Rudy the Social Conservative?

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Last week, defending the notion of Giuliani as someone social conservatives should be comfortable voting for, JPod wrote:

Giuliani spent years and fought 30 lawsuits and the horrified cluckings of the New York Times and the New York Civil Liberties Union trying to save family neighborhoods from the blight of porn shops (which are often mob fronts as well as porn distributors). He was successful. In my estimation, that was the most powerful and successful family-friendly, socially conservative act of governance I've ever seen — and it was undertaken and continued in the teeth of ferocious resistance that would have cowed almost any other politician in America.

This was part of the secret of Giuliani's success in New York - his ability to marry two seemingly contradictory political types, the socially-liberal, upscale Rockefeller Republican and the culturally-conservative, working-class Reagan Democrat, into a single persona. He was the Manhattan of his adulthood and Brooklyn of his youth all at once: When the subject was abortion or gay rights or gun control, he was Christie Todd Whitman; when it turned to porn shops or taxpayer-funded blasphemy or deadbeat dads, he was Bill Bennett. (It helped that the biggest issue when he became mayor, crime, was a rare place where the two types saw roughly eye to eye.)

The difficulty with his Presidential candidacy, though, is that the Rockefeller Republican side of his persona, the tax cuts and Planned Parenthood side, has eclipsed the Reagan-Democrat side. Or at least it isn't clear what he has to offer the Reagan Democrat constituency on domestic policy, given that nobody's looking for a President who'll clean up the porn industry or shut down the NEA. (Though I should note that Reihan and I suggested some issues he might take up.)

Maybe it doesn't matter: Maybe this will be a foreign policy election to the exclusion of every other issue, and the Reagan Democrat vote will be won or lost based on how well Giuliani can make swing voters hear Reagan on Communism when he talks about Iraq and the War on Terror. But my suspicion is that before the race is over, he'll find himself wishing that there was a culture-war debate roiling working-class neighborhoods - in Ohio, say, or maybe Florida - where he could comfortably and plausibly come down on the same side of the issue as Bill Bennett.

Photo by Flickr user VictoryNH used under a Creative Commons license.

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Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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