Huckabee seems to believe he deserves a “pass” by virtue of his status as an evangelical and the fact that evangelicals have supported Republicans. That’s a dangerous mind set. Other serious Republican candidates have no difficulty understanding that resistance to them flows not from prejudice or elitism but from legitimate policy differences.
Mirengoff is right. Huckabee shouldn’t get a pass on the issues. I haven’t had the time of late to address the various and sundry attacks against him, as they have been fast and furious.* But serious and substantial criticism of him needs to happen.
The problem, however, that Huckabee is responding to and that Mirgenoff ignores is the nature of the attacks against Huckabee. Rod Dreher penned an excellent analysis of the problem today. I quote at length:
It’s funny, but when it looked like Rudy Giuliani, a social liberal, was going to be the nominee, we didn’t see many, if any, establishment Republican opinion leaders freaking out over what kind of danger to the future of the party and the nation he represented, even though as Ross points out, Giuliani hasn’t exactly been deep on policy (I had to research Giuliani for our Dallas Morning News editorial board debate on which candidate to endorse, and I was genuinely startled by how vague he was on many things). I think it’s fair to say that it was assumed that Giuliani would be a sound representative of the Republican Party, and that the social and religious conservatives would do like they always do and get in line. Pat Robertson sure did.
But lo, it turns out that the candidate who’s caught fire comes straight out of the religious/social conservative wing of the coalition, and he is unsound on issues most important to the fiscal wing. It’s not supposed to work that way. Nobody at the elite level seems to expect the economic conservatives to suck it up for the sake of party unity. What does that say about the place of social conservatives in the party all these years?
I don’t want to overdo this. I think it’s perfectly fine to be worried about Huckabee’s vagueness, and his unpreparedness. I’m worried about these things too, which is a big reason why I can’t say I’d vote for him (though honestly, any Republican who finds himself worked up over Huckabee’s lack of knowledge about foreign affairs, say, should ask himself if he felt the same way about Gov. Bush in 1999 and 2000, and if not, why not). Still, it’s hard to shake the belief that the real problem with Mike Huckabee, as far as the establishment is concerned, is that he’s not clubbable.
Huckabee’s rise has prompted a more careful analysis not only of the role of religion in politics, but also of the place of social conservatives within the Republican party. As evangelical political reflection and involvement increases and improves, we will presumably become increasingly more aware of the sort of double standards that Dreher points out.
This is not to say that evangelicals will leave the Republican party. Until Democrats have a viable pro-life candidate, there’s no place for social conservatives to turn. But that doesn’t mean social conservatives will continue to march within the party as they have always done. Rudy Giuliani’s ascension to the top spot was a warning sign–the tone of the attacks on Mike Huckabee have only been further confirmation that social conservatives are second-class citizens within the Republican party.
*Though I was disappointed in his Foreign Policy article, I agree with Dreher that his positions are hardly a disqualification to be president. What’s more, despite the critiques of the piece, there are a lot of smart Romney supporters who agree with his position that the Bush administration has been “arrogant” in his approach to foreign policy.