My pal AIAW askswhy it is that Virgina conservatives fear Mike Huckabee.
She asks the wrong question, because they don’t fear him. However, they are confused and confounded by him…and on a couple of different levels.
Naturally, most of this goes to his evangelical and preaching background…but mostly how he comes from this background and doesn’t act like they expect him to.
First, at some level they don’t know what to make of him. He is perhaps the evangelical/religious based candidate for the GOP nod whose candidacy is not implied rebuke to those who don’t agree with him. Others who have come before him, from Connally Phillips and Guy Farley in Virginia elections to Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan have attempted to fire up the evangelical base through fire, brimstone, and not a little bit of condemnation. Huckabee is an evangelical to the core, but while other candidates pushing social issues act as if those that disagree with them face hellfire in the afterlife, Huckabee behaves as if they are wayward members of his flock who simply have yet to see the light.
It is as if somehow those faith based candidates that have come before him draw their attitude from that of a vengeful Old Testament scripture, while Huckabee acts out of the forgiveness of the New Testament. That attitude shift perplexes many.
Another aspect is that he comes to the race not just as a past religious leader, but as a successful politician-and he has a politician’s mindset. He has run and lost, he has run and won. Other evangelical or evangelical-backed candidates have run for office with a laundry list of positions, unwilling to accept anything but their way. They accept a loss while being true to themeselves as an act of political martyrdom. Huckabee has actually governed, and has seen that for those who starve, a half loaf via compromise is sometimes better politics than keeping your ideological purity but having no loaf at all.
Even the word “politics” seems to be viewed differently…so many evangelical candidates and commentators seem to think the word and the world it reflects is a sordid place that can be redeemed if everyone just took the right position-of which there is only one. Huckabee, who has spent time in the pulpit, has been a preacher and who has had to help people fight through the daily challenges of life, views politics as just another aspect of human interaction, an imperfect interaction by imperfect creatures that sometimes yields brilliant-even perfect-results.
A second indicator of his “political” side is also seen in his ambition. He is both godly and a sharp political operator. This combination has not often been seen in a candidate. For instance, many do not understand why Huckabee has not withdrawn and sent his evangelical backers to Romney in order to keep the more moderate (and I understand it is a matter of degrees) John McCain from winning the nomination. Answer: Huckabee wants to be president; he wants to be on the national ticket; he is in this race for Huckabee. He knows that Governor Romney is unlikely to select another governor to be on the ticket with him, but that Senator McCain is very likely to do so. Result: Huckabee stays in the race, pulling his 10-20, and throwing the nomination to McCain and likely gaining the VP nod in the process. Remember, Huckabee is only 51. Being on a McCain ticket puts him in the front rank of potential GOP nominees in 2012 and in 2016 (depending how the 2008/2012 elections shake out)…and come 2016 he would still only be 59.
Another realm is ideology. As has been written elsewhere, “Gov. Mike Huckabee has a definite flair for infuriating people by refusing to adhere to a rigid party line”. Huckabee’s conservatism is kind of all over the place. It isn’t completely Main Street or Wall Street, Reaganesque or Libertarian. At the same time he pushes the libertarian “fair tax”, but as governor of Arkansas did not hesitate to increase state spending. This positions are seen by some as contradictory, as well as being contrary to the Pre-Bush II GOP doctrine of low taxes, low government spending.
I suggest that Huckabee doesn’t cause fear in your typical Virginia GOP/conservative, but his positions and attitudes are new, unpredictable, and sometimes contradictory to traditional schema of what a conservative candidate should think…and this causes folks to be bewitched, bothered and bewildered by him.
Fear Huckabee? Nope
Grudgingly impressed by Huckabee? Yes
Confused by Huckabee? Absolutely