Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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NRO and Huck

The symposium on the Huck victory linked by Joe below is really remarkably ungracious and generally obtuse. Huck is an intelligent man with a reasonably coherent (if very undetailed) message. He’s to the left of the Repbulican center on economics and to the right on the social issues. And he appeals to the anxieties of a lot of the middle class. As David Brooks pointed out today, he appreciates the connection between economic and moral insecurity, and he’s a rather consistent (from the perspective of a Reagan Democrat or evangelical Republican) anti-elitist.

It goes without saying that his campaign has been way too narrowly evangelical, which surely will make it difficult for him to reach out now to like-minded Catholics and Mormons. But it’s still been an impressive campaign in a lot of ways. Iowa is not a particularly flaky state. It’s a swing state with a relatively highly educated population. New Hampshire is a lot stranger.

Again, I’m not endorsing Huck or anything like that. The problem the Republicans have now is that, from the perspective of the so-called Reagan coalition, there are no real Republicans left in the race. Huck and McCain actually pride themselves in their dissent from characteristic Republican positions on domestic issues. And Giuliani dissents on the social issues.

There may be hope for orthodox Republicans in an energized Romney campaigning hard against McCain’s domestic incompetence over the next couple of days. He can reasonably say that on many key issues he’s the only real Republican in the race. Maybe adversity will show his character. And his new "change agent" slogan that Washington is the problem and McCain is part of the problem might work.

Again, I’m not for Romney either (for now). He’s been a pitiful candidate so far. Money, organization, policy wonkiness, and determination to succeed aren’t enough. Both he and Hillary reminded us of that. And Peter’s right (see below) about the personal qualities and personal talk that link Huck and Obama together.

Discussions - 28 Comments

from the perspective of the so-called Reagan coalition, there are no real Republicans left in the race.

There is still Thompson, who everybody seems anxious to write off for some reason.

John, given the realities of today's compressed primary cycle ... please paint a scenario where Thompson prevails. I'm struggling to see it ... again, given the realities of the Iowa/NH dynamics.

Peter, would it be possible to stitch together a composite "Reagan-coalition candiate" from the main four: Huckabee, Romney, McCain and Thompson?

In other words, is the problem that there is no one person that embodies the ideas? Or that even as a group the elements couldn't be found?

given the realities of today's compressed primary cycle ... please paint a scenario where Thompson prevails.

I don't have the faintest idea what you mean. And I'm pretty sure you don't either. You're just repeating phrases the talking heads are throwing around as if they have some real world meaning.

All Thompson needs to prevail are the votes of Republican voters, nothing more or less. The "realities of today's compressed primary cycle", whatever that means, have nothing to do with it.

is the problem that there is no one person that embodies the ideas?

In what way do Thompson or Hunter deviate from Reaganesqe ideas?

John, I do in fact know what I mean. And I'm not just repeating what I hear talking heads say. Thanks for the generosity of your tone.

In Iowa Thompson finished with 13.37%. At some point in time he has to demonstrate the ability to win. And once he does that, it's imperative he demonstrate the ability to win again. The exact same thing falls upon the shoulders of every candidate.

I was simply asking for your opinion on where you see Thompson picking up his first win, and how you see him leveraging that in subsequent primaries.

Your initial post suggested it was unreasonable for others to "write off" Thompson. I agree it is early. But it is perfectly reasonable to think about the process by which Thompson establishes himself as a viable candidate in the primary process.

By "compressed primary cycle" I mean not only what shows on the calendar, but also the compressed nature of the press and general expectations about how a candidate should perform and in what time frame. Like it or not, there is a heightened sense of expectation. It is one of the things more and more people are decrying, but it is a reality.

John: They deviate from Reagan in their failure to connect. That's it. But that's a big it. Thompson probably had a shot at it, but he didn't take it. He may have another opening now . . . but it's a slim one and he's going to have to have more than the eye of the tiger . . . he needs the eye of a damn Tyrannosaurus Rex.

