While the wishful thinkers of the conservative blogosphere are pointing to yesterday's endorsement of Rudy Giuliani by icon of the religious right Pat Robertson as a sign of unity, nothing could be further from the truth. That splintering sound you hear is the social conservative movement in the United States being torn apart by the lack of a 'knight in pious armor' that they can call their own, and this endorsement represents nothing more than the desperate capitulation of a movement that shaped American politics for years, but now lies in tatters.
On Tuesday, conservative activist Paul Weyrich, another influential religious-right leader, said he backed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination. But Mr. Weyrich made it clear his motivation is to keep the nomination from going to Mr. Giuliani. Mr. Romney faces opposition from some Christian conservatives wary of his Mormon faith. But that didn't stop Bob Jones III, head of the evangelical Bob Jones University in South Carolina, from endorsing Mr. Romney in October.
This election is forcing the evangelical community to decide whether it is more important to choose a candidate who shares their views or someone who can beat Democratic front-runner Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York.
The perfect storm for Democrats has come to pass. Nothing could be more satisfying than having voters who self-identify as 'evangelical' split evenly among several different candidates. Currently the split is relatively equal among Giuliani, Romney and McCain. Huckabee's recently-rising star suggests that a possible four-way split could be in the making - so much the better for progressive America.
James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family, made his position clear back in May, stating that backing an abortion-rights supporter like Giuliani would violate "my conscience and my moral convictions." Even if Dobson finally come around to reality, and remember we're talking about the religious right -- who eschew earthly realities for the promises of a 'better place" -- it won't carry the ringing fervor of past election-era campaigns. Dobson's heart won't be in it and neither will the hearts of the flock he ultimately attempts to heard in the GOP's direction. They'll stay home on election day in droves.
And Giuliani, to his credit, is choosing the path of electability over righteousness and he isn't promising the Christian voting bloc the perks that Karl Rove had George Bush promise back in the 2000 and 2004 campaigns. The fact that Bush never delivered on those promises only adds sting to the splintering.
So Giuliani sticks to his guns, Dobson sticks to his as well, and the Democratic candidate of choice has a much better opportunity as a result. For once in the last several decades the conservative right's stubbornness of conviction, so amply illustrated by George Bush over the last seven years, will do America some good. It's about time.
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