How Rudy turned terrorism into a religious issue
MARIO TAMA/Getty Images The big news in the political world today is Pat Robertson’s endorsement of Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor whose past positions on the “God, guns, and gays” trifecta that animates many religious voters in the United States are anathema to the religious right. What I think many political analysts are ...
MARIO TAMA/Getty Images
The big news in the political world today is Pat Robertson’s endorsement of Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor whose past positions on the “God, guns, and gays” trifecta that animates many religious voters in the United States are anathema to the religious right.
What I think many political analysts are missing about Rudy’s enduring popularity among conservatives is that the war on terror is a religious issue to them, and it trumps all the others for many. Many religious conservatives view Islam as an existential threat to their faith and their way of life. Rudy speaks to their fears. So while we can all laugh at Democratic candidate and Senator Joe Biden’s recent comment—”There’s only three things [Giuliani] mentions in a sentence — a noun, a verb, and 9/11″—and we can poke fun at Rudy’s shocking lack of knowledge about foreign affairs, it’s what voters think that ultimately matters. Bill Clinton once said that being “strong and wrong” is better in politics than being “weak and right,” a comment that very much applies to Rudy. The vast majority of voters don’t evaluate candidates’ positions on the issues or look for detailed policy knowledge. They don’t go to the candidates’ Web sites and read their policy papers. Who has the time? So voters use heuristic methods to make intuitive judgments about politicians based on their TV appearances or their perceived character. Rudy’s got the name recognition locked up. He promises he’ll stand up to the terrorists, and that’s good enough for many.
It remains to be seen, of course, whether other influential evangelical leaders, such as James Dobson of Focus on the Family, will follow Robertson’s lead. Mitt Romney, Giuliani’s closest rival for the Republican nomination, has been attempting to redefine himself not as a Mormon but as a generic Christian conservative of late. But today, this endorsement looks like a big win for Rudy and a blow to Mitt’s aspirations to be the candidate of the religious right.
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