I find it a bit odd that so many people are obsessed with maintaining a "coalition." Why is the emphasis not on ideas? But someone needs to ask the heretical question of whether the conservative coalition ever actually represented conservatism from a philosophical standpoint. Not what people perceive conservatism to be because they have observed this coalition for so long, but what conservatism really is when distilled to its essence.



Traditional values almost by definition are conservative. But are free markets? This requires more elaboration than I have time at the moment, but why is praising free trade and economic efficiency more conservative than decrying fat cat CEOs and outsourcing for example? In fact, isn't worrying about outsourcing profoundly conservative in a very real sense? (I'm not endorsing economic interventionism, just making a point.) And in what sense is a "strong military" and reflexive support of foreign intervention conservative? A strong military is only arguably conservative if there is a real threat that needs to be defended against. (In order to conserve the society.) But militarism for its own sake, absent a real threat, can never be conservative. (Here I am endorsing a position and not just making a point.)



The sad fact is that most coalition conservatives wouldn’t know conservatism if it bit them on the rear. And the only unarguably conservative element of the whole thing is the traditional values part, which is the part that is most expendable to the establishment cons.

Don, you seem to be under the strange impression that it is the duty of the candidates to somehow make us vote for them.

Thompson does not have to "demonstrate the ability to win". And in repeating this nonsense you ARE simply repeating what the talking heads say, so spare me your umbrage.

The candidates are not on trial here. The American people are. They are the ones who need to show their mettle, not the candidates.

I completely concur with PETER'S first sentence, that NR has demonstrated itself "remarkably ungracious and generally obtuse." There's a name for that kind of behavior, it's called acting like a bunch of jerks. Huckabee manhandled their overfinanced ken doll, and they're bitter about it, and acting like a pack of wild-eyed country bumpkins. They're acting like the very people they're flipping out about for supporting Huckabee.

What an irony. The establishment club types are letting their masks drop, and it's not a pleasant sight.

We're getting to the point where just about anything that delivers a blow to the establishment is a positive development. Even after the debacle of the Dubai Ports deal, even after Meirs, even after the debacle of the immigration "reform" battle, the establishment still thinks that the rest of the party should blindly follow their lead. And they're stunned, shocked, that some country yokels somehow acquired the idea that their judgement is as good as those inside the Beltway, as good as those who live and work on Manhattan. I think it's wise and prudent for the base of the party to rebuke the establishment, which is what they've done by giving Huckabee his Iowa win.

I've got some serious probs with Huckabee, but my problems with him pale in comparison with my problems with the Republican establishment.

The establishment had a simple choice, adhere to a well thrashed out party platform, or throw that overboard and follow Bush's and Rove's lead. They chose the latter, I chose the former. And millions like me chose the party platform too.

John, who's being naive here? Do you honestly think a candidate can go primary after primary without a substantive win and still generate the publicity and money that's necessary to continue?

And yes, the candidate are on trial. That's what an election is.

Very well put Dan. How dare Middle Americans not listen to their Beltway masters?

Well, it appears there's a need here -- just for purposes of conversation -- for someone to speak up for "the establishment." Oddly, that someone is me. I've never felt part of any establishment, and I've never been enthusiastic about Romney's candidacy (and certainly not about HRC's). Also, I agree with Peter that NRO has been intemperate, close-minded on the Huckabee question. But let's keep things in perspective. It's got to be inconsistent with conservative prudence to dismiss altogether the perspective from 'the establishment," from those who have become accustomed to taking the lead and having influence. I agree it is good to be wary of corporate, technocratic influences and mindsets, for example. But, then again, it would be foolish, imprudent, to imagine that these aspects of our order can just be swept away. The people who have succeeded in becoming "established" have proven they know something about how our society works. No doubt this means they are too attached to the way it now works and not open enough to how it might work otherwise. But it is also possible to err on the other side. We might wish that our society be held together on more substantive, humane principles -- but it is no small thing that it be held together, one way or another, and no small competence to have a sense of how this might, realistically, by done.
Outrageous?

