Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Disinvited to the Party

Why Giuliani's candidacy could be a good thing for the GOP.

By Anna Quindlen

One of the complaints you hear a lot from readers when you're in my line of work and live in my part of the country is that you can't understand America from the vantage point of New York City. I'm beginning to think there's some truth to that, and it's all because of the candidacy of Rudy Giuliani.

Ever since the presidency was a mere gleam in his eye, lots of New Yorkers have been predicting that Rudy, like a toddler or a genuine bagel, would not travel well across the country. It wasn't just the quasi-liberal positions on abortion, gay rights and gun control: he could massage those, and sometimes has. It was his private life, which his former constituents have watched with all the avidity of a soaps addict tuning in to "All My Children." There was the annulment from the first wife, who was his second cousin, the press conference he used to inform the second wife that she was history, the girlfriend he met in the cigar bar who became wife number three, and the very public estrangement from his children, both of whom have suggested that they won't be stumping for Dad. To which the candidate recently responded at a town-hall meeting, "Leave my family alone, just like I'll leave your family alone."

This would be a reasonable response were Giuliani not a member of the Republican Party, which in the last three decades has often been less about public policy and more about moral judgment. It wasn't always so. Once the GOP was moderate and secular. But then the '60s arrived. Society divided itself neatly into the button-down and the tie-dyed, and the Republican Party rallied around something called "family values." It's a phrase that has appeared in every party platform since 1976 and is often accompanied by the adjective "traditional," which translated means that if you don't have a stay-at-home mommy, a dominant daddy, some kids, a marriage license and a church membership, you're disinvited to the party.

Combined with the ascendancy of the religious right, which had the distinct political advantage of insisting that even its most uncharitable positions were beamed down from above, what developed was a neat political dichotomy. The Democrats were godless liberals—"contemporary socialism" was how the 1992 GOP platform put it—no matter how often they went to church or voted for war. And the Republicans were the party of old-fashioned values, less constitutional than canonical. Barry Goldwater, once known as Mr. Conservative, decried this shift before he died: Christian conservatives were, he said, "trying to take the Republican Party away from the Republican Party, and make a religious organization out of it."

It took some sleight of hand to reinforce this positioning. You have to give credit to the spin-sters who portrayed Ronald Reagan as a paterfamilias (although he had distant relationships with his children) guided by God (although he scarcely ever went to church). By contrast, while the Clintons were inveterate churchgoers and involved parents, and decided to keep their marriage together after consulting with Billy Graham, it was easy in the wake of the Lewinsky scandal to demonize their personal lives. Bill Clinton alone helped to keep the Republican Church of Moral Certainty alive longer than it might have been, and Hillary Clinton's candidacy has given its fringes a second wind.

But a shift has slowly been brewing. The Republican platform of 1992 had the family-values section at its very beginning; by 2004 it appeared at the end. National security had trumped the wacky emphasis on whether kids can sue their parents. Perhaps in part this was because even Republican families have changed in the last 30 years. The vice president became enraged when he was asked by a reporter about his daughter, a lesbian with a longtime partner, who gave birth to their first child not long ago. Maybe Dick Cheney genuinely thinks there is no conflict between being the standard-bearer of a party that has been hostile to gay rights and the father of a person who might need them. But if you run on family values, both your values and your family will inevitably be subject to scrutiny. Be careful what you wish for: it might get you.

A Giuliani victory wouldn't be a good thing for this country, but his candidacy may wind up being a very good thing for his party. The poll numbers that show him consistently ahead come as a surprise to many of us in the city where he was once mayor—and where he once bunked with a gay couple after leaving his second wife. But perhaps they indicate that the end is nigh for the stranglehold the Leviticus lobby has had on the GOP. All those who joined the Republican Party for smaller government, not fire and brimstone, may be ready to take back the power, to say that health care is more important than creationism, that the disintegration of Social Security is more critical than a ban on gay marriage. Maybe Republicans are finally ready to be members of a political party again, the kind Barry Goldwater could embrace, one that knows the difference between a podium and a pulpit.


Mayden' s Voyage said...

I wish I had the time to reply to this in a way it deserves- Maybe later tonight?
I hope so- but the bottom line is- while I differ a little with some of the things Anna said here (where the politial spin on a party and the reality of people it represents are 2 different things)-
I appreciate you posting this.
I hope to get back to you soon :)

Anonymous said...

the us of a...

restores hope to see that not all americans subscribe to mindless black or white politics


leelee said...

