Cross-posted at The Right's Field.
First things first: can we please stop referring to the Council for National Policy as "secretive"
? The CNP is the most publicity-seeking "secret" organization on the planet. It's made up of prima-donna religious right leaders who enjoy their public positions of political influence; if it were truly clandestine it wouldn't be alerting the national media every time it has a significant meeting.
So the CNP is considering
backing a third party candidate if Rudy Giuliani wins the nomination. Again, it's no secret that the group has been casting around for candidates for some time now: back in February
, for instance, it was deliberating over whether to throw its support behind a Christian conservative in the GOP primary -- Huckabee, or Brownback, or South Carolina governor Mark Sanford. Christian Right heavyweight Paul Weyrich described
the Council as "split 50-50" over whether to unite behind a second-tier candidate, or to just split up according to individual dictates of conscience and calculation. The discussions ended without consensus, and the CNP's main movers have mostly sat out the primary race since then, which should tell us something about how much all this talk really means.
The problem was with the notion of backing a horse that couldn't win. And if the Council wasn't willing to support a second tier candidate in the primary, why would it be willing to take the much longer odds of organizing behind a third party candidate in the general?
There's no denying the seriousness of the dilemma facing Christian conservatives. Their influence within the GOP is fading fast; they've never been much more than cheap foot soldiers to a party run by a business lobby with little interest in social issues either way. If they allow the Republicans to nominate a pro-choice candidate, and fail to challenge the decision, they stand to lose much of what remains of their political credibility. But at the same time, they hardly seem to be spoiling for a fight. It's true that they could throw the election to the Democrats by winning only a couple of percentage points next November. But what will that win them? Do they really want proof that all they can draw is a couple points? It could make them look every bit as marginal as Ralph Nader.
This is indeed a dangerous moment
for the Republican party. It seems that the party is calculating that its mass support, once built on the backs of the anti-abortion movement, can now be drawn from the legend of perpetual war. Over the long run, I suspect that's not likely to be a winning strategy. But in the very short term, understand that, for the "secretive" CNP, the decision to support a third-party candidacy will not come easily, and it very well might not come at all.
Labels: 2008, Council for National Policy, fundamentalists, Presidential election