The Magazine

"Respect Conservatism"

Rudy Giuliani's distinctive brand?

Mar 5, 2007, Vol. 12, No. 24 • By REIHAN SALAM and ROSS DOUTHAT
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Then there's the economy, where Democratic populists have adopted a political rhetoric that poormouths America and paints middle class families as victims. Like President Bush's language of compassion, there's a condescending message behind all this economic fear-mongering, and it offers an opening for a "respect conservative" to acknowledge working-class struggles but emphasize the importance of civic and personal responsibility, both in the boardroom and the bedroom. The Rudy Giuliani who took down Ivan Boesky could be an ideal critic of corporate irresponsibility, for instance, and the mayor who once scolded Margarita Rosario for raising her son to be a criminal might be the right man to take on the relationship between economic insecurity and America's epidemic of fatherlessness.

Such an agenda, not incidentally, would offer a sharp contrast not only with President Bush, but with John McCain, Giuliani's principal rival for the nomination. Where McCain tends to embrace the elite media's pet causes, from campaign finance reform to the patient's bill of rights, a Giuliani "respect conservatism" would be proudly anti-elitist, emphasizing issues that resonate with working and middle class Americans. It would be pitched not to the media, but to the voters who made Rudy mayor--and who might make him president as well.

Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam are writing a book on Sam's Club Republicans.