I look forward to your reply Mayden. I really enjoyed that article..and if I was a republican, I'd want my party a democrat, I want the old republican party back. I hate what politics has become..

leelee said...

No /t, thakfully there are a handful of us who look a little deeper..thank goodness. I think more and more people want this country unified..differences are good..but it shouldn't divide us.


Mayden' s Voyage said...

This is off the hip- lord I should probably write a rough draft first- lol- but here goes!

I see President Bush, Hillary, and Al Gore all as people of faith-
One has a faith in God and family ties, one in money/name recognition, and one in the environment.
I'm not sure what Obama has faith in, but I now know it is not his American flag pin ;)

Honestly- in the last 10 years or so- the candidate I loved best was Ross Perot...his faith was in solid business practices!

I would likely be labled a Christain Conservative Republican- however I am at odds with the self-rightous aura that hovers above my party. Above all groups- Christian Concervatives should almost STINK of grace- because we are all flawed and have made the same mistakes as everyone else.
Clearly Giuliani fits the bill in this regard. But I'm still on the fence as to whether or not I would vote for him. He is a Yankee after all! (that was a joke :)

I wish very much that a man who loves his first wife- is devoted to his family- accepting of sexually other minded people- with a STRONG successful financial background- and a professed believer in God...yet open to admitting he does not have all the answers about theology- and above all else loves this country and it's constitution- I wish that man would step forward to be the next leader of the Republican party.

Everyone has faith in something- it will go with a candidate to the podium no matter what- and I think that faith matters...
But not more than common sense and devotion to what is best for our country. Over zealous self righteous Christians are on par with loose minded liberal socialists- both are dangerous- and will be a detriment to our nation.

leelee said...

Off the hip or not...that was very well said..thank you for your comment..

veryone has faith in something- it will go with a candidate to the podium no matter what- and I think that faith matters...
But not more than common sense and devotion to what is best for our country. Over zealous self righteous Christians are on par with loose minded liberal socialists- both are dangerous- and will be a detriment to our nation.

I could not agree more..well done friend..

Scary Monster said...

Me has been way too long away from your thoughts and hugs and now there is this Monster of a post to reply to. You seem to have a wonderfully intelligent and perceptive view of what politics and polititions could and should be, but unfortunately you are going to find that many ignorant people will disagree with you.

Better to sit back and enjoy the memories of seeing an incredible band and spending time with friends who will do more for yer happiness than any polititician.

You can go home. Me just wishes that me were there right now.


leelee said...

Oh my god made my day..

I wish you were here too..

thanks for teh kind words and your advice. I have to agree...and I do spend way more time on my pursuits of happiness than I do with politics anymore. It can be tooaggravating and there are too many good things to focus on.


When you come to the US. I would love to meet you and the vixen wherever you are...


The Phosgene Kid said...

Yeah Jesus for president!! If he and Superman both ran - who'd win?? I've been disappointed the Julianni hasn't appeared in drag again and even more disappointed he didn't go down with his ship. AS for Gore, where's Lee Harvey when you need him??

No matter who you vote for you will wind up with the same elitist crap. There isn't a soul on the Hill that gives a rat's ass about anything not presented by a big time campaign contributer or a lobbyist. All their bumper stickers should read "What's in it for me?"

I think it is neigh no time to tear it all down and start over, depose the American Kings and their nobles and put the people back in charge.

Sorry about the rant, but as long as the wealthy run the country acclaiming the lord almighty at the top of their voices we are doomed. If there was a christ I doubt he'd give a damn about the Republicans or the Democrats.

Serena Joy said...

Hmmm. I'm not sure what I think. The truth is, I'm not thrilled with any of the candidacies. I know I'm going to have to go down the list and start paring it down. Eventually. It's gonna be pretty tough.

puerileuwaite said...

Excrement repackaged, still smells the same. And Giuliani would just be a NYC incarnation of the idiot we have now. He would be another DISASTER!

Wake up America! The 1950's are gone, and gone for good.

Vote straight Democrat, baby! Bring back compassion and vote for people who care about the middle class Americans who pay so much and get so little in return.

leelee said...

Wow Phos....rant away...I'm lovin' it...

Serena...listen to Pug!

Pug..lets go to a rally together!! I like the way you think (about everything it seems)

The Phosgene Kid said...

The British did us a favor when they burned Washington to the ground in 1812, we should have been grateful.