FrumForum is “dedicated to the modernization and renewal of the Republican party and the conservative movement.” So it is all for the good that contributors Richard Brownell and Thomas J. Marier have engaged the discussion about Rudolph Giuliani’s decision not to run for the Senate from New York in 2010.
Both Brownell and Marier raise legitimate and significant issues. They both discount Giuliani’s decision not to run because, they say, the problems that afflict the New York and Northeastern GOP are much bigger than any one man or politician.
“There is, perhaps, the most insidiously subtle problem,” Marier notes; and that is “the problem of New York Republicans with a national profile not wanting to run against people with the last name of ‘Cuomo.’”
This problem, Marier explains, began with Jack Kemp, who declined to run against incumbent Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo in 1990; and it continues to this day, as Giuliani ducked a race against Mario’s son, Andrew, who is running for governor.
In fact, this problem actually began in 1980, when Kemp declined to run against liberal Republican Jacob Javits. Al D’Amato ran against Javits instead; and, consequently, was elected to his first of three terms in the United States Senate.
D’Amato, of course, proved to be an embarrassment and was far less significant a senator than Kemp would have been had Kemp risked a senate race. But to the victor go the spoils; and if you’re not willing to risk losing, then you’ll never win.
That’s an important lesson, which Republicans like Giuliani would do well to remember today. Problem is, Marier writes, “no Republican stars ever want to take the plunge [to run in New York] it seems…”
True; however, counters Brownell, “no political party should put itself in a position in which it has to rely entirely on one person to save it from oblivion. Being in that position speaks more about the party than the candidate.”
Agreed, but one candidate — in this case Rudy Giuliani — by sheer dint of his public persona, reputation, and force of personality, can effect a dramatic change in a party’s fortunes. And, if a candidate can effect such a change, then does it not behoove that candidate to act and to throw his hat into the ring? Does that candidate not have an obligation to his party, his state, his cause, and his people to campaign on their behalf?
Marier and Brownell speak to a chicken-egg problem that afflicts the Republican Party in New York and the Northeast.
Simply put, the GOP needs a better and broader-based party, with a stronger grassroots organization and structure, to field and support winning candidates. However, to build such an organization and structure, it sure would help to have compelling, top-tier candidates — especially for races like senator and governor, which have national implications, and which thus yield national attention.
I mean, let’s face it: One major reason the Democratic Party has been resurgent in recent elections is because they field better and more compelling candidates. Indeed, they offer up candidates who are bright, articulate, quick-witted, and charismatic — candidates like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Claire McCaskill, and James Webb.
This doesn’t mean that Democratic Party candidates are perfect, nor that they have all of the requisite desired qualities. Hillary Clinton, for instance, began her political career as a terrible campaigner who gave a bad, robotic-sounding speech. However, she improved markedly over the course of her presidential run; and she certainly is very bright.
James Webb is charismatically challenged and an incredibly weak campaigner; yet, he is a man of great intellectual depth and imagination.
The point is that the Democrats often field their “A” team, whereas Republicans too often field their “B” team; and the public knows this. That’s one significant reason why the American people disproportionately reward the Democrats at the polls, even though self-identified conservatives in the electorate outpoll self-identified liberals by a factor of nearly two to one.
The fact is that individual candidates can and do make a dramatic difference in a political party’s fortunes — especially in states and districts where that party is otherwise likely to be outpolled and outgunned.
Indiana, for instance, in all likelihood would have a junior Republican senator were it not for Democrat Evan Bayh. Connecticut’s fourth congressional district, likewise, probably would have been in Democratic hands for 20 years (1987-2008) were it not for Republican Christopher Shays. And without Republicans Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, the Democrats would now have an all but insurmountable 62-vote majority in the Senate.
Marier and Brownell are right, of course: It’s very difficult for a Republican to win in New York State; and, in the past decade, the GOP’s problems in the Big Apple have only worsened. New York is, after all, as Marier rightly observes, “a very liberal, high-tax, big-government state. So small-government principles are hard even to articulate, let alone implement.”
True, but this doesn’t mean Republicans can’t win in New York: They can; they have; and they will — provided they are willing to fight. Al D’Amato, for instance, proved that Republicans can win in New York State. Giuliani proved that Republicans can even win in far more liberal New York City.
Still, Brownell says,
now that Giuliani has said publicly that he is not going to run, it is too late to change his mind. If he were to do a one-eighty at this point and say that he is going to run, it would signal confusion and lack of direction. Those aren’t good qualities for a candidate for public office.
Actually, politicians change their minds all the time. What matters is why they change their minds, and how they explain their change of minds. What is not acceptable is Giuliani’s suggestion that because he is happy and content with his life, he therefore has no obligation to run and to serve.
Sorry Rudy, but the 2010 New York Senate election isn’t only or mostly about you. It’s about the future of your country, the future of your party, the future of your state, and whether Americans will live in peace and in freedom or in conflict and in fear.
Again, as I pointed out here at FrumForum:
Giuliani’s had plenty of time to ‘enjoy life.’ In truth, there is no better way for Giuliani to serve his country, his state, and his party than by running for the Senate from New York in 2010.
No Republican stands as good a chance of capturing a highly coveted Senate seat from New York as Giuliani. Even if he does not win, Giuliani still will help the Republican Party nationally by moving the political and policy debate to where it rightly belongs: focused on the safety and security of our country.
Some of the commentators from the FrumForum ‘Peanut Gallery’ disagree. Giuliani, they say, is constitutionally ill-suited for the Senate, which places a premium on compromise and collegiality. Giuliani, by contrast, is combative and insistent upon getting his own way.
That’s a fair but overstated point. Giuliani, remember, doesn’t have to be a great or even successful legislator. This isn’t the 19th century, after all; it is the 21st century. Ours is the information age. The times today place a premium upon the ability to command the public spotlight and to communicate.
Giuliani does both extraordinarily well. Indeed, he gives a great speech and is an excellent television interviewee.
Giuliani is especially good on issues of foreign policy and national security. He’s bright, quick-witted, and substantively engaged. And, as a sitting senator from New York, he would have newfound political and media clout, which would strengthen his ability to shape the political dialogue and move the public-policy debate.
Some conservatives point to Giuliani’s abysmal 2008 presidential run as evidence that he’s a “has-been,” who has no political future. But a national presidential run is very different from a senate run from New York.
Giuliani wasn’t my first choice for president in 2008; I preferred Mitt Romney. But we’re not talking now about electing the President of the United States; we’re talking about winning a senate race in liberal New York. And the truth is that Giuliani is the most viable — and most compelling — conservative candidate running in that race.
The 2010 election may be a banner year for Republicans. But if the party is to capitalize on the electoral wind at its back, then it mustn’t cede New York and the Northeast to the Democrats; it must field top-tier candidates like Rudolph Giuliani. Losers cede the playing field to their opponents; winners fight and prevail.
Throughout his life, Giuliani has proven that he’s a fighter — for himself, his family, his friends, and his constituents. Now it is time for him to fight once again — for New York and for New Yorkers, for the GOP, and for the safety and security of our country. If he won’t volunteer — draft him.