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November 28, 2007

Huckabee: An Evangelical Perspective

According to the story posted at Hot Air, and linked earlier by Ace, Mike Huckabee is getting 48% of the evangelical vote in Iowa. As an evangelical, I find that somewhat disheartening, given Huckabee's dismal record on fiscal issues.

Now, I know Huckabee has dismissed The Club for Growth's analysis, calling them "The club for greed." And his supporters will defend him by pointing to his conservative views on abortion and gay rights, which have seemingly become the predominant issues by which evangelical voters choose their candidates. I wouldn't normally do this, but I know I'm going to get accused of elitism against evangelical voters, so here are my evangelical bona fides:

I've been a Christian since I was 15 years old. That's 20 years. I attend a church that is fundamental in doctrine, but not in culture. I've been on two missions trips - one stateside and one in Russia, and I tithe. I don't say any of this to brag or puff myself up, but when I've blogged on this or commented on Huckabee in other venues, I have been accused of being somehow biased against evangelicals or of not understanding evangelical beliefs. Trust me, I do. I'm not a perfect person, but I am committed to my faith.

I do not believe Mike Huckabee is a good candidate for president. This is not a statement against his faith - on theological matters, I'm sure we'd agree on quite a bit. However, I would have a very hard time voting for him in the general election.

There are three major areas in which I disagree with Huckabee. I do not like his fiscal record, do not agree with his view of government power and disagree with his political temperament. This could be long, so more below:


Fiscal Record

When Mike Huckabee entered office, the state tax burden in Arkansas was 10.1%. When he left, it was 11.3%. Remember, God only asks for 10%. That may not seem like a terribly high jump, but when you add in the federal tax burden, and then consider that the state's average household income is only about $35,000, it's clear that Huckabee's policies made it harder for families to get ahead.

People work to fund their families and lifestyles, not their government. When governments excessively tax income, it leads to less money in the pockets of people who are trying to pay the bills and raise a family. Excessive taxation leads to greater numbers of families in which both parents work, and lowers the standard of living for families. When both parents are forced to work, it leads to less time spent with each other and with children.

Huckabee may get a chuckle with his "club for greed" comments, but excessive tax policies have real, damaging effects to families. It may be a fiscally conservative issue, but it has social implications.

Huckabee claims that one of his tax hikes was forced upon him by the court. This misstates the issue. Huckabee and the state government were not given a mandate to tax, they were given a mandate to fund. Huckabee and the legislature could have found the money elsewhere in the budget, but instead took the easy way out and created a tax.

Here in Maine, the state government was given a similar mandate by a voter referendum - voters demanded the state pick up a greater portion of school funding. Our Democratic governor responded by finding the money elsewhere in the budget. He could have imposed a new tax to generate revenue, but he did not.

Huckabee could have made a similar choice, and did not.

View of Government Power

One of Huckabee's strengths as a candidate are his socially conservative views on abortion and gay rights. However, his proposals to deal with those issues are of the big-government variety. The FMA and the Human Life Amendment would each amend the constitution to mandate a particular social view on the rest of the country.

Somehow, I doubt that was the intent of the amendment process to the Constitution. I prefer the federalist approach, as it gives power to the states. Huckabee disagrees, saying that morality shouldn't differ from state to state, so a federal approach is needed. In other words, he has transformed his moral absolutism into political absolutism, and disagreeing states be darned. The government is not run by philosophy based on personal morality. It's a government of laws, not men. People he disagrees with have their own sense of morality...does Huckabee want to run the government based on their views?

I hate abortion. Always have. I would like to see it illegal. However, I would rather see time and effort go to overturning Roe v. Wade and fighting this battle locally than fight what is sure to be a losing battle federally. If Roe v. Wade were overturned, some states would end abortion others would not. Sure, that's only a partial victory, but it's still a victory that leads to fewer abortions overall, and that's a good thing.

Huckabee has also proposed a nationwide ban on workplace smoking. His views on these issues show that when it comes down to it, Huckabee sees no problem using the power of the presidency or the amendment process of the Constitution to create laws that impose a particular viewpoint on the entire country. Federalism exists for a reason - and as much as we may not like a particular practice, I think abandoning federalism is more damaging.

Making laws to 'solve' social issues will only work as long as evangelicals have the power to make those laws. Passage of the FMA or the HLA will set a precedent - social issues can and should be resolved through Constitutional amendment. It won't always be evangelicals that have the power to suggest or make such laws. Is this a precedent we want to set?

Political Temperament

When governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee lost a political battle. This was his reaction:

Gov. Mike Huckabee Thursday denounced a bill by Sen. Jim Holt that would deny state benefits to illegal immigrants as un-Christian, un-American, irresponsible and anti-life.
I find that bothersome.

Consider what he did there: Huckabee made agreement with him on a particular policy a litmus test for what constitutes a good or a bad Christian. This offends me because my faith is more than a set of political yardsticks or a way to institute "social justice."

Faith should not be a bludgeon used to beat your political opponents into silence. Huckabee's willingness to use it as such is disturbing. Disagreement does not equal heresy - accusing those who disagree with us of being less devoted to Christ is wrong. Simply wrong. Political issues are not theological ones.

This is an important point. Jesus told us to take care of the poor, not the government. Christians are not called to save the culture, but to point people in a culture to Christ. Our call is not political. This doesn't mean we should stay out of politics entirely, but I believe it does mean that we shouldn't allow politics to obscure the most important mission we've been given - to tell people about Christ. (Bet you never thought you'd see those words at this blog, huh?)

Huckabee's words give me pause as to his temperament. His fiscal record is troubling, and his views on government power have the potential to set bad precedent for dealing with social issues. That's why I can't support Mike Huckabee, even if I would gladly worship with him.

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posted by Slublog at 03:48 PM

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