1.) Fred is going to have to step up it up–and so are his donors & volunteers.

2.) I agree with the gal who said “I already have a Savior. What I need is a president.” I always think of 1980, when a evangelical Baptist deacon and former southern governor ran against a divorced Hollywood conservative–which one was better for Christians and for America? Instead of bashing Christians for voting Huckishly, perhaps we should explain how Fred’s ideas are better… and that Huck is a liberal. I don’t think that case has really been made by Fred or by us yet, at least to everyday voters.

3.) For example; Huck tried to give illegals driver’s licenses before Hillary even thought of it. Bill Clinton turned Arkansas into a Republican state–Mike Huckabee turned it back. And Huckabee is getting credit for a Fair Tax that will not pass without 100 or so Republican senators. Not to mention that his Fair Tax specifically promises not to lower tax burdens, only re-shuffle them.

Don, the path for Fred is incremental, building small successes into larger ones. Say, 2nd in S. carolina and 1st in Florida. Or even that in reverse.

There is also a very real possibility that 4 or 5 candidates show up at the convention with 20-ish % support.

But I do know this; we're going to need every conservative pro-American vote we can get in November--including Mormons, Marines, businesswomen and bikers.

Noel: "the path for Fred is incremental, building small successes into larger ones. Say, 2nd in S. carolina and 1st in Florida. Or even that in reverse."

Sounds reasonable. I would argue that the expectations are that Thompson do better than 2nd in SC, but I grant that a close second might do. But would you agree that 2nd in SC and 2nd in FL won't cut it?

Noel: "But I do know this; we're going to need every conservative pro-American vote we can get in November--including Mormons, Marines, businesswomen and bikers."

I ride a Goldwing. Does that count?

"...which surely will make it difficult for him to reach out now to like-minded Catholics...

Peter: I caught *some* of Huckabee's post-caucus speech last night (alternating with watching my beloved Jayhawks beat a fine VT team). Did any other Catholic voter hear his apt quote from G.K. Chesterton? *Someone* on his staff anticipated your very point...and was savvy enough to start the outreach. And the quote was on-point, to boot.
I still won't vote for Huckabee in the primary because of policy disagreements...but he's a formidable campaigner. So long as he's underestimated, he's a player.
*If* he gains the nomination (unlikely), he gets my vote. Julie P. is right...in the end there simply isn't enough "right stuff" to either Huckabee's or Obama's economic OR foreign policy. They're both the tsunami "feel good" candidates of the moment.
But that Chesterton quote.....

Don--Even silver medals could be turned to gold if they keep piling up. So two 2nds could be good, esp. depending on who takes 1st (different candidates each time?).

Thompson seems to have the most upside as time goes on. Romney seems designed by committee. Guiliani has a Rockefeller glass ceiling. Huck has evangelicals--for now. But even they're only a part of what it takes. McCain we know and love/hate.

Goldwings can count. Goldbugs can't.

Gary is right on Huck starting to quote Chesterton (which is what evangelicals start to so when they're taking the first steps on the road to Rome). Mr. Crunchy Conservative has noticed that too. Ralph is right about the establishment. Gary and others are right about developing real reasons for not supporting Huck having to do with policy, which means treating him like a serious candidate with thoughtful policy positions. I have more hope for Romney than for Fred, although I might be grateful if he really does rise from the dead. And of course I would prefer Fred to Giuliani.

Dr. Lawler,

***Huck and McCain actually pride themselves in their dissent from characteristic Republican positions on domestic issues.***

I'm curious to hear why everyone thinks that Huckabee is some sort of "economic populist." He's a supply-sider who supports free trade and wants to cut corporate taxes. How does that differ from most Republicans?

To Joe: He does play the populism card and qualifies his support of free trade and would do more from government for the unfortunate and all that. And you also have his health paternalism and his tendency toward crunchiness in some ways. But on balance: Your point is pretty well taken and is a great corrective to Caleb's charge of evangelical leftism, one which is repeated often by "establishment" authors, who cite the distorted evidence of the Club for Growth (which you've done well to take on). The dissent of McCain can also be exaggerated, of course.

