It is a shame to devote the first post of this blog to Mike Huckabee, but he is a very dangerous man who deserves more than a little scrutiny. So let us hold our noses and proceed.
The Huckabee phenomenon is horrifying but of little surprise. In most every way, he is George W. Bush's natural successor. The two are remarkably similar. Both had less-than-stressful governorships, both exhibit ideological confusion, both lead public lives characterized by guiltless participation in the spoils system. (Both like running...)
More importantly, both are married to political Christianity. However, where Bush's relationship with evangelicals seems calculated and fairly exploitive, Huckabee's is natural, genuine, and proud. Critics have long bashed Dubya for his overt religiosity, but next to the preacher from Arkansas his exhibitionism seems rather timid.
Plus, Bush's faith rarely serves as the driving policy force. Christianity informs his decisions, yes, but it does not act as the one and only source of context. On the contrary, the president has been smart enough to surround himself with clever men, men far too cynical to use the whole heaven-and-hell routine as a regular inspiration for earthly governance.
Huckabee, on the other hand, is a self-branded "Christian leader." His political thinking emerges solely from his spiritual orientation. For example, he is skittish about Iraq because, well, the Bible says war is bad. Christ, that Hebrew hippie, was a peace and love sorta guy. And Huckabee seeks to emulate his messiah.
That's why he wants the state to play dear mommy: to care for the people's health, to regulate their morals, to lift the poor and embrace the foreigner, etc. Never mind that his policies wouldn't facilitate any of this ('FairTax' help the poor!?), it's the thought that counts.
To make matters worse, the governor has clear disdain for expertise. "I may not be the expert that some people are on foreign policy," he declared recently, "but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night." The only thing more depressing than a person reveling in his own ignorance is a person who wants to be president reveling in his own ignorance. Michael Dale Huckabee: The Aww Shucks! Candidate. His international stances -- presented this month in Foreign Affairs -- are facile and unambitious.
Small-minded, bleeding heart conservatism isn't good for the GOP and it isn't good for America. It would destroy the Republican coalition by alienating Wall Street, defense hawks, libertarians, and the few remaining moderates. More pressingly, it would really harm this country. Huckabee's election would mean unabashed statism, ruthless culture war, and disastrous foreign policy.
Some will quibble with calling the governor a conservative. I understand this objection. At his core, Huckabee is a right-wing religious populist. His presidency would mean a win for pedestrian ideas and values which are reactionary even by my standards.
That isn't what America needs right now. It isn't what America requires.