The Republican presidential-nominating process exerts such a powerful conservative tug, that the candidates — as self-serving as we know they are — have steered even further rightward than could have been expected. And it’s a whole year before the first votes are even cast.
John McCain now wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and ensure abstinence-only sex education; Mitt Romney has U-turned on abortion, joined the National Rifle Association, and renounced his 1992 primary vote for Paul Tsongas; Rudy Giuliani has back-pedaled on late-term abortion, promised to name “strict constructionist” judges — right-wing code for anti-abortionists — and distanced himself from his own successful gun-control policies. And all three support George W. Bush’s escalation of the Iraq War.
The candidates are also spending time with the leaders of the religious far-right — as McCain did this week, sojourning to Orlando for the National Religious Broadcasters’ annual convention.
Did they see something in the 2006 midterm elections that everyone else missed?
While the nation may not be on the leftist trajectory some have credited with swaying those elections, it is clearly fed up with right-wing ideologues. Most of the country rejects the right’s absolutist positions on abortion, sexual-abstinence education, stem-cell research, and gun control — much as they rejected the Republican Congress’s attempt to hijack Terri Schiavo’s death for ideology, and President Bush’s reckless perpetuation and escalation of the disastrous Iraq War.
Within the Republican Party itself, though, adherents of those positions dominate primary politics. That’s particularly true in the South, but it could also be seen in the right’s attack on Rhode Island’s former Senator Lincoln Chafee in the 2006 primary.
By demanding that their candidates pander to the far right in the presidential primary, the GOP may well be dooming its eventual candidate in the general election.
In fact, the rhetoric of the Republican candidates during the primary season is likely to alienate independent and moderate voters. The more those voters are driven away from participating in the Republican primaries, the more important ultra-conservatives’ votes become —potentially leading McCain, Romney, and Giuliani even further away from the center. By the time the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary arrive, all three might be indistinguishable from Newt Gingrich.
The ideologically diverse Democratic field should be the beneficiary of the Republicans’ stampede to the far right. Let’s hope so.
Is Dick Next?
Predicting a jury’s actions is risky business, and that is certainly true in the case of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, on trial for perjury and obstruction of justice in the Valerie Plame–leak case. But as closing arguments took place Tuesday, one thing was clear: Vice-President Dick Cheney was up to his eyeballs in the attempt to smear Joe Wilson by outing his wife as a CIA agent, which itself was part of the ongoing effort to deceive the American public about Iraq.
Lest we get distracted by the details of small lies in this case — say, who first told whom about Plame — let’s remember that this case is ultimately about the big lies that sent us into a needless war that continues to take American lives.