitution Party ticket, here's what they have to look forward to.