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January 07, 2008

Into the Mind of a Huckabee Supporter

Like many of you during the past month and especially after the Iowa caucus, I've been asking myself, "Who are these people that support Mike Huckabee and what are they thinking?" Well, thanks to Himself-himself, I've discovered Joe Carter of The Evangelical Outpost, who worked for Huckabee's campaign as research director for a short time. If you were wondering how to spin a foreign-policy and economic liberal as "the most consistently conservative" candidate, he's your man.

Here's what he has to say about the results in Iowa:

The New Leadership -- The conservative punditocracy thought they could bluff their way into a Huckabust. They assumed that if they just ignored his record and his policy positions (the generous interpretation) and labeled him a "populist", a "liberal", and "not a conservative" then the con-sheeple in Iowa would end this Deliverance-style hillbilly nightmare at the caucus.


We may let the DC/Manhatten-axis [sic] think they are the "elite" but the true leaders of the resurgent GOP were at the Iowa caucus.

How'd They Miss It? -- The conservative media is part of the GOP establishment so it's easy to comprehend how they missed the rise and appeal of Huckabee. But what accounts for the conservative blogosphere missing out? Does it march in lockstep with the mainstream (conservative) media? This is one of the most significant rises in Republican Party history in decades and yet no one in the blogosphere seemed to have foreseen it coming. Why is that?

He's so triumphant, so convinced he's seen The Revolution, and so pleased to have been a part of the group that stuck it to The Man. It is so familiar. (A few weeks ago, Ace took apart "crunchy-con" Rod Dreher for the same kind of thinking.)

Is it any wonder that "the conservative punditocracy" thinks Huckabee is a populist when his former research director is throwing around words like, well, punditocracy, "sheeple," "elite," and "resurgent"? Carter cuts the world up into elites and "voters who think for themselves." Sounds like the very definition of populist, to me. How'd he miss it?

As I remarked to Ace about Dreher, Carter, too, relies on the myth of the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy to rally Huckabee supporters. It's actually a pretty smart move: by portraying "the GOP establishment" as opposing the will of the "true leaders" of the GOP, he feeds the idea that his particular group is the center of the party. That makes their candidate the "One, True Conservative."

Unfortunately for Carter, that doesn't change the fact that despite all his spinning, Huckabee is "not a conservative" on several key issues. And on those issues where he does hold conservative views, so do the most of other Republican candidates. He comes up short on these key issues:

Federalism: Huckabee is no respecter of state's rights. From abortion to smoking bans, he thinks "you can't simply have 50 different versions of what's right." With regards to federalism, Carter coyly responds that "federalism is not inherently conservative." This makes me wonder what other goals he and his candidate are ready to dismiss as not conservative.

Immigration: Setting aside his amateurish blunders on the topic ("INS"), he unconvincingly prevaricates on the question of amnesty: "I don't believe in amnesty. That's not a good idea, but creating a pathway where people can have a form of restitution to make things right, to understand that laws have to be obeyed or some consequences have to be applied. That makes more sense than trying to deport 12 million people or build a 700 million, ehr...700 billion dollar fence, whatever it's going to cost."

[For the sake of fairness, I should say that I agree with Huckabee on this point. But most conservatives don't. And I certainly disagree with providing illegal aliens with scholarships not available to citizens or legal residents.]

Education: Since long before President Bush's 2000 campaign on school choice, conservatives enthusiastically supported the idea that parents knew the educational needs of their children better than school boards. We've been trying since then to expand school choice and combat the entrenched teachers' unions. Huckabee has abandoned us in that effort: "[New Hampshire chapter president of the NEA] Rhonda Wesolowski lauded Huckabee's opposition to school vouchers and his commitment to arts and music education."

Taxes: Huckabee likes to talk tough on taxes, but the truth is that with a Democratic legislature, he presided over "a 37 percent higher sales tax, 16 percent higher fuel taxes and 103 percent higher cigarette taxes." His answer: "The fact is the fuel tax was a part of a road program that was voted on by the people of my state by an 80 percent margin. Most every politician I know would love to be with 80 percent of the people, because we needed roads. We needed them desperately."

It seems likely that as president with a Democratic Congress, he'd happily let them increase taxes, especially on things he hates like cigarettes and CEOs.

And still, Carter thinks that accusations that Huckabee is a liberal (or at the very least not a conservative) are "bluffs." I'd say he's the one bluffing, and as Republicans become more familiar with Huckabee, his numbers will start sinking. At the moment he's benefiting from the fact that he rose to national prominence so fast that voters are not actually familiar with his record, Joe.

UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers. If you like what you see here, poke around the site some. Ace has New Hampshire debate follow-up. LauraW.'s got Chinese hackers and taser parties. Our deep thinker, Slublog, has a piece on Huckabee and the culture war. And I'm still soliciting ideas for the Bush Legacy over here.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 10:08 AM

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