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Huckabee’s Great and Vertical "Results Conservatism"

It’s only fair to post a fairly flattering article about the one candidate who clearly did better than expected in the Iowa straw poll. Mike is articulate, not particularly edgy, somewhat witty, actually wrote his own book, and has thoughtful and stable positions on the issues. But Julie and John Podhoretz are right: The hyping of Ames is best understood as a futile journalistic attempt to keep the campaign from getting even more boring, and poor Romney ended up spending a huge amount of money per vote.

Discussions - 15 Comments

This year may well be the last Iowa straw poll we witness. The dynamics of the primary season and changing rapidly, and this straw poll thing, once of some value (perhaps), is now simply outdated.

Romney apparently felt this was part of his plan. He has the money to spend. He has at least some political capital from this. His Iowa political machine has been tested and is, presumably, ready for the caucuses.

At the end of this whole cycle we may look back on it and say, "It was a waste of time and money." But I don't think it was unreasonable for Romney to have factored this into his strategy.

If Huckabee's speech at Ames, which I've watched, is at all typical, the man has no compelling rationale for his candidacy. He spoke about distancing the party from Wall Street -- which might be well and good, depending on what he means, which he doesn't tell us. He also spoke about a serious effort to eliminate dependence on foreign oil within a decade, which is probably about as realistic as "no child left behind" in education. Huckabee is a damned good communicator and has a pleasing personality. But his success yesterday is basically a function of 1) no negative rap on him among average folks; and 2) the absence of Rudy and Fred. I was personally suspicious of his reference to being the first "male" in his family to finish high school. A "male" who is graduating from high school is a BOY or a YOUNG MAN. It bothers me that Huckabee has absorbed PC language to this extent. Sometimes, little things mean a lot. I think there's a little to much G.W. Bush here. The party should probably consider him as a Veep nominee, but not for the big job.

The Club for Growth has the goods on Huckabee as an economic conservative (not). They have established that he was a big taxer and a big spender as governor of Arkansas. I think we have another G.W. Bush here. That's our past, not our future. It's also a loser.

Huckabee is pro-amnesty. That is all we need to know. Next.

I actually think Huckabee has the Romney problem in the other direction. I once heard him preach. He came to my church when I lived in San Antonio. His sermon was Christian America boilerplate. I suspect his instincts are as conservative as the instincts of most Southern Southern Baptist preachers. So he decided he needed to soften up his image. Hence his use of Christian language that borders on mild social gospel territory when it comes to welfare and immigration.

The fact that Wal-Mart and Tyson Foods are headquartered in his State might have something to do with his weak stand on immigration as well.

A born-again who is aiming at the presidency has a problem. Unless he's a political giant of some kind, he has to make himself acceptable to a large number of non-born agains. It is very easy to go about this in a way that shrugs off one's conservatism, and that has consequences if one makes it to the presidency. I'm inclined to take a Giuliani or Fred Thompson, a guy, in other words, who is apparently not serious about religion, who works to make himself acceptable to the born-agains. From a conservative standpoint, I think that's a healthier dynamic, provided that there is some genuine conservatism there in the first place.

"I'm inclined to take a Giuliani or Fred Thompson, a guy, in other words, who is apparently not serious about religion, who works to make himself acceptable to the born-agains. From a conservative standpoint, I think that's a healthier dynamic,"


It is "healthy" to not be "serious" about your stated religion? Spoken like someone who is not religious.

Carter, Reagan, Bush I and Bush II all claimed to be born again or used equivalent language. Did it hurt them? It almost certainly helped them.

(Recall Bush I, who is Episcopalian, had to be coach on that language because he was unfamiliar with it.)

I agree with David. Huckabee is too much; I wouldn't even give him a VP nod. Everyone is right, though: he has an excellent sense of humour and seems very likeable, but some of his ideas and statements make it clear he's not presidential material. For instance, saying the government's job was to get bottles of water to people stranded on the highway in the aftermath of Katrina - are you kidding me? Huckabee's just too nicey-nice and unserious. The foundation and rationale of his science of politics seems to be evangelical Christianity (well the government shouldn't do A, but it's OK when they do B).

