Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Huckabee’s victory

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.

Discussions - 16 Comments

Huckabee seems to think that the cultural values of his Christian faith can be institutionalized through White House. I think that grants far more power to the office than it truly has.

But that aside, the ironic thing is the more the Christian faith is used in this fashion, the less salt is has. The more the Christian faith is identified as a political movement, the less effect it has on the heart ... which is where Jesus intends his Kingdom to really work.

Yeah, Noonan again makes no sense. Huckabee doesn't really believe in the cultural values, he's just playing politics. Unlike other candidates, Huckabee has a consistent conservative record on exactly what Noonan claims is the key issue-values. I imagine that Huck, went to seminary and became a pastor 25 years ago with this sneaky plan to use Christian voters...brilliant Noonan. GTH

Huckabee seems to think that the cultural values of his Christian faith can be institutionalized through White House. I think that grants far more power to the office than it truly has.

The Federal government has demonstated its power to work against Christian interests, so its not obvious that it has no power to work for them. It used to do so, once upon a time.

Clint,

GTH?? Not exactly turning the other cheek, are we?

John wrote: "The Federal government has demonstated its power to work against Christian interests, so its not obvious that it has no power to work for them. It used to do so, once upon a time."

Suppose the Federal government bans all abortions, allows prayer in school and dictates that evolution can no longer be taught.

Question -- will that create within the hearts of people a sincere desire and intent to be disciples of Christ?

What you are proposing is the removal of a corrosive agent. That stops the burn. It does not create the healing.

I was addressing Noonan, not directed at you Joe, you were just reporting. But I'm sure you see at least partially how ridiculous it is to say that Huck is merely exploiting Christians to win votes. He was a pastor; he's always said and believed these things; he's not a candidate who changes his views-at least his cultural views-to appeal to vote.

If it makes you feel better, you could consider it chasing Noonan the money changer out of my politics.

The government alone can not change the culture. It is true that conservatives used to and still should recognize this. But "pluralism," "tolerance," and "neutrality" don't change the culture either. It seems to me that the anti-Huckabee socons want a changed culture, but they want to defang the Christians who are trying to change it whether in a somewhat misguided way or not.



We should all agree that America is in great need of revival. Let's concede that. So once this revival happens, how do you keep it? By going bonkers about "floating crosses" and singing the praises of a Mormon speech on the joys of pluralism? I think not. What is needed is a self-confident Christianity that is not cowed by liberal platitudes.



I agree with Don. The religious right has never been primarily progressive in intent. To stamp out evil or bring about the Kingdom of God on earth. It has generally been reactive. A reaction to increased secularism and cultural debasement and overt hostility to Christianity. A reaction to the idea that Christianity is somehow a blight on modernism that has to be covered over or apologized for, instead of the normative idea. So it is more about removing or resisting a corrosive agent than it is about ushering in Nirvana.



Conservatives like Noonan playing this liberal game are as much a problem as are the liberals. What is her beef anyway? Is she irreligious? Is she a cosmopolitan elitist?

Suppose the Federal government bans all abortions, allows prayer in school and dictates that evolution can no longer be taught.

That is a revealing insight into how you view Christianity. Anything else you would like to share?

Question -- will that create within the hearts of people a sincere desire and intent to be disciples of Christ?

Of course it will. Any other silly questions? Peoples notions of right and wrong are very much influenced by what is legal or illegal.

Noonan was saying a lot of nice things about the Huck supporters, so I have no idea why the Huck supporters are whining about what she wrote. I guess on general principle. She writes for the WSJ after all.

John, you have an interesting manner of interchange with others. Do you consider yourself "Christian?" And if so, do you show the same level of contempt for others that you show for me?

If yes, then you've answered my question -- because that brand of "Christianity" -- which is common -- won't change a thing for the better.

John, for the record I am not a Huck supporter. I support Ron Paul. I have, however, become something of a Huck defender from all his pluralism worshiping detractors.



One problem with the Noonan piece is that snide "Jesus and the devil are brothers" remark. That happens to actually be what Mormons believe. Noonan balked at that because she believes that any substantive consideration of religion should be off the table. That is liberal. That kind of Christianity can not "change a culture" either in or out of the political realm. That asks permission of the culture. It doesn't shape it.

Red, I agree that a permissive religion -- one that seeks approval from the culture -- will certainly not shape it. The point that I made was that imposing Christian values will not make the deep, lasting changes people are looking for either. Some changes, yes ... deep and lasting, no.

The sad truth is that much of the cultural damage we see is because people want the freedom to pursue what their selfish desires wish to pursue. That's the assertion of the personal will, and it's a fact of human history. Imposed societal rules may serve to contain that impulse, but it can't reduce or eliminate it. That comes from within the person, and it only comes about when one desires the change and seeks God's help and guidance.

