The Family Research Council is hosting a Values Voters Summit this weekend in Washington DC. The results of the straw poll were just announced, and Romney eked out a narrow win over Mike Huckabee (among voters in attendance, Huckabee beat Romney by 40 percentage points).
Over at Tapped, Kate Sheppard has been covering the convention:
I was certain Huckabee would come out on top. I wonder what sort of effect this will have on whether or not Dobson and friends run a third-party candidate? If the "values voters" folks are backing a front runner, seems much less likely.
Maybe, but I think she’s analyzing it from the perspective of electoral politics. I’m sure that’s a consideration for the Dobsonites and their ilk, but I think it overlooks a more base motivation: the desire of fundamentalist Christians engaged in professional politics to keep open the financial spigots and prevent the faithful from giving up on funding their political (and patronage) operations.
Years ago, while interviewing for a job with a labor union, I was brought in to the office of the union's local official. It was a relatively small union, but the walls were covered with photos of the official with a who’s who of Democratic glitterati from Bill Clinton and Al Gore to Ted Kennedy to just about anyone who was anybody in Michigan politics. When he entered the office and saw me looking at the photos, he told me he didn’t really care that much about any of those photos for his own ego, but it was important to his members to know that he had that kind of access to the politicians the union asked the members to support and to whom their PAC contributions were donated.
The political fundies have traded on this kind of access with their donor base for years. Take, for example, this convention: all the Republican nominees are in attendance. All but one is essentially hewing to their party line on all cultural issues. But Rudy Giuliani openly defies them on their line-in-the-sand issue, their steadfast opposition to retaining the right of a woman to chose to have an abortion.
The political fundies have been able to go to their funding base—primarily small donors—and convince them that they were part of a vanguard to return our country to the fundamental Christian values and ways of life they believed prevailed in an earlier, idyllic America (which, btw, never really existed). The country has continued to move further and further away from the fundie view of life on almost all matters. Yes, the marriage amendments of 2004 were a setback for the acceptance and eventual full legal recognition of gays and lesbians. But as I wrote in 2004:
Since the early 1990's the Supreme Court has upheld both Roe v Wade and the use of affirmative action in college admissions, and it struck down state sodomy laws. More children attend day care than ever. More women work out of the home than ever, and most of them prefer to work out of the home even if it's not necessary for maintaining their standard of living. "Will and Grace" is mainstream, and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" is on network television. The social conservatives' crusade against the teaching of evolution has had little success.
Since then, several states have legalized gay marriage or same-sex civil unions. And scandals involving Mark Foley and Larry Craig have exposed a Republican party that’s got some fairly serious issues with closeted homosexuals acting out in ways that have more to do with the hostility toward gays and lesbians within Republican politics than in society at large.
Amidst all these evolutionary cultural trends, the political fundies have been able to trot out their close association with the Republican party as proof that they were going to one day be able to rally and direct the political will to turn these trends around, to legislate morality. After Gerald Ford, every Republican nominee for President has pledged his fealty to overturning Roe v Wade. Thus, the political fundies could always appeal to their base, essentially saying "we’re building political power, we’re going in the right direction, keep the money coming." They could show their donors, just like that union official could show his members, that they had access, and that they had influence.
But a Rudy Giuliani nomination would show them with nothing. On their most important issue, abortion, they would have lost the ability to say that Republicans are clearly better than Democrats as a party, and that all their time dedicated to building the Republican party had been justified. I can’t think of any other group that has a more fundamental issue that would feel greater failure or betrayal. It would be akin to organized labor supporting the Democratic party for decades and then seeing the Democratic party nominate someone who wants to wipe out collective bargaining rights for workers.
So what would those donors do if Rudy Giuliani gets the nomination, and the fundies don’t have an alternative, like a third-party candidate such as Mike Huckabee? My guess is that many of them would stop sending money to folks like Tony Perkins, and groups like the Family Research Council would have to lay off a bunch of people. Donors would feel that all those years of working within the Republican party were for naught, that murder of innocent life—and most fundies, especially the rank-and-file worker bees of the movement, sincerely view abortion as murder—would continue on unabated. So, they might figure, why continue to engage in politics?
Or, they could pull out of the Republican coalition for this election, see the Republican lose (which they may be calculating is likely to happen regardless of whether they stay committed to the Republicans), and then say "see, we’re the reason you lost, and you need to come back to our position or you’ll never again win." Then, in a few years, the donations pick back up, because they’ve re-exerted their coercive control and they’ll be back in positions of influence in the GOP and their organizations will be back in the money, thanks to their donors.