“The Huckabee issue” may prove to be the final undoing of the increasingly old, tottering, out-of-touch, self-appointed evangelical mullahs.
It begins with the mullahs. Keep in mind that it is this group of men – Dobson, Land, Perkins, Bauer, etc. – that demanded blind and slavish loyalty among their followers to President Bush from 1999 on. They are the ones who sold him as a “pastor-in-chief,” as the good Christian man who would restore honor and dignity to the White House after the Clinton presidency.
This has proven to be not only politically disastrous – anyone see a poll recently? – but spiritually disastrous as well. At the end of the day these are the leaders who encouraged Christians to put aside the Biblical command that they speak truth to power no matter who sits in power. Bad trade.
And they are all paying for it. Donations to Christian political organizations – and those associated with them – have been diving since Katrina and there is no end in sight… not even with hiring freezes and staff layoffs. Grassroots evangelical trust in these men is very, very low.
Now comes Mike.
Mike Huckabee is everything a conservative evangelical should want. He is pro-life. He is a model of personal self-discipline – the guy lost like 2,423 lbs. He is against gay marriage. He is for tax cuts. He is a former governor. Heck, he is a former preacher for crying out loud. He is articulate, self-deprecating, humble, and holds his own in even the toughest venues – ever see him on Bill Maher?
Yet the evangelical leadership stiffs him. Why? Because he can’t beat Hillary?
That is the ultimate absurdity. They are saying a dynamic former governor from Hope, Arkansas can’t win the presidency? Hello?
It doesn’t really matter what these guys say or do anymore. Their time is simply past. It is true chronologically – most of these guys haven’t been seen without geritol in a very long time – and it is true ideologically and theologically as well. A new generation of evangelicals have never heard of them. The older generation of evangelicals don’t trust them. The rest of the country thinks that if they are what Christianity is about it must not be much of a faith at all.
(Sorry about that. What was I thinking? Back to rehab for me.)
Dan, speaking as a Christian rightist, I find the travails of the Christian Right made manifest by this political year to be perhaps the biggest political story going. I’ve never been able to figure out why secular journalists pay so much attention to the political pronouncements of the Roman Catholic bishops, given that almost no Catholics take their political direction from them (we are long past those days). I’m not an Evangelical, but I’ve been hearing from plugged-in Evo friends for the past few years that the media are out of touch with the Evo grassroots; they (journalists) think that James Dobson, Pat Robertson, et alia, speak politically for the Evo masses, but they don’t. We’re really seeing that this year, aren’t we? What’s more, the power of Christian conservatives over the Republican Party really has ebbed dramatically — something we’re also seeing.
As readers of my Crunchy Con blog know, I’m very far from gruntled with this year’s crop of Republicans. Though I’m a registered Republican, if I vote in the Texas primary, it will be for Ron Paul, as a protest. I can easily see sitting out the 2008 general election. Still, I have a soft spot in my heart for Huck, and I don’t understand why, given how wide open the GOP race still is, the religious conservative machers don’t unite behind Huck. They’re trying to preserve their place at the table by endorsing pragmatically. Huckabee is by no means out of this race; as Our Big Cheese Editor points out, if the Religious Right openly backed Huckabee, he’d be in a better position to take this thing.
Michele, welcome to Beliefnet! It’s great having you as part of Casting Stones; we’re big fan of your Reformed Chicks blog.
As for the notion that religious leaders won’t rally around Huckabee because he doesn’t have a chance, Huckabee had a great response. When a religious conservative told him that he wasn’t getting support because he doesn’t have “traction,” he said you are my traction. If religious conservatives wanted Huckabee to be a tier one candidate, he could be one over night.
And if pragamatism and electability is the key issue, why raise the prospect of launching a third party campaign for religious conservatives? One thing’s for sure: Huckabee has a much better chance than a third party candidate.
I know lots of Democrats who voted for Kerry in the primaries even though they didn’t much like him because they said he was most electable. Everyone’s a pundit! Instead, they should have thought: well, if I don’t much like him, perhaps others might feel the same way. It looks to me like the religious conservative voters are wiser, in that sense, than their sophisticated leaders.
The values voters straw poll results probably reflect what’s going on in the conservative Evangelical community in general. There are some who believe that the abortion issue is so important that it trumps all other issues to such an extent that they could never vote against principle and elect a pro-choice candidate. They want to elect a president who is just as passionate about the issue as they are and Mike Huckabee is that candidate. They know that Huckabee will be the advocate for life in the same way that Bush has been.
In contrast I think the Christian leadership is looking at this with the ends in mind. What candidate is able to beat Clinton and how can they avoid Giuliani getting the Republican nomination. If either of these candidates wins the presidency, it will set the pro-life movement back years and will weaken the pro-life position in the party. They want to pick the strongest pro-life, pro-marriage amendment candidate they can find but they don’t think that’s Huckabee because he doesn’t have the money or infrastructure in place the way Romney does. and he isn’t a fiscal conservative.
Is this a divide? No, I think it reflects the fact that no one candidate satisfies all our needs and so the support is scattered among all the candidates. I don’t think that even the Christian leaders can decide among themselves who to coalesce behind. And the fact that the results of the straw poll are in dispute (Romney’s supporters believe that he won because he was focused on on-line voting) just proves that there really is no Christian conservative candidate to rally the troops behind.