In recent months I’ve slowly become aware, and, I must admit, a bit astonished, at a recurring pattern among Giuliani supporters. They support an imaginary candidate, running against reality and when reality appears they become angry. We’ll call it “9/11 Syndrome.”
I encountered it again at the KCGOP’s Mike Huckabee Dinner. I need to set the scene.
I went to help work a literature table for the Duncan Hunter campaign ~ so I have to admit that I spent a lot of time at the display table for the only “whole” conservative represented at the dinner (we were flanked by Romney and McCain tables and there was one for Huckabee), and I can’t claim to have spoken to a balanced cross-section of the audience. Nevertheless, a surprising number of the people I talked to leaned over to me and, literally, whispered a confidential secret that, unbeknown to each other, united them in a, sort-of, underground pact. I wasn’t asking them any question that would lead them to make such a revelation, either.
What was this dark, hidden truth, the thing they didn’t want just anybody to know…the mystery, the clandestine enigma?
They said they wouldn’t vote for Rudy Giuliani under any circumstances. They had discovered who he is. They are, clearly, in the Republican minority, so far. Gallup.com this week said their recent polling revealed that
55% of all Republicans still don’t know Giuliani is pro-abortion and
74% still don’t know he is for Gay (Civil Union) Marriage.
The surprise, to me, was not that they had come to realize they can’t support him (vast numbers will realize that, eventually), but that they felt the need to share their position, even when they knew it could get them in serious trouble with the King County GOP establishment.
It was in that context I had my next GiulianEpiphany. They keep happening.
A Visitor, standing in front of the Hunter table, began by claiming he was still “open,” but “leaning” to Rudy. (It later became apparent that he was, in fact, deeply committed to the New Yorker.) I have his business card, but we’ll just call him the “Visitor.”
Several of us began to attempt to pry him away from the former Mayor by pointing out who he was, politically. I quoted Rush Limbaugh: “Rudy Giuliani is a Democrat who’s tough on crime.” Visitor disagreed with all our analysis. He said the former Mayor was a conservative. But as discussion progressed, he could produce no evidence to support Rudy’s supposed conservatism. He had, in his mind, an image of who Giuliani was based on a few sound bites worth of video on 9/11/2001 and probably including the 2004 Convention. It was an image of the candidate we should all settle on, a dynamic defender of “freedom” that can “unite” the Republican Party and beat Hillary. (The McCain and Giuliani people all assume Hillary will be the nominee and, in fact, they need her to be the nominee. Hillary is the bogeyman who (they think) will drive conservatives to vote for their candidate.)
There were a range of issues discussed and the discussion followed the 9/11 Syndrome pattern: Visitor exalts Image; Image confronts Reality; Reality is rejected in favor of Image.
Let me cite some examples: Visitor asserted, based only on the candidate’s Presidential Primary Pronouncements, that Giuliani would appoint justices that would overturn Roe (though Giuliani has not said so), that he was a fiscal conservative and opposed illegal immigration. But Visitor could not sustain, by fact of evidence, any argument to support those claims. Confronted with the factual evidence to the contrary, that is, Giuliani’s political record as an elected official, opposing Federal law and the Constitution, he quickly changed the subject. His view of Giuliani came, not from fact or reason, but from his image. They were the beliefs of the “dynamic defender of “freedom” that can “unite” the Republican Party and beat Hillary” that dwelt in his imagination.
Visitor disagreed with my assertion that Giuliani was a “gay rights activist,” and tried to chuckle, but when confronted with the overwhelming evidence (that just happened to be on the tip of my tongue), he said, “Well, there’s just certain things you need to do to get elected in a place like New York.” Rudy, he suggested, didn’t really believe all that stuff he was just misleading the Gays to get elected.
This is the same argument that has been made for Mitt Romney, that in order to get elected in Massachusetts, the man had to appear to be liberal. He was just foolin’!
The same people that are telling me that Rudy (just like Mitt) was just deceiving people to get elected, are the people asking me to trust him on things, like his “support for conservative judges,” that directly contradict his actual performance record. These are, moreover, things that he (just like Mitt) is obviously saying for the first time to win a Republican Presidential Primary. Who’s fooling whom?
So that image of himself that Rudy Giuliani has been able to project in the minds of his supporters is powerful enough that they are willing to believe it, even in direct contradiction of obvious truths. Why?
Because “Rudy is the one who can win.”
It’s the same reason we got Gerald Ford instead of Ronald Reagan in 1976.
It is a towering image, the “candidate we should all settle on, a dynamic defender of ‘freedom’ that can ‘unite’ the Republican Party and beat Hillary,” that Visitor had, graven in his mind, and to which his ability to reason had prostrated itself. It was the graven image that would protect him from the terrorists.
But the reasoning is deeply flawed and we confronted Visitor with the data.
Roughly 30% of the voters who elected George Bush will not vote for Giuliani under any circumstances. The overwhelming majority (as much as 79%) of pro-life voters will not vote for him. 70% of Americans oppose his Gay Rights positions. They’ll know how bad Rudy is on these issues by November ‘08 and won’t elect him President. No, they won’t sacrifice their children to the Image.
That’s when Visitor entered the final symptom of 9/11 Syndrome. He told me how incompetent those voters are. He asserted that they are the reason we will “end up with Hillary.” It’s not that the product is un-marketable, it’s just that people won’t buy it! Don’t they know he’s the one who can beat Hillary?