So my question earlier, which John dismissed, was sincere -- we could outlaw abortion and people would still seek to serve the desires of the flesh. (If they didn't do that, there would be little need for abortion in the first place.) It's just the consequences of mistake would be higher. In the same manner we can make stealing a crime, yet people still steal.

The problem is not with external trappings of society. It is with the inclination of collective hearts and the subordination of our wills. Jesus sums it up in Matthew 22:37 -- "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." That is the inclination of one's heart to God; that is the subordination of one's will to God.

But that can't be imposed, it must be sought.

The trouble with someone using the term "Christian" while trying to impose rules, often done in anger and contempt, is that it seeks to drive people away, rather than turning them into people who seek after God. Many on the "Christian Right" would rather employ condemnation as a way to prove their point rather than display the kind of gentle and humble strength Jesus displays.

Nowhere in scripture does it say followers of Jesus are to take over the political process and force Christian virtues upon the unwilling. The message of the Gospel is quite the opposite: be people of unimpeachable virtue and draw others to the compelling of image of Christ displayed through us. That's how true change will take place.

Don in AZ, if one is a follower of Christ and has submitted to his will, how should he act if elected to a political office? Should he enact legislation which reflects Christian principles or (as a recent elected official did) say that he is supposed to follow the people, not God? If a Christian is elected, isn't his first allegiance still to God? You quoted a passage in which Jesus notes that we are to Love Him with everything. Love, as is clearly pointed out in 1 Corinthians 13, has nothing to do with feelings but is concerned with Actions. Thus, what actions should Christians in Politics pursue? Obviously, ones which conform to God's laws.

To come back to the election, the goal is not to change people's feelings through government or to convert them to Christianity. However, the point is to enact a Godly government which conforms to Biblical principles. This is what evangelicals want and why they support Huck. They are not trying to impose thoughts onto people (they leave that to the indoctrinaters at the Government schools). They want the freedom to live their lives in a Godly way.

Brutus, I appreciate the core of your comments. And to be honest, I don't consider myself an expert in how a disciple of Christ would (or should) conduct himself in the role as President. My comments were more about how ineffective contemporary Christianity has been in affecting society. My point was that elevating a Christian to the Presidency, based on him being a "Christian," will not achieve the societal effects people seem to desire. If they're investing their hope in a Huckabee presidency based on the idea of "Christian Change," I fear they will be disappointed.

You wrote: "...what actions should Christians in Politics pursue? Obviously, ones which conform to God's laws." To that I would ask, what might those laws be? I cited Matthew 22:37 because Jesus himself said "This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:38) In 39-40 He says, "And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

What laws do we enact that accomplish those two? What laws do you enact that encourages those two? Again, I go back to my argument that such things are really matters of the heart, and that requires change from the inside. That is done by God with active participation by the disciple. Not by laws, though I'll confess some of today's laws serve as impediments to Christian goals.

Having a government that is at least neutral to the question of faith in God would be nice, I'll admit that. I'm no fan of abortion and would love to see Roe v. Wade overturned, but I doubt seriously doing that would have the effect people wish.

If Huckabee progresses through the primaries and secures the nomination, then I wish him luck. I pray he would abide by Christian principles and conduct himself in a Christ-like way. He will face intense opposition, some of it earthly and much of it not. And my biggest fear is that an overtly "Christian" candidate will be watched with great scrutiny by sincere seekers, and if he stumbles and acts in an un-Godly way while wearing the "Christian" banner, he will do great harm to the cause of Christ.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- "A candle does not need to proclaim it is a candle and shining. Just shine." A Huckabee candidacy that eschewed the Christian label in favor of simply being Christian would suit me better.

Noonan's kind of right. Our culture is disgusting. But what if you think part of our culture's problems is the reliance on Christianity for moral values? Or what if you think capitalism, industrialism, consumerism, and placelessness contribute to these problems? Or the lack of liberal education?



Then you can't really get excited about any candidate . . . No political candidate, let alone a Presidential candidate, wants to talk about that stuff. Thankfully, there's academia. Heh.

Matt wrote: "But what if you think part of our culture's problems is the reliance on Christianity for moral values?"

Great question. I suspect there's more than a few that hold such a dim view of what passes for Christianity today. But assuming that's off the table, and assuming one feels the culture is a mess ... where would someone go for guidance on moral values? It's a tough question because the choices are slim. But you may well have put your finger on the dilemma facing many semi-secular voters today. And that may explain Obama's appeal. The hope is invested in ... him.

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