As the internecine debate rages over the GOP candidates for the nomination, and becomes particularly rancorous over Giuliani’s run, I find myself arguing more frequently with Giuliani supporters who seem to find one or two issues persuasive enough to justify his election. The following exchange is typical:
Poster: “I’m supporting Rudy because I’m an economic conservative. It’s that simple. If you agree with me that both the economy and national security are what will matter to America in the long run, then consider what a great job Rudy can do in those areas.”
Me: “Though I agree those are important, I’m animated by my concern for long-term conservative values, and the threat Rudy poses to them. As I think about it, my core concerns encompass yours, but yours don’t necessarily encompass mine.”
There are three primary areas of government policy:
2. National defense/Foreign policy
The term “neo-conservative”, or “neo-con” (meaning literally “new” conservative), was originally devised to denote one whose stances on Policy Areas #1 and/or #2 were conservative, while remaining liberal on #3. At the time, this was a “new” type of self-labeled conservative, hence the name. Unfortunately, many people started attaching an anti-Semitic connotation to the term – possibly because some of the notable people involved in the movement were, in fact, Jewish, like Irving Kristol, Horowitz and Medved – so I’ve started using the term “faux-cons” (“false” conservatives) instead.
But essentially, the conflict between faux-cons and traditional conservatives centers on Policy Area #3. Traditional conservatives, or “paleo-cons” (“old-style” conservatives) hold that #3 is at least as important as the other areas, and in fact encompasses issues of constitutional rights and limitations that are essential to the continuation of the nation in its historic form. Issues such as judicial activism, entitlement spending, gun rights, racial quotas, affirmative action, environmental activism, same-sex “marriage”, right to life, criminal justice, the death penalty, and many more, are all encompassed in Policy Area #3.
These are issues that go the definition of the moral fabric and social contract of our country, and to many paleo-cons are of even more import than anything else, as they define what our society, in fact, is.
To paleo-cons, success in Policy Areas #1 and #2 is virtually worthless if the country loses the battle on #3 and turns into a socialist country like many in Europe. The further irony is that when one adopts strong conservative positions in Area #3, the virtual default positions in the other two Areas are also conservative.
This is why Giuliani is running around trying to convince voters that he’s really a conservative on Policy Area #3, regardless of his history as a very liberal mayor, and throwing around conservative buzzwords like “originalist”. He’s trying to win over, or at least assuage the concerns of, true paleo-cons. This is also why a Giuliani Presidency is such a danger to this country; if Policy Area #3 becomes irrelevant, then we will have changed into a European-style country, or California.
The real challenge is to stimulate a broad consensus that paleo-conservatism, as typified by Reagan, the Contract With America, and Bobby Jindahl’s recent election as Governor of Louisiana, is the only reliable way to win the cultural war in this country, and settling for half measures will lead to our ultimate failure.