Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Mayberry Machiavelli?

That’s the tempting suggestion made here and here. Lest some think that this is just the Washington Establishment putting Huckabee in his place, I happen to know that the Friar lives in a flyover state.

For an appraisal that goes in a different direction (i.e., that MH is perhaps insufficiently Machiavellian when it really matters) see this double flyover (a native of Arkansas living in South Dakota) post.

I say that the unflattering characterization of MH is tempting because I think that it’s difficult for someone whose faith is so central to who he is to avoid the suspicion that his expressions of it are "strategic." Yes, he has been a "Christian leader," but to tell us that in an ad broadcast in a state where he’s running against an opponent most evangelicals don’t regard as "Christian" smacks of calculation, as does the "innocent" question posed to his NYT Mag profiler about Mormon beliefs.

This isn’t to say that a genuine Christian believer can’t engage in politics without arousing suspicions about the way he uses his belief, but it ought to be possible to wear the mantle of faith more lightly than Huckabee has. His jocularity is attractive, but less so in the context of the other moves. And the "Christian leader" ad has, I think, encouraged a hermeneutic of suspicion with regard to everything he says.

And lest some think that I’m singling out Huckabee for this scrutiny, I’ll go on the record here as saying that the Democrats in general, and Obama in particular, are even more calculating in their courtship of religious voters.

Update: Here’s Byron York on the Christmas ad, which makes evident the political calculation that went into it. But York also makes clear that not all political calculation is simply Machiavellian, as Huckabee appreciates:

I saw Huckabee a week or so later in Iowa, and I asked him whether the [Values Voters] speech was too hot to give before a general audience. He seemed a little surprised by the question. “The ultimate purpose of any speech,” he told me, “is to hit the target, and the target is your audience. I’ve heard people say, ‘Oh that was a brilliant speech, I didn’t understand it, it was way over my head, but it was a brilliant speech.’ Well, it wasn’t a brilliant speech. If a shooter consistently hits over the head of the target, it doesn’t prove that he’s a good shooter. It proves he can’t shoot. So the whole point is you aim for the target. The target in that room was people for whom faith was the motivating factor to be involved in public policy.”

The question is not whether speech is intended to move people (and is strategic in that sense), but in what direction it’s intended to move them.

Discussions - 3 Comments

Of course, "Mayberry Machiavelli" is what some people called Jimmy Carter in 1976.

And also what John DiIulio called his colleagues in the Bush White House.

Other than being cute, this post makes zero philosophical sense.

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