Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Has Michael Gerson endorsed Mike Huckabee yet?

That’s the question to which I’m led by this post by Jonah G. at The Corner. His conclusion is worth pondering:

If carried to its logical conclusion Huckabeeism is rightwing progressivism. If I have to choose between leftwing progressivism and rightwing progressivism, I’d probably choose rightwing progressivism on most issues and leftwing progressivism on a few issues. But I don’t want to have to make that choice. I don’t think I will have to either.

But more importantly, it needs to be said that progressivism from the right is nearly as flawed and bound to fail as progressivism from the left (I say "nearly" because I think the Right’s understanding of the fallen nature of man is more realistic). The left believes government can love you. Now, Huckabee and (some of) his supporters believe that too. If he is successful — which I doubt very much — in taking over the GOP, both Republicans and Democrats will craft policies grounded in the desire to translate their "love" for people they don’t know into public policy. And both sides, as well as many innocent bystanders, will feel the baton of unintended consequences in their teeth. Of course, there would be some political successes which would be construed as "transformative" events. But, in the process great violence would be done to the principle of limited government and liberty and — I hope — conservatives would be on the sidelines, once again, standing athwart history yelling "Stop" to anyone who might have ears to hear.

There’s more along these lines here.

The question one can pose is whether and how religiously-inspired moralism can be chastened. I take it for granted that a stark claim on behalf of "liberty" can’t do the trick, because that’s not the end for the religiously-inspired moralist. "Liberty for what?" he’ll reply. If he wants to reach out, he might also say something about cultivating the conditions of liberty (such as a sense of self-restraint and responsibility), which don’t spring up by themselves.

Another chastening possibility is suggested by Jonah’s resurrection of the language of "unintended consequences," which was a central weapon in the arsenal of the old neoconservative critique of transformative public policy. This line of argument might grant the goodness of the end while questioning the efficacy of the means, not to mention emphasizing the ways in which fallible human beings can get things wrong. Moralists of all sorts don’t necessarily like to hear this, but Jonah is perhaps correct when he argues there’s a little more receptivity among those who think that human beings are fallen than among those who regard us as perfectible, if only we give the Enlightened Ones the resources to bring this New Age about.

So, anyone think the Christian Leader can be sobered up? Or is Mitt the sober version?

Discussions - 14 Comments

JK wrote: "The question one can pose is whether and how religiously-inspired moralism can be chastened."

It can be chastened by the political realities of the world. Even if elected, Huckabee faces some enormous obstacles to enacting the kinds of programs he envisions.

But on a broader front, I wish the focus was more on encouraging a bottom-up personal transformation for the good rather than a top-down approach. At its core, that's the message of Jesus in the Bible, as well as Paul and the later writers -- not the imposition of a new political reality, but the availability of God's presence for the transformation of the individual's heart.

Morality -- and the goodness that flows from that, which is what Huckabee seeks -- can't be imposed on individuals. To be effective, it must be something the individual sincerely intends to embrace. And the true source of morality and goodness is God, not the government.

Government (and Huckabee) can try to impose morality and goodness, but it won't succeed unless the hearts of the people are inclined in that direction. They are not. Hence my claim that an effort aimed at individual transformation better serves the desired end.

I'm cynical enough to know such a thing won't be any candidate's campaign platform.

Don in AZ,

You're right, but evangelicals have nonetheless from time to time been swept up in "moralistic" crusades that worked from the top down. Huckabee does display that propensity.

Joe, I agree. It is a common failing of Evangelicals, not just those inclined towards public office. But the fuel of their passion -- their Christian faith -- is really a message of the individual heart, transformed by Christ. From that comes goodness in a world of evil.

Huckabee won't likely be dissuaded. My guess (I can't truly know his heart), is that the prospect of the Presidency has captured a bit of his imagination and has caused him to assert his personal kingdom a bit too strenuously.

And yes, I'm aware of the example of William Wilburforce using the power of government to eradicate the evil of slavery. I don't wish to get into a debate about matters of degree -- i.e., is smoking as evil as slavery. But I have to believe that his victory was aided in large measure by a desire on the part of many others to rid the world of slavery.

I'll confess I'm in an area of debate on which I don't feel great confidence in my logic. What's the distinction I'm struggling with here ... is it really a matter of degree?

This "Christian leader" stuff is getting blown out of proportion. Huckabee's record in Arkansas shows that he is a very practical leader. He cuts taxes, balances the budget, runs a government better than anyone in the field. Having a few "progressive" issues is a necessity for a candidacy or a country. We need a little bit of an idealistic calling on a few issues, or we are doomed to merely stew in our own filth as fallen humans.

Huckabee is a completely practical and good combination of the two.

Here's why Huckabee could well be the best candidate to beat the Dems in 08!

If anyone is dwelling on Huck as a "Christian leader", it is only because he himself has made it such a vital part of the campaign.

For example, one of his most recent commercials in Iowa starts by calling his "a Christian leader." Notice he didn't mention his conservative values or anything of the sort first. He mentioned his Christianity.

For someone such as myself, liberal on social issues and fiscal on spending, this is a huge redflag. I believe a Huckabee Presidency would reverse the roles and be conservative on social issues and liberal on spending. If it's a choice between Huckabee and Clinton, I'll stay home.

Prohibition, anyone?

Didn't get more moralistic than that, and what a foolhardy, anti-Christian, anti-Western, anti-American enterprise.

And for what?

Yes, but saying "I'm a Christian leader" need not mean that "I'm crazy" which is what the original post seems to indicate. I can't think of many Presidents who wouldn't call themselves both Christians and leaders, so what is the scary thing about putting the two words together?

Huckabee Takes South Carolina By Storm!! As Huckabee begins a two day swing through the Carolinas, a new poll surfaces with him up 7 in SC!

Clint wrote: "... so what is the scary thing about putting the two words together?"

It would be far better were Huckabee simply display his fruit, rather than have to say, "Look! I'm part of the vine and here's my fruit!"

The biggest problem with linking the two so closely is it smacks of opportunism -- i.e., the use of Christ for secular ambitions. You may scoff at that, but I assure you there are many curious seekers who watch the behavior of self-professed "Christians" very closely. That is why one should wear the label "Christian" with care.

But mostly his Christianity should be something plainly evident, without having to proclaim it and leverage it for political gain.

On a personal level, Don, I agree. But campaign commercials are no personal and you have to tell people things that you can't show them because many people will never see a Presidential candidate, much less have the opportunity to get to know him.

A smaller republic might fix this...

Huckabee comparing his campaign success to biblical miracles

and Clint says his "Christian leader" angle is being too played up.

I'm not saying Huck isn't a Christian leader, but what President hasn't been?

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