Just How Fractured Is the Right?

Ever since the news broke that many right-wing leaders were considering abandoning the Republican Party if Rudy Giuliani secures the presidential nomination, lots of ink has been spilled speculating about just how serious they are about carrying out the threat and discussing what it could mean for the 2008 election. 

Today, Bloomberg ran an article that pretty well encapsulates the utter confusion plaguing the movement at the moment by quoting a variety of leaders and activists, none of whom seem to agree with each other:

– “I am asking them to at least consider Voltaire’s question: Do you make the perfect the enemy of the good?” said Richard Land, a leader of the 16-million-member Southern Baptist Convention, based in Nashville.

– If Clinton, 59, wins, “her administration would declare war on social conservatives,” Bauer said. “She’ll go after conservative talk radio, she’ll go after Christian radio’ … Bauer said that with some “serious negotiations” over his platform, religious conservatives could find a way to support Giuliani. He declined to provide specifics, citing a need to maintain his bargaining position if Giuliani is the Republican nominee.

– “Some leaders will hold to principle and will not vote for someone who is pro-abortion,” said Tom Minnery, the political director of Focus on the Family.

– Michael Farris, the chancellor of Patrick Henry College, an evangelical school in Purcellville, Virginia, said he would consider supporting Giuliani only if “he named my mother as vice president.”

– “The entire conservative movement is going to be united because Hillary is going to be on the ballot and the Supreme Court is going to be at stake,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington-based anti- tax advocacy group.  Land sees things differently. “I know a lot more evangelicals than Grover does,” he said. “If Giuliani is the nominee, Grover will be shocked.’

Other articles have reinforced the notion that not only to right-wing leaders disagree with each other, but state-level activists disagree with the national leaders.  For instance, activists in Texas are not happy with Gov. Rick Perry for endorsing Giuliani:

Cathie Adams, president of the Texas Eagle Forum, said Perry has put his supporters in a quandary. She said Giuliani shouldn’t assume Perry’s endorsement brings with it conservative backing.

“Just because Gov. Perry supports Giuliani doesn’t mean we are going to follow him off a cliff and that’s how I see it, off a cliff,” Adams said.  

And in New Jersey, local activists announced that they have no intention of taking marching orders from James Dobson:

Local Christian activists, while saying they respect Dobson’s stance, aren’t ready to follow him in lock step.

Asked what they would do if Giuliani were the nominee, two prominent activists said it was too early to answer.

“I think we have to wait and see how these things pan out,” said Len Deo of the New Jersey Family Policy Council.

John Tomicki, who leads the Trenton-based League of American Families, responded with a mild rebuke to Dobson.

“I would hope people like Dr. Dobson would spend their energy helping to support those who do uphold our principles and converting those we believe are not following solid conservative principles,” Tomicki said.

Perhaps nothing better sums up the Right’s confusion, hedging, and uncertainty about how it will all play out than this quote from Richard Land – who has repeatedly stated that he will not, under any circumstances, vote for Giuliani:

“I can’t vote for a pro-choice candidate,” Richard Land, who heads the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy arm, said of Giuliani. But he added, “I’m not going to criticize anybody who says, ‘I think Rudy Giuliani is the lesser of two evils”‘ compared to Clinton.