Saturday, November 10, 2007

A big deal for Rudy?

American Thinker has posted several of their contributors reactions to Pat Robertson's endorsement of Rudolph Giuliani. All but one of the essays seem to have been written by people who are stuck at least 15 years in the past. You have to go back that far to find a time when Robertson wasn't a self parody and actually commanded real respect from anyone other than a handful of aging 700 Club viewers.

George Neumayr wrote:

Pat Robertson's Big Tent of Babel

It is not surprising that he endorsed Giuliani

After Pat Robertson endorsed Rudy Giuliani on Tuesday, John McCain said, "Every once in a while, I'm left speechless. This is one of those times." Others have expressed similar astonishment, and the media, which normally has no use for Robertson, is playing up this "striking alliance."

But I don't find the endorsement surprising at all. Rather, it seems to me the logical terminus of the political horsetrading and subtle deempahsis of moral conservatism implicit in Robertson's broken old project, The Christian Coalition.

In keeping with its typically stupid oversimplifications, the mainstream media has always cast Robertson as a "rigid" Christian fundamentalist when the reality is more depressing and complicated: Far from being reliably doctrinaire and consistent, he has shown himself all too flexible to adjust Christian conservatism for the sake of a perceived greater Republican good.

Go back and look at the "Big Tent" politically correct strategies Roberston protege Ralph Reed used to pursue as head of the Christian Coalition in the name of "tactical" victories. Those foreshadowed Robertson's eventual endorsement of a "pro-choice" Republican presidential nominee, as did for that matter his inane endorsement of the ideologically feckless Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court. (Recall his insistence to Christian conservatives that she represented an "acceptable" choice to the Court; he even warned Republican senators that if they voted against her they would face retaliation. This is all worth keeping in mind as Robertson justifies his endorsement of Giuliani on among other claims that he is sure to select solid nominees to the Court.)

The Christian Coalition endeavored to be "mainstream" but in the process lost its distinctively Christian message and became a confusing adjunct of a drifting GOP. This "mainstream" chatter was at the time presented as nothing more than a change in style, not substance. But in fact the substantive message was slowly changing. To serve the needs of Republican coalition politics, social conservatism had to be buried within a "larger" agenda and whittled down for politically correct consumption. As one example of this, in 1996, Ralph Reed suggested the party's pro-life plank was too narrow and should be amended (to include mentions of "compassionate" alternatives to abortion and so on).

Unlike Jerry Falwell who didn't bother to play such games, Robertson had a weakness for the Big Tent babble that made the rise of the Schwarzeneggers and Giulianis inevitable. In 1992, he said "the task of evangelicals in politics will be to recognize that a political party is not a church and therefore it is most counterproductive to exclude...valuable potential allies on the basis of narrowly defined doctrinal purity."

What this meant in practice was that Robertson's Christian Coalition might as well have been called The Republican Coalition, as it reduced the concerns of Judeo-Christian morality to one item on a much longer list of Republican positions on the economy and crime. Many of these positions were sensible but lumping the central issues of morality in with the rest had the effect of marginalizing it.

"We have allowed ourselves to be ghettoized by a narrow band of issues like abortion, homosexual rights and prayer in school," Reed explained as he broadened the group's message beyond social conservatism. This approach was the Christian Republican equivalent of the liberal U.S. Catholic bishops' ill-fated Seamless Garment theory in the 1980s which treated abortion as just one among many concerns.

And it has proven just as "successful." The Seamless Garment theory helped elect pro-abortion Catholic Democrats; now the Robertson/Reed version of it helps elect pro-abortion Republican ones.

If anything, history shows that the "narrowly defined doctrial purity" of the Moral Majority packs much more of a political punch than the muddled Christian Coalition message. Falwell helped elect Ronald Reagan; Robertson has reduced himself to a PR tool for an obvious cultural liberal who wouldn't dare appear with him on stage if he didn't serve the temporary purpose of head-faking Christian conservatives.

"The mission of the Christian Coalition is simple," Robertson once said. The mission "is "to mobilize Christians-one precinct at a time, one community at a time-until once again we are the head and not the tail, and at the top rather than the bottom of our political system."

Yet it has become the tail. Under Robertson's temporizing logic, the same Christian conservatives who supposedly entered politics to stop pro-abortion politicians now find themselves shilling for them.

George Neumayr is editor of Catholic World Report and press critic for California Political Review.

Robertson is a political animal and needs to be on the side of the winner to preserve his relevance. So he stuck his moistened finger in the air and felt which way the wind was blowing then ran in that direction as fast as he could in an attempt to get out in front and seem to be a leader.

What he has done is demonstrate to anyone who is paying attention that he values being a Republican more than he values being a Christian. It is a choice that all believers must make repetedly throughout their lives. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus tells us, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. . ."

For Pat Robertson "god" is spelled G-O-P.