He attacked Bush's compassionate conservatism because it "comes from the heart" - exactly. That's because conservatives believe the government is not supposed to bring you chocolate-chip cookies when you're feeling blue, they're supposed to protect your natural rights. The worst of it is that Huckabee, as well as all the other lower tier candidates, can end up hurting the main tier candidates if they keep attacking them and encouraging conservative factions not to support them.

And Dan P., of course religion is not a bad thing, but the problem with someone like Huckabee is that he tries to claim he's a conservative and say we need limited government, but then wants the government to go out and do X, Y, Z for the least among us. That's the job of the Church, not the Federal Government. It's not clear to me Huckabee (and many such evangelicals) understand that.

Andrew, speaking of the "science of politics" a classical conservative would never argue that the government should protect your natural rights because classical conservatives rejected the idea of natural rights. Natural rights are an entirely liberal idea. But we have covered that ground at NLTs before.

To the degree that Huckabee's "nicey nice" political positions are truly motivated by his evangelicalism and are not just a form of inoculation, then that is a political science AND theological issue.

Hence my reference in the other thread that he sounds almost like social gospel light. I agree with your post #8 entirely. (Whether the government should do something for the least among us is different than whether it should proscribe certain things - abortion, pornography, etc.) But my point is that that is not a necessary outflow of evangelicalism and it is not speaking for some compassionate conservatism groundswell within that community. I think it is largely an attempt to divert criticism or hide the ball in the belief that the country is tired of the culture war.

“It's not clear to me Huckabee (and many such evangelicals) understand that.”

The problem is that failing to understand that is not isolated to evangelicals. It’s also Iowa corn farmers who want ethanol subsidies, and unfortunately it is most self-identified conservatives. Like I said, if most conservatives were serious about limiting government they would all be supporting Ron Paul.

Dan P., you should read more carefully. I never said it wasn't healthy to be serious about your religion. I said a less-religious person selling himself to evangelicals is a healthier POLITICAL dynamic than an evangelical selling himself to the less religious. I specifically exempted "political giants" from my analysis. I believe Reagan was a political giant. GWB is not. And Huckabee is not. In addition, Reagan talked about God, not Jesus. And he talked far more about political principle. Bush I and Bush II were not particularly successful at governing. They tried too hard to be acceptable to the establishment mainstream, and Bush I was really part of that establishment mainstream. In addition, whether Bush I had a born-again experience or not, he wasn't of the breed and wasn't perceived as such. Many born-agains in politics substitute God talk or Jesus talk for principle. While they have good political principles, they don't hold them seriously enough or talk about them with sufficient feeling. To say that Jesus Christ is your favorite political philosopher, as W. did in 2000, is a clue to a grossly unsophisticated view of politics, government, and political principle. Those presidential candidates who don't know political philosophy, as I assume most don't, should simply respond: Here is mine.

The point about Jesus Christ being a poor guide to political philosophy is that he didn't set up as a political philosopher: "My kingdom is not of this world," for instance. I mean no disrespect to the Son of God. Only to those whose minds have too much space for religion and too little for politics.

OK then, explain what you mean by healthier. Do you mean easier? More doable?

Meaning that I prefer movement in the right direction to movement in the wrong direction, even if the person moving in the right direction starts out relatively wrong and the person moving in the wrong direction starts out relatively right. I believe the direction one moves in says something not only about where someone will be, but about who they really are.

I think that you're all wrong on Huckabee. When you here him speak, he clearly stands above the field. He seems to have the goods to deliver what the GOP really needs. I definitely think he'll be on the ticket, and I'm hoping it won't be as second.

Huckabee is solidly in the Brownback/Bush/McCain camp regarding amnesty for illegal aliens and open borders.

He is also very liberal on economic matters, so he is going to be radioactive to two seperate but important GOP groups, the nationalists and the fiscal conservatives.

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