Dobson Prefers Hillary to Rudy

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James Dobson and other social conservatives have been defending the view that they should vote for a third-party candidate or not vote if the two major party candidates for president are Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton. I've been arguing over the course of the last several months (e.g. here, here, here, and here) that this argument assumes the ridiculous premise that a Hillary Clinton presidency is not morally worse on social conservative assumptions than a Giuliani presidency. I thought that point should make a nice reductio ad absurdum argument against Dobson, since it would lead to him accepting a ridiculous claim about the relative value of Giuliani and Clinton presidencies according to pro-life principles.

Keith DeRose left a link in the comments on one of those posts to a post containing video from Dobson's recent appearance on Hannity and Colmes. At the very end of the video, Dobson surprisingly bites the bullet on this. He actually goes as far as claiming that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be far better than a Rudy Giuliani presidency, on socially-conservative, pro-life principles. I guess this is the way things go, then. When there's very little you can say to defend an outrageous view, all that's left is to deny an obvious premise of the argument. Dobson has chosen to take that path.

His claim is that the pro-life movement and social conservatism in general would be ended in this country if the party that has traditionally given the time of day to social conservatism were to nominate a candidate who is not sufficiently pro-life. His claim is that he's got longer-term considerations in mind than those who argue that a Giuliani presidency would be at least enough better than a Hillary Clinton presidency on these issues to be worth trying to elect him over her.

I'm not remotely convinced. Parties often nominate outliers in terms of their views with respect to the party's traditional views. Sometimes those candidates win in the general election. Sometimes those views become the dominant view of the party, as happened when Ronald Reagan transformed the Republican party away from what it had been in the Nixon and Ford years. Most of the time oddball views that are idiosyncratic to a president do not end the party's dominant view on that issue, as is very clearly evidenced by conservatives' responses to President Bush's views on immigration and his nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court on grounds that did not convince judicial conservatives of her qualifications. On those matters, he is an outlier in the party. Had John McCain become president in 2000, his views on campaign fincance would surely have had same status, with conservatives largely rejecting them.

So I'm just not convinced that having four or eight years of a moderate pro-choicer in office representing the GOP means the GOP ceases to be a pro-life party or that it means the pro-life movement is dead. That just doesn't follow. Strong activism will continue even if the president's own party will be going against the president, as it has with this president on a number of occasions. So I wouldn't see why it should be a problem for a pro-life social conservative to vote for pro-choicers like Giuliani or Fred Thompson against Hillary Clinton if they were to get the nomination, because I think the differences between them and her are significant even on these issues (never mind on all the others).

Update: Justin Taylor has a nice discussion of this issue that I was going to link to at some point but forgot to as I was writing this. 

6 Comments

Is Rudy's pro-choice position the only objection these Christian conservative have of Rudy?

I understood his position on other issues and his personal scandals and moral judgment were also factors.

My understanding is that his adultery and divorces lead them not to consider him trustworthy when he promises things. I haven't heard Dobson saying that he thinks it would be immoral in principle to vote for someone for president who had committed adultery or wrongly divorced. As far as I can tell, it's just part of his argument against trusting him when he says he'd appoint so-called strict constructionist judges.

I haven't heard them mention any scandals other than those. Do you have any particular ones in mind?

Mike, I'm not sure what you're referring to. He wore a dress in a skit once. In Shakespeare's time, all the women's parts were played by men. He advocates gay couples having the same civil benefits as other couples can have but doesn't approve of calling it marriage. I don't see anything else there that Dobson and others like him have been harping on, so I don't see how that extended rant answers my question.

Most of that stuff doesn't seem to have anything to do with my question, but it's hard to resist pointing out that a lot of the charges are unsubstantiated. There aren't many links, and a lot of it is mere assertion. That's not necessarily a sign that it's false, except that the author seems highly unreliable as evidenced by his unfamiliarity with the political scene in the United States, which I conclude from his willingness to call Giuliani a liberal.

He's no liberal. His economic and foreign policy views are conservative, in some cases more conservative than most of the other GOP candidates. See the Club for Growth's evaluations of the candidates. They're not afraid of criticizing Republican candidates (they're very opposed to Huckabee and sort of lukewarm about a couple frontrunners). But he comes out with flying colors by their economic criteria. His judicial views are very clearly toward the right in general, even if he's a bit muddled on Roe (and look at his judicial team for his campaign; they're mostly conservative stalwarts of high reputation). His social views are only moderately liberal. So I don't place much trust in someone who has no gauge whatsoever of where the center in this country is. Extremists usually aren't trustworthy enough to accept what they say at face value without serious support and exposure to those who would present arguments to the contrary.

I am quite sure that Hillary would be morally worse than Rudy. However both have enough moral problems for Christians to stay away from them.

God doesn't need us to help him by picking the lesser of two evils. If they are both evil (ie. think it is okay to kill defenseless babies) then we shouldn't get caught up in damage control by voting for the best one. In doing so don't we share some of the responsibility for the politicians merely carrying out the platform that we were privy to before we cast our vote? It is after a government for the people and by the people.

A practical problem with the whole thing is that if Christians do vote for the lesser of two evils that is exactly what we will get. The GOP will never have a candidate who is not acceptable by 50%? of there registered voters. However if the powers that be know that Christians will vote for anyone as long as they aren't Hillary won't they go for the most 'moderate' person they can find so that they will be able to get more swing voters?

Abortion is a very serious problem. Should we really feel good about the country while this problem persists? Ultimately God will be the one to, Lord willing by changing hearts, if the country is going to turn around. The most important thing Christians can do is pray and be gentle but unwavering voices in the whole discussion. We also need to vote responsibly as that is an area of influence that God has given us. However to vote for a pro choice candidate is certainly a step in the wrong direction and serves to make the problem worse.

I've already addressed the "lesser of two evils" issue. I will repeat that I do not see that as a strictly accurate description. As I said in the previous discussion:

I think in the case of Giuliani vs. Clinton or Giuliani vs. Obama, I wouldn't think the "lesser of two evils" label is strictly accurate. I would say that both outcomes are unfortunate, and both are more unfortunate than a candidate I'd agree with more, but any of the candidates running are less fortunate than the ideal candidate. So the question is really how close the two unfortunate candidates have to be to each other to be worth a miss or a third-party vote. My contention is that if there's a noticeable enough difference for me to prefer one of the two, then that person isn't strictly speaking the lesser of two evils but is in fact the preferable among two unfortunate choices.

Lots of people have views that would lead them to do immoral things. But if we have a choice between two people, one of whom is significantly worse, then voting for the one that's better will make us responsible for the difference between the two. The people who voted for the candidates in the primary are responsible for giving us those candidates to choose from. In the general election, we're responsible for the worse situation if we don't help to prevent it or for making it better by helping prevent it by voting for the better candidate.

It would be stupid to vote for anyone as long as it's not Hillary. I'd vote for Hillary in a second if it was a choice between her and Hitler. To get my vote against Hillary, the person running against her better be noticeably better than her. So the caricature of "anyone but Hillary" is patently unfair.

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