Last week, Rudolph Giuliani defined the pro-choice position as succinctly as any abortion rights group in America. However, in doing so, he also defined himself as the religious right’s Public Enemy Number One. With Giuliani’s shedding of conservative garb, his candidacy now takes on historic dimensions, as he fights to become the first Republican in modern times to win the Republican nomination without the Religious Right’s blessing.
At the start of his campaign, Rudy seemed uncharacteristically indecisive, as he vacillated and equivocated until he was in danger of becoming emasculated. As much as Giuliani likes drag, social conservatism was one dress that never quite fit. For the first time in his career, Giuliani looked uncomfortable in his own skin and it was never more apparent than during the first GOP presidential debate, where it was downright painful to watch him dissemble on social issues.
What Giuliani quickly learned was that bulls don’t dance well in china shops, nor do they walk particularly well on eggshells. With his record on gay equality, gun control and abortion, he could promise to change the name of the Big Apple to the Big Peach to win Georgia, and would still be distrusted by a majority of southern Republicans.
To have a shot at winning, Rudy had to be Rudy – the Libertarian bully who ran the libertine out of Times Square. After all, what was the point of sucking up to Focus on the Family, when he wants the public and media to focus on anything but his dysfunctional family?
What Giuliani actually said when outlining his position on abortion was rather bold, eloquent and remarkable for its candor.
“I think [abortion] is morally wrong,” said Giuliani. “I think ultimately even if you disagree, you have to respect the fact that their conscience is as strong as yours about this, and they’re the ones that are most affected by it. So, therefore I would grant women the right to make that choice.”
With that statement, the current frontrunner just stuck his thumb in the large eye of the 800-pound religious right Cyclops, which responded with blind fury.
“The mayor’s position on abortion couldn’t be more repugnant to pro-lifers,” carped Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention. “It shows a moral obtuseness that is stunning.”
A Giuliani victory in the primaries would be a significant victory for gay rights, in that his elevation as the nominee would only occur over the Religious Right’s dead body. This would produce the first Republican torchbearer who was not beholden to the Jerry Falwell crowd. Even more delicious, is the prospect of right wing voters having to choose between two despised New Yorkers, Giuliani and their Satan – Hillary Clinton.
This match-up would be a dream for the GLBT community, because it would be the first election without a feast or famine outcome. If Giuliani were elected, we might see a Democratic Congress pass hate crime legislation and the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, with a Republican President signing it, adding heft to its passage. If Clinton won, the same legislation would sail through. They are both opposed to marriage, so that is a moot point, with most of the activity on this issue occurring in the states.
With an acceptable Republican on GLBT issues, gay voters would finally get the luxury of casting their votes solely on other matters, such as taxes, Iraq and healthcare. On these concerns, there are vast differences among the candidates, and Giuliani’s unwavering support for the war and his closeness to Bush might undo him, even if the Religious Right can’t.
What Giuliani did was take a huge gamble that the Religious Right has been so weakened that moderate Republicans combined with Wall Street money can overcome their strenuous objections. The recent closing of Coral Ridge Ministries’ Center for Reclaiming America for Christ is further evidence of the declining power of the far right. Still, even as the “Out of Business” sign was taped to the Center’s door, three Republicans professed that they did not believe in evolution during the GOP presidential debate, showing that the Religious Right can still flex its considerable muscle.
While the Democratic primary is more interesting, with several attractive, charismatic candidates, Giuliani’s fate should be the primary concern of GLBT voters. Rudy will either break the Religious Right’s monopoly over the GOP or they will brutally abort his campaign over his pro-choice position. The outcome of this grueling battle will determine whether the Republican Party finally evolves, or whether we will see more candidates who don’t subscribe to the theory of evolution.