Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Falcoff on Huckabee

I’ve taken my share of shots at Mike Huckabee, but I think he articulates some concerns that conservatives and Republicans (overlapping but far from identical groups) have to take seriously.

For these reasons, I can’t endorse this analysis from Romneyite Mark Falcoff (whose specialty is, I thought, Latin America). Falcoff argues that Republicans are at a crossroads, going in either a Christian Democrat (or Christian Socialist in the tradition of Bavarian Franz Josef Strauss) or libertarian way, becoming two parties rather than one. To avoid this fate, which would guarantee long-term Democratic rule, evangelicals should accept the victories they gain as part of a coalition, whose other members only pretend to agree with them on matters they (the libertarians) don’t really regard as signficant. This should be the arrangement, Falcoff argues, until evangelicals become post-evangelicals, transcending religion in the way that Obama has transcended race.

To state this argument is, I think, to show its utter ridiculousness. Falcoff’s patronizing assumption is that evangelicals essentially can’t be reasoned with; they have to grow up first. And that Huckabee isn’t a grown-up. But business Republicans and libertarians, who don’t take traditional marriage or abortion all that seriously, are grown-ups, because they care about solid things like economics. (I guess everyone in the history of political philosophy up until about John Locke wasn’t a grown-up by Falcoff’s lights. And even Locke recognized the centrality of the family to a productive economy.)

The way to start the necessary conversation is not to begin by patronizing one of the parties to it. But Falcoff seems capable of nothing else. Is this the Romneyite position?

Update: Our friend the Pomocon reminds us that there are alternatives to these options. I’d add that a genuine religious conservative would favor subsidiarity and hence federalism.

Discussions - 7 Comments

Your first paragraph is far too rational to be considered by the likes of Hugh Hewitt, a good chunk of the writers over at NR and the lawyers over at Powerline, who start foaming at the mouth at the mere mention of Huckabee.

They think they can glide over the substance of Huckabee's remarks by pointing out that he's a hick. And they think they can dismiss the traction he's found by observing that it comes from "rural areas," id est, hicks, rubes, yokels, yahoos and the worst of the worst, "Evangelicals." And make sure you cue in the Twilight Zone music when you mention "Evangelicals." Because that's what Fred Barnes has been doing, besides NR and Powerline. POWERLINE could be the worst offender.

A leadership and an establishment that so scorns those it NEEDS to prevail won't long remain competitive.

But I've good news for all those who long ago wearied of my endless denunciations of Romney, and all things Romney. I've declared a unilateral cease fire against that campaign, against his camp followers and against his vocal brush-beaters. The duration of this cease fire however is very much contingent on how outraged I am by some of the comments being made by the folks at POWERLINE and NR. I don't even peruse Hugh Hewitt anymore; he's added being unhinged to being bought and paid for.

Given what I've heard from those who know Latin America, Falcoff's one of the best--has written definitive stuff on Chile, for example. That he's on team Romney speaks to its depth, foreign-policy wise.

But this analysis is pretty bad. And its unwarranted pessimism is offensive. It offends me in this way--look, if as an evangelical social conservative I am willing to hold my nose and vote for Giuliani if he becomes the nominee, which I am, than damn it, the quasi-libertarian pro-business Republican types can swallow their pride and do the same if Huckabee is the nominee. I, like Falcoff, support Romney. I do so in large part for the sake of the Republican coalition. Like Falcoff, I think it certain that Huckabee would lose. So, fine, Falcoff and Powerline, make the case for why Huckabee is a bad nominee, but don't give us this "we (or our pro-business buddies)just might leave the party if you evangelicals keep getting your way" bullshit.

Well, Carl is right. This is another example of WSJ shrill overreaction to Huck. Again I don't support Huck or even think Falcoff represents the true opinion of Romney.

Well said Joe, and Dan, Carl and Peter. I would only add that much of the strength of the Reagan coalition came from their contrast from the liberal elitist disdain of ordinary people (the sort described so well by Christopher Lasch), or "hicks" who live in "flyover country" (a phrase I heard with regularity among faculty when I taught at Princeton). The Republican party is in serious danger of reclaiming the label that once defined them, "the country club," and not the "Sam's Club," party.

Republican party is in serious danger of reclaiming the label that once defined them, "the country club,"

Whether the GOP intended to or not, it (re)claimed the label through it's failures of the 90's and the Bush administration. Fact is, the only coalition members who benefited from GOP governance during this time were the libertarian Big Business Republicans (or when it suits them, Big Government Republicans on issues like health care - think Prescription Drug Giveaway).

Even the traditional conservatives , let alone the "social conservatives" and/or "evangelicals" , had very little real influence on the GOP

Is this really all that surprising, given that the country clubers have always constituted the core leadership and direction of the GOP, particularly when no other strong leader (like Reagan) has had a correcting influence on it?

Fact is, Mitt is simply the establishments candidate, even more so than Bush was. I expected WSJ to fall in line of course, but I am a bit surprised at NR's unblinking acceptance. All this re-enforces my believe that the GOP and the current "conservative" leadership represented by NR and others is really out of touch, and have yet to understand the GOP failures of the last 16 years or so.

I don't know how, but the sooner we conservatives unhitch our hopes and fortunes on the GOP the better.

I don't support Huck either, but I would actually consider voting for him if he was the candidate. I would stay home if Romney is the candidate, as I know he would find a way to minimize his "social" conservative positions in office, and even his "economic" conservative positions - but will find a big government way to support big business as the country clubers always do. At least Huck would actually find a way to do something truly conservative, even if other things he did were liberal...

The reason we're in SERIOUS danger of being linked with the country club is because of Bush, both father and son, and their Blue Blood ethos, which we've allowed to permeate the party. Their attitudes, their prejudices, their reluctance to mix it up politically, their refusal, studied, dignified refusal to defend themselves, to explain themselves, it's all hurting our party.

And I KNEW it would, and I personally went out of my way to speak to top Republicans and mention as much. But they brushed my concerns aside.

Romney appears even more country club than Bush. Now that's not Romney's fault. I've faulted Romney for many things. But he can't help his appearance. He can't help himself that he looks so damn presidential. But nonetheless, he's country club all the way. And after 12 years of Bush, he's the absolute last guy, or type, that we should go with.

Now that doesn't mean I'm supporting Huck, or McCain for that matter. But the chasm between the establishment and the party was created by the establishment. They're too damn eager to run with the Davos crowd, and they're too damn eager to court the media.

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