I have one for Joe (#19): Huck said on Kudlow that he would not rule out the federal government regulating CEO pay. Does that sound like a proper role for the federal government?

The Fair Tax itself is populist--"We're gonna stop those fat cats from unfairly rippin' you off!" Nevermind that only the top half of "taxpayers" pay thanks to the other Minimum Wage called Earned Income Credit.

Rush, the other day:

"But here's one thing that I know for sure. Even the most overpaid CEO in this country can do nothing to me. The most overpaid CEO cannot take my freedom away. The most overpaid CEO cannot raise my taxes. The most overpaid CEO cannot tell me where I can and cannot smoke my cigars. The most overpaid CEO in the world cannot tell me what I can and cannot drive. The most overpaid CEO in the world cannot tell me what kind of stupid damn bags I have to use in a grocery store. But politicians and lawyers can take away all of those liberties and freedoms and property, and they do it on too regular a basis. So any time a politician comes up and says, "Mr. Limbaugh, your enemy is Big Media, your enemy is Big Food, your enemy is Big Oil, your enemy is big this or big that, and I'm going to protect you from them." I say, "You don't need protect me from them. They're not harming me at all. They're not hurting me at all. They're making my life better. You're the one standing in my way, Mr. Politician."

Perhaps Huck actually read Chesterton, perhaps he's acquainted with the works of Chesterton.

Chesterton was an apologist, for Roman Catholicism to be sure, but also for Christianity. Huckabee as a preacher, as a man aware that Christianity itself has been under cultural assault, may have sought help from a professional and polished apologist. Instead of it being a campaign ploy, perhaps it naturally flowed from him, or from his staff.

Let's not forget that within the battle-lines along the cultural front, a GENUINE ECUMENISM OF THE TRENCHES is arising. Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox and observant Jews too, are beginning to see that they are holding an extended perimeter, and that attacks against one, is an attack against their entire, SHARED position.

Huckabee has handled himself pretty well so far, sure he's not perfect, but the amount of pressure on him is enormous. So let's not rush to the conclusion that Huck is a dunce. How long were we defending Bush's brain power, how long did we allow our concerns to be assuaged by assurances from those who "privately" met with him that Bush was "sharp" and "bright." Now years later, we're left with no other conclusion than that Bush is a rather dull bulb, and we were deceived all along.

Why not extend Huckabee a fraction, just a fraction of the slack that we tendered to Bush and his apologists for years.

If we granted all that slack to the Blue Blood, to the grad of Andover, Yale and Harvard Business School, despite the clear evidence to the contrary, why not grant Huckabee a bit of leeway, during the remainder of this primary season.

Even the most overpaid CEO in this country can do nothing to me. The most overpaid CEO cannot take my freedom away. The most overpaid CEO cannot raise my taxes. .. But politicians and lawyers can take away all of those liberties and freedoms and property, and they do it on too regular a basis.

Rush is mistaken here. The politicians work for the CEO's. The Chamber of Commerce pressed the GOP in Virginia to raise taxes.

Dan-

I'm going to cut Huck some personal slack as you suggest--but this is our only chance to hash out leadership policy for another 4 years. No slack on the policy front!

John,

That just proves Rush's point--the CEOs had to enlist Big Politicians before they could impose their will on others.

Noel. Exactly. We'll cut some slack, BUT JUST A BIT, and not for very long.

That just proves Rush's point--the CEOs had to enlist Big Politicians before they could impose their will on others.

That was not Rush's point.

Rush told us after that shellacking in November of '06 that he "was done carrying water for the Republican leadership."

But what's he been doing of late, but carrying the water for that same establishment, and attacking their target du jour, which would be old Huckabee houndog. Rush has been TOO close of late to the leadership of the GOP. He needs to maintain some distance.

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