Monday, February 4, 2008

Huckabee fades out (posted by John)

Alright, Mindy promised you I would at some point update my thoughts on the political process. Here it goes:

Well, tomorrow will most likely mark the end of the Mike Huckabee for President campaign. Let me share some things that I really liked about Mike and then some things that gave me pause for concern along the way. The first thing I loved about Mike was his winsome, gracious attitude and the excellent way in which I thought he represented the pro-life position. "I'm a conservative but I'm not mad at anybody." I loved it. I loved the fact that he was willing from the start to go on shows like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. And when on these shows, I felt like he spoke for my moral convictions without embarrassing me. So many of the Christian representatives they put on TV say ridiculous things that make me cringe. Second thing. I love the fact that even though he was strongly pro-life, he also had an appreciation for the working class, the arts, education and expanded health care coverage and a moderate stance on immigration. He was not a libertarian Republican that saw no role for the government whatsoever save national defense. I appreciate this. Many have accused him of being economically liberal. I don't know. Perhaps he is more so than, say, a Phil Graham of Texas. But to me that's not necessarily a bad thing. Every year since 2000, our family has made the drive from Dallas to Philly and back again. We drive through Arkansas. We saw first hand the terrible conditions of the roads there. Under Gov. Huckabee, a tax bill was passed and they fixed the roads. Driving from Memphis to Little Rock now is not a high anxiety affair with constant rattling, bumping, and disconcerting road noise. So I believe that the tax increase to fix those roads was a legitimate function of state government. As you can tell, I'm a social conservative, but more moderate on economic issues. I think that a libertarian approach to government (no role except defense/police) underestimates the power of social sin and the need to have a state that acts as a restraint against the natural corruption of the free market system. Who wouldn't, for example, want a government that doesn't regulate lead paint and food safety so that multinational corporations don't cut safety corners to maximize profit? When you start thinking about it, you begin to realize that there are plenty of legitimate exercises of government function in society beyond merely defending us from Jihadism or the next big red threat.

There have been some things over time that have given me pause concerning Mike. First, the fact that he routinely preaches in churches on Sunday morning blurs a line for me. The church should be the church, with a prophetic voice to society and government. And those in politics should listen to the voice of the church proclaim God's Word and seek to establish justice in the land. But I don't think our politicians should become our preachers. It's better if these roles are kept distinct. I would prefer Mike to not preach from pulpits on Sunday morning. Second thing. I didn't necessarily buy the "he's too inexperienced" argument since he was a governor of a state when Obama was merely a state legislator in Springfield. Huckabee would have more experience under his belt entering the Oval office than Reagan. He would be about on par with Bill Clinton in this regard. So that hasn't concerned me too much, though some make the point that in this age of Jihadism, you need a President with lots of foreign policy experience. Perhaps. Reagan didn't have any foreign policy experience, but he knew intuitively how to deal with the Soviets. And that was a pretty big deal back then. But here's my concern: as the political debate wore on, I just didn't get enough substance from Huckabee. The fair tax idea is novel and attention-getting, so it served its political purpose for him. But no doubt it's a pie in the sky proposal without any chance of enactment. And so I was waiting for more policy to be fleshed out. It never came. I began to doubt whether there was substance behind the style I appreciated so much. And for those two reasons, I began to have doubts about Huckabee.

Would he make a good VP pick for McCain? I think so. I'd personally love it. Some have argued that he'll be attacked on creation/evolution issues and that McCain doesn't want to have to spend time answering those questions. Perhaps. But I think the positives for McCain will outweigh those potential political risks. Huckabee could definitely help McCain unite the Republicans. And I think the exposure of being a VP will round out Huckabee's experience, and put him in a great position to be a future presidential candidate. That would be great.

Meanwhile, as the GOP closes the deal with McCain tomorrow (please spare us from Romney!), the Democrats will probably not seal the deal tomorrow. If they know what's good for them, they'll go with Obama. I think he would be very strong in a general election. I think America is yearning for a post-partisan president. Either McCain or Obama have a shot at that, but Obama connects in a way that McCain probably can't any more. If this were 8 years ago for McCain, it might be different. Mindy and I are reading McCain's book "Faith of My Fathers" right now and it is pretty remarkable. You have to respect the man. And that is the GOP's best hope now of retaining the White House in 2008.

So my own personal SuperBowl season continues! Yes, I watched about the last 20 minutes of the Giants beating the Patriots last night. For me, a non-football watcher, that's quite an accomplishment. But the excitement of those last 20 minutes pales in comparison to the exciting, turbulent process of picking our next president. So tomorrow night - Super Duper Tuesday - will be my personal SuperBowl. My predictions: the GOP breaks tomorrow slightly for McCain and the Dems break for Obama by a surprising margin. Not enough to knock Hillary out, but enough to mortally wound her candidacy and let Obama finish her off in Ohio or Pennsylvania.


The Holloway Clan said...

You have clearly articulated so many thoughts that have been running through my own head. Living in Europe has exposed me to what life can actually be like when government has a greater role in promoting the "common good" and it is not necessarily the evil that so many in the US fear. Trey and I are both watching eagerly from across the pond to see how things pan out today. It is a very exciting time! Regarding Huckabee, Trey loved him too, but there was definitely a salesy element that made you wonder just how genuine it all was. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Steve said...


I have a few snide remarks and a serious question.

I too have recently driven from Little Rock to Memphis but I drove on Interstate 40 which is maintained by the federal government, not state taxes and certainly not Huckabee’s giant tax increases.

I suspect Huckabee is more than a little to left of Phil Gramm. He consistently received some of the most liberal fiscal policy ratings of any Republican governor. There’s a good reason so many columnists referred to him as a “pro-life liberal”. I would have more respect for him if he made the argument you’re trying to make: we needed to increase taxes to provide basic services. Unfortunately, Huckabee opted for the dishonest approach and claimed that he cut taxes.

My serious question - you said:
I think that a libertarian approach to government (no role except defense/police) underestimates the power of social sin and the need to have a state that acts as a restraint against the natural corruption of the free market system. . . so that multinational corporations don't cut safety corners to maximize profit?

I don’t think it’s accurate to say that libertarian Republicans see no role for the government whatsoever but that’s a topic for another day. I’m curious as to why you think the government can (or will) do a better job of regulating things than the market. You’ve worked in Washington so you know how corrupt and self-serving politicians can be. Why do you think the “natural corruption of the free market system” is worse than the natural corruption of politicians who will do anything to get reelected? I’ve worked for several multinational corporation and they have all been obsessive about safety and quality, not because of government coercion but because our reputation, and therefore our continued existence, depend on it. If we cut corners on quality we could make some extra money – this year. Next year we would all be unemployed.

My gripe against my liberal friends is that they have replaced God with the government. Government has become the all-knowing, always benevolent, incorruptible being that only has our best interest in mind. I’ve worked for the federal government and I currently live in the middle of “big business” and I would much, much prefer to entrust my well being to a businessman who depends on me for his livelihood than to any government employee. After all, the government is not so much a “being” as it is a collection of sinful people who are employed by the same entity. How is that different from a multinational corporation? Why do you think the unbelieving pagans who work for the government will do a better job of protecting us than the sinners who work for a corporation? If the government employee fails it makes little difference to him. If the businessman fails he goes out of business and loses his livelihood. That’s a pretty powerful incentive.

I don’t think your RSS feeds are working anymore.

Ron Dodson said...

I think ignoring the Constitution belies our underlying antinomianism which pervades not only the political climate but also the American churches. Laws are judged based upon their results, not upon their goodness. That seems anti-biblical to me.