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Presidential Politics: Give us Lincoln, not Reagan

January 3rd, 2008 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

It’s no small irony that Huckabee started to fall behind in his “rapid response” to the litany of attacks (and miscues) that he has made in recent weeks just about the time Joe Carter left his campaign.

Joe has posted his reflections from his time in Little Rock, and they are worth reading. Particularly pertinent are these thoughts, many of which I have shared in recent weeks:

People often ask me what I think about the “Huckabashing” carried on by my friend Hugh Hewitt. While I am concerned that his shift from candidate-favoring pundit to propagandist for Team Romney may hurt his reputation, it hasn’t affected the affection I have for my “blogfather.” Hugh’s wrong–dead wrong–about Romney. But he’s right about enough other stuff that I still respect his opinions. And aside from his poor taste in candidates, he’s still the same great guy that I’ve admired for years.

The same holds true for my friendships with pundits and bloggers that differ with me about which candidate will make the best President. I’ve had some heated disagreements and have said things that have likely damaged my reputation with some people (i.e., all fans of Romney). But when all is said and done, I care more about people than punditry or partisanship.

That’s not a profound lesson but it was something I re-learned on the campaign. Even if I took away nothing else, that alone would have made the 30 days in Little Rock worth the trip.

On the eve of the Iowa caucuses, Joe’s thoughts are important to keep in mind. Regardless of who wins the nomination, Romney and Huckabee supporters will both be needed to fight in the trenches together against a Democratic candidate (unless, of course, Rudy Giuliani is elected). Given the treatment of Huckabee during this campaign, that sort of congenial co-belligerence will be difficult to revive.

But the danger of a factious split exists not only between individuals, but between the various groups of the Republican party.

But a Republican civil war is not inevitable. Ironically, it may be avoided–at least this election cycle–if the eventual nominee claims the mantle of Lincoln, not Reagan, and announces that he is making each of the current candidates members of his cabinet.If Romney wins, Huck could be Secretary of Health and Human Services or Secretary of Education. Duncan Hunter could be the Secretary of Defense. Rudy Giuliani, Homeland Security. John McCain, Interior Department. And if Romney loses, he could clearly have a position as Treasury Secretary (or maybe even State Department).

Of course, the central question would be whether these men are willing to serve their country in a position other than “top dog.” The answer to that is not at all clear.

Additionally, it would not solve the ideological conflicts that Republicans face. But it would provide them with at least four (and potentially eight) more years to find it’s bearings and groom candidates who can win the White House. At the very least, it would be an important gesture by the nominee toward repairing some of the cracks this vicious primary season has revealed.

It’s idle speculation, of course. But it would be a fine moment in political history, and make me optimistic again about American politics and the Republican party.

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.