Since about the time the Moral Majority coalesced in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Republican establishment has welcomed social conservatives to help get their candidates elected so long as they let their concern for moral issues take a back seat to fiscal policies. The leaders of the pro-family movement have always been more than willing to comply with the demands of the Wall Street insiders just to keep their place at the table. If the unity of this social-fiscal conservative coalition ever fractured, social conservatives bore the brunt of the blame.
And so it goes in the present race for the Republican presidential nomination. The Republican establishment has once again told social conservatives to suck it up and accept Giuliani as the de facto nominee in spite of their reservations about his record on abortion and the homosexual agenda to redefine marriage. Why? Because Rudy has the fiscal credentials. And, right on cue, a number of leaders of the pro-family movement complied, vis-à-vis Pat Robertson.
But just as their leaders were turning left, the rank and file of family values voters turned right, falling in behind Mike Huckabee, much to the chagrin of fiscal conservatives.
Cue Romney—the fiscal conservatives’ alternative to Giuliani. The idea seemed to be to convince the social conservatives that Romney was one of them, only much more refined than that “country bumpkin” Huckabee. The plan went something like this: have Romney deliver a major speech about his faith under the guise of being persecuted because of his faith (even though 80 percent of potential Republican primary voters polled said Romney’s faith was not an issue for them), and then if anyone questioned his faith, accuse them of being a bigot. Further, have Romney stretch the truth about seeing his father “marching with Martin Luther King,” as an appeal to the African-American values voter, and then when the record indicates George Romney never marched with MLK, explain it all away by saying the candidate was speaking “figuratively.” This strategy was supposed to lure the drifting rank and file back into lock-step.
There was just one problem with this plan. Social conservatives looked at Romney’s record on social issues and discovered he was “effectively pro-choice” throughout his political career just as he told Tim Russert on a recent edition of Meet the Press. Romney, it turns out, looks like a Giuliani in sheep’s clothing.