The Wrong Pander

I'm not sure it says anything good about Rudy Giuliani, the Republican Party or the country as a whole that he seems more willing to throw his political convictions to the winds on gay marriage than on abortion. I never expected him to leap over to the pro-life side, obviously, but he could have come out as a pro-choice opponent of Roe v. Wade, on the Wittesian grounds that having the Supreme Court make abortion law has been bad for our politics. That would have been a flip-flop, sure, but one that landed him in a principled place and might have made him attractive to a lot of pro-life voters. Instead, he's decided to cast himself as the candidate who's for civil unions but against, well, actual-existing civil unions - presumably with the calculation that pandering to social conservatives on gay marriage is safer for the general election that being on the record as opposing Roe, which even pro-life candidates have been wary of doing. That calculation may be correct, given that Americans tend to describe themselves as pro-Roe even though majorities oppose its substance; on the other hand, civil unions command majority support in many polls too, and I suspect, and hope, that being pro-choice will hurt Rudy more in the primaries than being anti-civil unions will help him.

In the long run - or at least the short long run, since God knows where we'll be in 2250 - the pro-life movement is likely to remain a potent force in American politics, whereas I think it's clear that the crusade against gay marriage and civil unions is already petering out. (It's succeeded in nearly every state where it could plausibly succeed, and it would take an overreaching Supreme Court decision to fan it back to life, which is possible but unlikely.) And it would be nice to see the GOP candidates recognize that fact, instead of tailoring their panders to fit the political landscape of 2004.