The Washington press conference announcing the Robertson endorsement was carefully constructed to make it all look like an alliance of strict-constructionist legal philosophers. Introducing the televangelist was not the campaign's director of evangelical outreach, or a political figure known for sharing Robertson's literal reading of the Book of Revelation. Instead the task fell to Ted Olson, the former solicitor general in the Bush Justice Department, a leading conservative legal thinker. The message was clear: This melding of minds was about putting more Antonin Scalias on the Supreme Court, not about Giuliani's personal life and beliefs.
I've been saying this for a while now. Giuliani isn't trying to win over the Religious Right by acting as if he's had a coming to Jesus moment on abortion or homosexuality. He's going to appeal to them through the judiciary. He's saying that a Giuliani Administration, whatever the personal beliefs and/or actions of Giuliani himself, will result in "strict-constructionist," anti-choice, anti-equal rights judges appointed to every available judgeship in the nation.
Liberals – at least those of the ‘netroots’ - have pretty much laughed off this endorsement because Robertson is supposedly so crazy that even the Religious Right won't have anything to do with him. That is a dangerous mistake and clear evidence of how little they know about America’s Evangelical subculture. Robertson still has his media empire, still has followers, and what he said on 9/13/2001 isn't any different than what has been said from countless pulpits, in countless small groups and Sunday School classes, in countless fellowship halls throughout the USA for the last 6 years. Most Evangelicals only criticize Robertson for not having enough tact.
There has always been a strain in American Christianity that understands the USA to be the spiritual successor to the Israel of the Hebrew Bible (not that this is unusual; most European and European-descended cultures have done this at one time or another). There are millions of people in this country who still believe that their Old Testament is a guide and warning, that the threats and promises God made to Israel have been made, in the same way, to the United States. And they believe that they currently live in the decisive moment, the crisis point at which the USA can either remain God's Chosen or can be destroyed and its people sent into exile. That's why 2 Chronicles 7:14 is now found everywhere in conservative American churches:
If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
They are fighting for the very existence of America and for its status as God's Most Favored Nation. And when your goals are that big, when your cause is that righteous, then you'll accept a thrice-divorced, cross-dressing, kissed-Trump-on-the-lips, homosexual-rights-supporting former mayor of a liberal East Coast city, as long as he gets the job done. The job is to appoint judges, appoint judges appoint judges. If we will remember the lessons that David Niewart has been teaching for years now, we will understand that the rightwing complaints about “judicial activism” have been yet another smoke screen thrown up to disguise a concerted effort to twist the judiciary to their own goals. The talk among GOP Congressional members about passing laws to limit judicial oversight was an anomaly brought on by the now-discredited belief that Karl “Moses” Rove was bringing the GOP into the Permanent Majority Promised Land.
When Robertson endorsed Giuliani, then, he made it clear that Giuliani is exactly the man to get the job done. And I don’t think Giuliani is finished with this. He's going to start making clearer promises about judges, and through that he's going to get some more support. Coupling this strategy with his constant 9/11 rhetoric means that Giuliani doesn't care one bit about Democrats, Independents or even the shrinking contingent of moderate Republicans. He's not going to try and convince anyone that he's not a far-right authoritarian whackjob who will seek to undo every advance in civil rights of the last 144 years. Giuliani's strategy is to resurrect the Religious Right as the potent force in American politics and to ride their frenzied support through the GOP nomination to the White House.
I don't know if he can do it or not. But that's where this is heading, and those of us on the other side need to stop dismissing the Religious Right and Giuliani just because we think they're silly. They're dedicated to a degree that would shock the most hardened liberal activists, and we can only beat them if we're alert.