All the GOP presidential candidates are fascinating in their own right this year, but perhaps none more so than Huckabee, who breaks with his party on more issues than any candidate on either side of the aisle (save of course for Ron Paul). Let's take a look at a couple more examples -- all of this material is lifted directly from Huckabee's website.
I want to provide our children what I call the "Weapons of Mass Instruction" - art and music - the secret, effective weapons that will help us to be competitive and creative. It is crucial that children flex both the left and right sides of the brain. We all know the cliché of thinking outside the box: I want our children to be so creative that they think outside the cardboard factory. Art and music are as important as math and science because the dreamers and visionaries among us take the rough straw of an idea and spin it into the gold of new businesses and jobs. It is as important to identify and encourage children with artistic talent as it is those with athletic ability. Our future economy depends on a creative generation.
We take for granted that our food is not only plentiful and diverse, but also inexpensive. [...] Part of the reason prices are low is that subsidies keep production at high levels, so keeping American farmers in business is not just good for them but for all of us. [...] We must continue subsidies because our farmers compete with highly subsidized farmers in Europe and Asia, and they face fixed costs (land, equipment, seed, supplies) whether or not they produce a crop. Subsidies insulate farmers from natural disasters like droughts, floods, hurricanes, and tornadoes, as well as from sudden spikes in the price of fuel, feed, and fertilizer.
I believe in free trade, but it has to be fair trade. We are losing jobs because of an unlevel, unfair trading arena that has to be fixed. Behind the statistics, there are real families and real lives and real pain. I'm running for President because I don't want people who have worked loyally for a company for twenty or thirty years to walk in one morning and be handed a pink slip and be told, "I'm sorry, but everything you spent your life working for is no longer here."
Art and science education? Agricultural subsidies? "Fair trade" rather than "free trade"? Certain of these positions are difficult to identify as either being "liberal" or "conservative". But they're all significant breaks from the classical, pro-business, laissez faire, Ronald Reagan brand of Republicanism. And this is only the stuff that Huckabee is running on in the primary. Huckabee has raised taxes several times in Arkansas, and was one of nine governors to receive a "failing" grade from the libertarian CATO Institute for his tax and spending policies. No, Huckabee is not John Edwards, but as far as economic policy goes, he's quite middle of the road, and surprisingly anti-corporatist.
Of course, that's not all you're getting with Mike Huckabee. You're also getting an ordained minister who makes few apologies for his belief in creationism, and who writes that "I don't separate my faith from my personal and professional lives." I mean, I've watched Huckabee on TV a few times, and I'll find myself almost agreeing with him, and then the topic of religion will come up and he'll say something batshit crazy like this:
Our true strength doesn't come from our military or our gross national product, it comes from our families. What's the point of keeping the terrorists at bay in the Middle East if we can't keep decline and decadence at bay here at home?
I think this quote (also from his website) tells you a lot about Mike Huckabee. He's not the first religious Republican to come along and play the "family values" card. But what's interesting is how he's playing that card - he's sort of dismissed the importance of the terrorist threat in the process. This is not a politically correct thing to do if you're a Bushie Republican.
In certain ways, the politician that Huckabee resembles the most is William Jennings Bryan, who also mixed economic populism with extreme religiosity (Bryan was the guy who took the "God" side in the Scopes Monkey Trial).
Bryan was a Democrat, of course, and like Huckabee he came around at a time when his party was in a little bit of turmoil, eventually wrestling control away from Grover Cleveland and pro-business Bourbon Democrats. He was instrumental, in fact, in helping to formulate the Democratic party identity that still resonates to some extent today: the populist party, the working man's party.
Say that Huckabee wins the nomination. I believe that we could see a similar re-orientation, where populism tended to be associated more with the Republican cause and the Democrats were considered more pro-business. What we'd have then is two parties that looked something like this:
- The secular rationalist party, a.k.a. the Democrats, which would tend increasingly toward libertarianism.
- The theocratic collectivist party, a.k.a. the Republicans, who would shift in the direction of economic populism while remaining extremely conservative on social issues.
At first glance this might seem far-fetched, but I would argue that it actually makes more sense than the current, disintegrating Republican coalition, which relied on a (literally) unholy alliance between libertarian-leaning "Reagan Republicans", and religious conservatives who were looking for a party to bind themselves to. In fact, to some extent this realignment may already have taken place. Outside of urban areas, working-class protestant whites tend to vote strongly Republican even when it's not in their economic best interests. Meanwhile, the affluent citizens are lining up with the Democrats; and so too are affluent corporations. It's almost like the platforms are just waiting to catch up with the people they represent.
There's also one particular issue that seems to be a harbinger of change: immigration. For the most part, we've had Democrats taking the pro-growth, pro-immigration position. The Republicans, meanwhile, after an internal struggle with the issue, have mainly reverted to the more reactionary but more populist anti-immigration position. A good way to tell a "Reagan Republican" from a "Huckabee Republican" is his stance on immigration.
Last question: would this be a good thing or a bad thing? I don't know, but I tend to think that on balance it would be a good thing, and here's why. I think the new, more libeterian-ish Democrats would retain enough of their tradition that they would not "sell out" the progressives on issues like health care and the environment -- which after all, are economic disasters among other things. On the other hand, the new, more populist-ish Republicans would be less likely to block reform in these areas. But I'd like to ask you guys the same question. (See poll below after electoral college tangent).
Addendum: Not that this is necessarily the most important thing, but I thought I'd take a quick look at what this might mean for the electoral map in 8-16 years.
I looked up some statistics on religious participation and per capita income, figuring that the "Libertarian Democrats" would tend to do best in states with low religious participation and high incomes, and the "Huckabee Republicans" would tend to do best in just the opposite. That got me to the following map:
FWIW, that's a base of 209 electoral votes for the Democrats and 164 for the Republicans, with the remaining 165 being swing states.
This map shouldn't be that unfamiliar, but the principal differences are the following:
- Democrats ought to be competitive in virtually every Mountain West state, except perhaps for Utah and probably Idaho which have a heavy LDS (Mormon) vote. These states generally have strong libertarian traditions and are becoming wealthier due to out-migration from the coasts. This explicitly includes places like Montana and Alaska, and perhaps Wyoming, which have less religious participation and higher incomes than you'd think. A state like Colorado could move from being indigo to solid blue.
- On the other hand, among the Midwestern and Rust Belt states, probably only Illinois and Minnesota (which is somewhat wealthier than its neighbors) are safe. A key thing in states like Ohio and Michigan, of course, would be how the union vote settled under this realignment.
- Likewise, the South can probably be completely written off, with the important exceptions of Virginia, which is quite wealthy and becoming more of a Northern state culturally (it almost deserved to be colored blue), and Florida, which would continue to be a key swing state.
- The Northeast ought to remain a very solid voting block, with the potential exception of Maine, which is relatively impoverished and somewhat more religious than the other states in its region.
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