There’s a lot to read. At NRO, Byron York draws the contrast between the Huckabee and Romney campaigns, the latter too professional for its own good, the former relying on very healthy pre-existing networks. And John O’Sullivan respects Huckabee’s natural political skills, hoping that if he somehow gets the nomination (unlikly in any event), conservatives begin to have a conversation with him (one, I add, that both sides ought to welcome). No one in this NRO symposium is happy, and no one seems to think Huckabee can be talked to (s worth talking to?). If he’s not "educable," are his supporters? Or should they just settle for whatever the conservative elites give them, and not ask too many questions or demand too much?
I’m not saying that Huckabee’s constituency should be in the driver’s seat, but they deserve an honest hearing. And they might actually learn something from a conversation, just as might their interlocutors.
Update: Peggy Noonan has read a lot of mail from Huckabee supporters:
From the mail I have received the past month after criticizing him in this space, I would say his great power, the thing really pushing his supporters, is that they believe that what ails America and threatens its continued existence is not economic collapse or jihad, it is our culture.
They have been bruised and offended by the rigid, almost militant secularism and multiculturalism of the public schools; they reject those schools’ squalor, in all senses of the word. They believe in God and family and America. They are populist: They don’t admire billionaire CEOs, they admire husbands with two jobs who hold the family together for the sake of the kids; they don’t need to see the triumph of supply-side thinking, they want to see that suffering woman down the street get the help she needs.
They believe that Mr. Huckabee, the minister who speaks their language, shares, down to the bone, their anxieties, concerns and beliefs. They fear that the other Republican candidates are caught up in a million smaller issues--taxing, spending, the global economy, Sunnis and Shia--and missing the central issue: again, our culture. They are populists who vote Republican, and as I have read their letters, I have felt nothing but respect.
But there are two problems. One is that while the presidency, as an office, can actually make real changes in the areas of economic and foreign policy, the federal government has a limited ability to change the culture of America. That is something conservatives used to know. Second, I’m sorry to say it is my sense that Mr. Huckabee is not so much leading a movement as riding a wave. One senses he brilliantly discerned and pursued an underserved part of the voting demographic, and went for it. Clever fellow. To me, the tipoff was "Don’t Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"
I agree with Noonan that "conservatives used to know" that "the federal government has a limited ability to change the culture of America," but haven’t liberals used the federal government to change the culture? Isn’t the biggest instrument of cultural change the public school, officially controlled by local and state entities, but actually reflecting a national ethos that can be affected by a President, his speeches, his Department of Education, and his Supreme Court appointees? I know, I know: the federal government probably shouldn’t be in the education business. But to get out of it also requires a federal effort.
I could say more, but this post is already too long.