Reports of the death of social conservatism greatly exaggerated (Fred gets Right to Life endorsement)As I have said in months past, the reports of the death of social conservatism within the Republican Party are greatly exaggerated. There isn't a candidate in the Republican Primaries that doesn't dream of the opportunity to get key endorsements from the social Right. Rudy Guiliani would even like to get a few more than just Pat Robertson-after all, Robertson has been discredited within the conservative movement for a very long time.
On the other hand, the idea that pro-family social conservatives are in total control of the GOP is something that both the press and the Democrats have attempted to pass off as truth for years, but nothing could be further from it. As anyone who has been on the inside of either a campaign or a party apparatus will tell you, party control is not achieved by a presidential nominating process. Instead, any faction who wants to have control of either major political party must spend years trying to do it, and must begin at the hyper-local level-running for precinct captain, county central or executive committee, or becoming precinct or ward delegates (depending on your State, you may have to do some or all of these things), then using the local control to get control of the State party, and the State parties to control the national machine. Social conservatives have never managed anything more than regional control from this perspective. If social conservatives were as powerful as some in the other party say, Rudy Guiliani would not be a serious contender for the GOP nomination (Hillary Clinton, for example, is a serious contender because Clinton elements have virtual control of the Party Opposite in many key Democratic bastions, having prepared for her run for well over eight years).
Just because traditionalist forces don't have total control of the Republican Party (and it can be argued that the 1980's was the closest those forces have ever come since paleoconservatives did it in 1964), doesn't mean that this isn't a key voting bloc whose concerns need to be addressed to win the GOP presidential nod. Pro-family conservatives make up about 40% of the Republican vote nationwide. In the South, the number of self-identified Republicans who fall into that category is much higher than that.
Few understand this the way Fred Thompson does, and that is why he has gone after these endorsements in the same way that other candidates have, landing the approval of former presidential candidate and Family Research Council Past President Gary Bauer, among others. The difference is that Fred has done so quietly and without much fanfare-an approach that may soon pay off.
If the reports of The Tennessean and the Associated Press are correct, Fred Thompson will gain the endorsement of the National Right to Life Committee today. As someone who has worked within the pro-life movement on a very personal level in years' past, I can testify to the fact that the pro-life movement is really the epicenter of the whole pro-family movement on the Right. Opposition to the terrible crime of abortion rallies social conservatives like nothing else can, and while an NRLC endorsement is no guarantee of winning the nomination, it could go a long way in helping Fred Thompson win in South Carolina-a State that is likely to be the place where his campaign stands or falls.
National Right to Life doesn't endorse just anyone, either. To get an endorsement from NRLC or any of its affiliate State or local chapters, they have to be satisfied that a candidate will do everything in their legal power to fight abortion. It hasn't been beneath an NRLC affiliate to endorse Democrats if they believe that a particular candidate is more pro-life, or to issue no endorsement at all.
A National Right to Life endorsement is a stamp of approval for many pro-family conservatives that is unlike anything else, and if the endorsement stands it has the potential to be a major boon for Fred Thompson's campaign. Rest assured that Fred will play it up for all it is worth in South Carolina-as well he should and had better.
Labels: Presidential Election