If Rudy Giuliani were to become the GOP’s 2008 nominee and then somehow prevailed through successful overtures to independents, the wisdom of such counsel would appear to be vindicated. Even if Giuliani in truth owed his election to concerns about a Hillary Clinton presidency, the religious right’s power in the Republican Party – and, more importantly, its capacity to influence public policy for the good – would be incalculably damaged for years to come.
In short, if the religious right decided to support a third candidate, it would become the biggest loser in a Giuliani-Clinton contest, whatever the outcome. Even so, it is tempting for those opposed to Giuliani’s pro-choice stance to speculate that a Hillary Clinton presidency might shock the country into greater receptivity to policies espoused by people of faith. But it’s worth remembering that similar hopes, coupled with discontent with the presidency of George H.W. Bush, inspired some to vote for Ross Perot in 1992. As a result, America endured eight years of a Clinton presidency – and set Hillary Clinton on the path she’s pursuing now.
Ever since people of faith became politically active in the 1980’s, those who oppose their policy goals have consistently tried to portray them as rigid, judgmental and out of the mainstream. The threat of a boycott plays into their adversaries’ hands, allowing them to claim that all the least flattering stereotypes about the religious right have been confirmed.
Indeed, the disheartening truth is that many Americans across the political spectrum would like nothing more than the political marginalization of people of faith. So as the leaders of the religious right determine what conscience requires, those of us who admire their principle and convictions – and support many of their objectives – can only hope that they will not choose a course that will harm a very worthy movement for years to come.