Giulianism and the GOP

Tom Edsall’s TNR cover piece on Rudy Giuliani is persuasive when it argues that Rudy could win the Republican nomination despite being pro-choice - and I’m not just saying that because Hizzoner cleaned up at the debate last night. It’s considerably less persuasive, on the other hand, when it suggests that “Giulianism,” at least in its current form, could remake the GOP in Rudy’s image. Not that there isn’t a potential Giuliani majority out there – obviously I think there is. But capturing it would involve a very different strategy from the one Rudy is pursuing so far. By Edsall’s own account, what Giuliani’s campaign offers at the moment is a mix of War-on-Terror maximalism, social liberalism and hard-line fiscal conservatism, a combination whose appeal seems distinctly limited when divorced from the appeal of Rudy Giuliani himself. If Rudy wins the nomination and the general election, it will most likely be in spite of this ideological cocktail, not because of it – he’ll win the primary because at least some pro-lifers and gun owners like him enough to overlook his stance on their litmus-test issues, and then he’ll win in November because at least some of the populist swing voters who decide general elections are sufficiently fond of him to overlook his apparent disinterest in their socioeconomic anxieties. It’s hard to see a politicians who’s so sui generis, and whose appeal is ultimately personal rather than political, affecting a sweeping ideological transformation of his party, or his country.

Though of course you never know.