It doesn’t take anything more than the possibility of a Christian right candidate like Mike Huckabee running for president to turn the Tea Party-aligned Republican mood rings from algae green to obsidian black. The reaction runs the gamut from not taking Huckabee seriously in spite of his tenure as a two-term governor and solid campaigner, to outright hostility that someone who believes the Book of Genesis literally could be qualified to hold office.
I am heartsick at this, and I think it highlights the main fissure within the GOP. It’s almost bigotry in the way candidates are vetted according to their belief backgrounds, then their policy positions. Leon Wolf wrote about this.
What bothers me is the contempt that the consultant class has for the very idea that Mike Huckabee is a qualified or serious candidate. To listen to these people talk, Huckabee has no more right to be taken seriously than someone like Ben Carson who has never held or run for any office of any kind. This is just facially insane. The guy was a governor for a full decade, winning re-election twice, which indicates at least basic competency at the job of being chief executive.
Jonathan Adler of NRO wrote
FWIW, I’m as anti-Huck now as I was then. Why? He’s more of a liberal Christian populist than a limited-government conservative. He’s economically illiterate, has protectionist impulses, endorses nanny-state policies and creationism, urged the isolation (i.e. quarantine) of AIDS victims long after such a position could be remotely defensible (1992), and repeatedly dissembled when called out on it.
This exhibits the sort of horror much of the pundit class harbors for people like Huckabee (and Santorum, Bachmann, and Palin). This twitter thread with Adler illustrates it nicely.
— Jonathan H. Adler (@jadler1969) January 4, 2015
— Jonathan H. Adler (@jadler1969) January 4, 2015
From my point of view, Huckabee’s faith values are more closely aligned with mine than any other potential candidate in the race so far. I’ve been called a fool for believing Genesis and espousing it publicly (more than once). I have no problem with intelligent design being presented in high schools—let the kids make their own decisions on what they believe. If Genesis is true, then ID is “science” no matter what we believe about goo-to-you, and like all questions of cosmology and origin it’s not provable from a first-person perspective.
Do I think Huckabee could win? Frankly, no. But he represents something important. Governor Huckabee is the demarcation point between the bulk of the GOP, the Christian Right, and just over the horizon from the Tea Party*. I believe Huckabee should run, if only to keep the RINOs honest. Since I have been excoriated for that thought, let me explain it. Many Republicans treat their party like a religion—in fact better than they treat their actual religion. Church is for Sunday before lunch, and politics is life.
And for those people, I have some advice: you have your life priorities backwards. I would rather have a person in the oval office who agrees with my life values than someone who agrees with my political positions. I have two very important reasons for this.
First, all policy positions should flow from personal values. There should be a very clear alignment between someone’s worldview, beliefs, values, and policies. Everyone has their own way of expressing their worldview in terms of policy, and every political leader has their own management style. We can argue about qualifications for office based on experience and effectiveness, and we can argue about their record all day, but if a politician exhibits a disconnect between what they profess and what they support, that’s a major red mark. I can’t stand politicians whose main emphasis is pragmatism or get-something-done-ism. That is the definitive sign of a waffler.
In high school, my english teacher Mr. Rice used to give out normal letter grades, A through D, and you could also get an F is you simply failed to complete an assignment. But the absolute worst grade he could give you was a W. A W meant “waffle”: a result so bereft of thought and backbone as to leave the reader exhausted and in pain from the effort of reading it. This is how many politicians, even those in the GOP, seem to me. They are wafflers, more interested in their own featherbedding, power, ambition, and legacy than a consistent application of their values. In my book, Mike Huckabee is not a waffler, and that’s a good thing.
Second, the office of president has necessary limitations. Not every president will become the dictator that President Obama fashions himself. I keep hearing Republicans talking about the office of president like we’re electing a fuhrer or a dictator in the Roman Republic. The chief executive office of the U.S. is not the main lawmaking organ, yet we seem to have ceded all authority to it, game, set and match. Washington D.C. needs an enema, and that’s more important to consider than getting “your candidate” into the White House, then complaining when they don’t accomplish all the things you thought they could when you inscribed an “S” on their chest. Just look at eight years of G.W. Bush.
For those who don’t like Huckabee because he pardoned too many prisoners, or advocated for too many social programs, or feels that a return to God and Godly precepts is the answer for America: you call him a nanny-stater, and come up with all kinds of reasons to disqualify him, but what you’re really saying is that Huckabee is a Christian, all the way through, and that offends you. If it does, come out and say it. Not all Christians are blood-red all the way through. I don’t think you can be one if you lack compassion, or you lack moral foundation (judge me not!), and you certainly can’t be a Christian politician if you lack the calling to do it.
Candidates like Mike Huckabee keep the RINOs honest because they anger the prophets of politics, who believe more in their particular stripe of government and advocacy than they do their own beliefs that apply to their lives and their families (anyone who isn’t of their stripe is, by definition, a RINO to them). People who put more faith in their politics than their Bible (or whatever other personal beliefs they hold) tend to call people like Huckabee “holier than thou” or condescending in a morally-superior way (not that Democrats act that way every single day?).
By flushing out the wafflers, Huckabee serves a very useful purpose. And for that, I hope God really did call him to run, and if God did, then I sincerely pray Huckabee will remain faithful to that call. It will drive the wafflers and the prophets positively crazy, and that’s just fine for me because I hate wafflers.
(Image source: Shutterstock)