Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Conversation and ressentiment

Mike Huckabee has some tough talk for the "elites" in New York and Washington. "We [evangelicals]" have been offered a seat on the bus, but are not supposed "ever [to] think about telling us where the bus is going to go."

I prefer the table metaphor to the bus metaphor. There can be many involved in a conversation around the table, but only one bus driver. And on behalf of evangelicals, MH wants to be the driver.
This NYT article offers some suggestions about how he’d behave in the driver’s seat.

Two thoughts: by Huckabee’s account, George W. Bush (pretty doggone close to an evangelical by my lights) apparently wasn’t in the driver’s seat. Or, to put it another way, Bush listened to people who weren’t evangelicals (and, yes, didn’t always treat evangelicals with the respect they deserved). A Huckabee Administration would apparently be different: would he not listen to the non-evangelicals who disagreed with him? Would his White House not have a plurality of conservative voices? The implicit rejection of the Bush model ("evangelical" President with evangelical and non-evangelical advisors, with the former sometimes--perhaps too often--losing to the latter and the latter sometimes--perhaps too often--not playing nice with the former) suggests not. Huckabee’s comments aren’t nuanced, and there is, of course, room for nuance. I’d hope that he would offer an inclusive vision of conservative governance and that, while he demanded that everyone play nice, he wouldn’t shut out those who came from different camps. It’s one thing to say that the "establishment" conservative/Republicans didn’t always behave well and offer socially conservative folks from flyover country the respect they deserved; it’s another to imply that it’s payback time (which seems to be pretty close to what Huckabee is saying). This strikes me as an exceedingly "political" view of what it takes to deserve respect, but political only in the lowest (power-oriented) and not in the highest (reason- and common good-oriented) sense.

On a slightly different subject, the NYT article I cited above raises a related question about Huckabee’s understanding of the relationship between religion and politics. His focus on clemency for criminals is said to be rooted in his religious understanding of redemption. Aside from the fact that Baptists of all people are supposed to understand something about backsliding, there’s also the notion that Caesar also has reasonable and legitimate demands to make of people. I can forgive you, think that you have changed, and still insist that you pay your dues, that part of your redemption requires expressing your respect for the law and the government whose law you violated. Yes, there’s a difference between justice and the rule of law, but in a world where men aren’t angels, government and the rule of law are necessary. Individual judgment can remedy certain egregious defects in the execution of impersonal justice, but we have to be chary of going too far in that regard, both because we want to uphold the rule of law in general and because we’re aware of our own foibles (see, for example, the pardons issued by another man from Hope). Huckabee’s approach to pardons seems remarkably unpolitical, but also remarkably unaware of the fallenness of the human condition (which is what requires politics, coercion, and punishment in the first place) and the fallibility of his own judgment.

Discussions - 1 Comment

One of my friends, a Giuliani supporter, described this pardon question and how awesome Huck handled it.

A reporter asked Huck about his many pardons, so he pulled out an example of a single mother who couldn't get a job because of a felony on her record that she committed at 17. She had "paid her due" so to speak but others would still not forgive her past, so Huckabee kindly erased her past by pardoning her. This allowed her to get a job, and become an independent wage earning person-a tax payer rather than a tax taker. I think America will understand the wisdom of Huck's pardons, especially when he explains them thus.

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