15 May 2005

Giuliani for President?

Let's say, for a moment, that it's a few years from now, and the moderate former New York City mayor Rudolf Giuliani is about to wrap up the Republican nomination for President. What should the Democrats do? Granted, I'm not sure the Republicans will nominate someone that moderate, but conservative televangelist Pat Robertson says he likes him, so it's possible. And we should have a game plan.

Certainly we should not run Senator Hillary Clinton against him. Clinton is great, and I would love to vote for her for President, but the only way she would win against Giuliani for the Presidency is if Giuliani embarrasses himself in the 2006 race for New York Senator. (Clinton, of course, absolutely must win reelection in New York if she is to stand a chance in '08.) No, Clinton is out, and in fact I don't think anyone the Democrats could nominate would actually win against Giuliani in the general election, unless he has scandals that I don't know about.

Instead, the Democrats shouldn't even try. Giuliani winning the Republican nomination would be the best thing for liberals and progressives, because it would move the center to the left. We should, indeed, facilitate this move with a radical leftist candidate. One of the things that's been really hard in the last few cycles is that the Republicans keep nominating and promoting hard-core conservatives, and the Democrats try to compensate with moderate candidates. Perhaps this is the right strategy to win the Office --- and even of this I am unconvinced, since a liberal can better muster the troops, although Kerry achieved incredible voter turnout even without Dean's charisma --- but it's a terrible long-term strategy. I'll never vote third-party if it means losing to someone like Bush, but the Democrats can afford eight years under Giuliani if it means pulling the debate back towards progressive and liberal ideas.

Imagine: a high-profile leftist, a Carol Moseley-Braun, for instance, versus a moderate New England Republican. Sure the Republican wins. That's not the point. We get the stamp of the Democratic party on a liberal agenda, and save our resources. Moseley-Braun, if it is she, will be on ballots, and will make the motions of a campaign, but that's not where the Democrat's considerable energy should be focussed. Instead, we forgo an expensive Presidential bid and focus on the Senate, the House, the Governorships, and maybe most importantly, the State Legislatures. We could do it too: the DNC makes it clear that it's Legislature and Senate campaigns that they care most about, they direct money that way, and they encourage people to donate towards those races. By spending many fewer resources on the Presidential campaign, we could instead reverse the current trend towards a single-party government, and reinstate a system of different parties controlling the different branches of government.

It's a viable approach. I'd rather have Giuliani (or even McCain, although I'm less fond of him) sitting in Washington than Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich, or Rick Santorum. And a more left-leaning country, with more Democrat Senators and Legislatures, gives a better position from which to run for President to Hillary Clinton, Bill Richardson, or younger candidates like Barack Obama.

So let's keep our fingers crossed: Giuliani for President, and Democrats in the Senate.

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