Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Misunderestimating Huckabee

The mainstream media seems to think it has uncovered dirt on “surprise” Republican contender Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas. This only helps to highlight how profoundly out of touch beltway conventional wisdom is with political reality in the heartland.

Slate posts Huckabee’s 1992 responses to a political questionnaire under their “Hot Document” column, with the subheadline, “A homophobic comment comes back to haunt him.”

CNN.com’s “Political Ticker” reports that “Huckabee takes fire for Mormon comment.”

USAToday rapped him last week for not keeping abreast of major U.S. foreign policy developments.

But this is not evidence that the governor’s “come from nowhere” meteoric rise in the polls is going to quickly fizzle once people know him better. Quite the contrary.

First, Huckabee didn’t come from “nowhere.” It was the media that picked the early front-runners based on name recognition: McCain, Giuliani, Romney, and, later, Thompson. But anyone really in touch with the political dynamics in this country had to know that the evangelical base the Republican Party has been working so hard to cultivate for the last decade was not going to be able to fall in lock-step behind any of these guys. The open question for them has been, “For which lesser evil shall we settle?”

When you have a group that deals primarily in non-negotiable moral absolutes, this is not an easy decision. Hence, you get Pat Robertson on the one hand endorsing thrice-married, pro-gay, pro-choice, anti-gun Rudy Giuliani, while James Dobson issues a fatwa against his candidacy. Those who feel that defeating Hillary* is objective #1 and are willing to make the necessary political calculations can’t rally support from fellow partisans who are unwilling to compromise on abortion and gay rights.

I’ve been waiting for a long time for Huckabee to get the national attention I knew was coming. He’s folksy and plainspoken without effort; this already sets him widely apart from the rest of the pack, especially high-strung, urban Giuliani and robotic, aloof Romney.

These recent “exposures” of Huckabee’s views from 17 years ago – of which he said, "I'm not going to recant or retract from the statement that I did make” – are not a collective bucket of water about to douse his sudden campaign fire. It’s lighter fluid.

While those of us in the reality-based community might react in horror at the prospect of a president who wants to isolate people with HIV and find it appallingly irresponsible that someone running for the White House didn’t even know about the NIE that completely reversed the Bush Administration’s assertions about Iran, this is music to evangelical ears. This is what they’ve been waiting to hear. It’s Huckabee’s frankness on issues where the frontrunners have been transparently calculating that is propelling him to the front of the pack.

To the Rovian base, homosexuality is a national health risk, Mormons aren’t Christians, and any foreign-policy related news that seems to contradict the End Times Countdown to Armageddon is to be ignored or openly challenged. Huckabee’s comments aren’t gaffes; they reflect the views of millions of Americans. And they’re going to vote for him.

*To defeat Hillary, you simply have to nominate her. Polls indicate she’s likely to lose against any of the Republican frontrunners; Edwards and Obama can win.

31 comments:

Mike B. said...

To defeat Hillary, you simply have to nominate her. Polls indicate she’s likely to lose against any of the Republican frontrunners

Untrue. Several polls have shown her on top in multiple head-to-heads.

But just to clarify: the Republicans are planning to campaign against our nominee, regardless of who it is. And they are capable of switching tracks quite easily. Remember the "crazy" narrative that was active when Howard Dean was the frontrunner in '04? Dropped in a heartbeat for the "flip-flopping traitor" narrative for Kerry. It doesn't really matter who the Democratic nominee is; they will be cast as the Antichrist as soon as possible. You can see the embryonic narratives being employed now: "Obama/Osama" and "Breck Girl."

And did you think the right's hatred for Clinton arose spontaneously of its own accord? Fuck that. They created this effigy of her when they wanted to attack her husband. Funny thing, though; the two of them were strong enough to overcome it.

Any Democrat will beat any Republican next year. It makes me livid to hear Democrats say otherwise when the facts do not bear the theory out. By doing this, you are handing Republicans arrows from our quiver. There are plenty of good reasons not to support Hillary--but "electability" is a vicious Republican lie designed to trick us into sabotaging ourselves. Do not fall for this!

Andy said...

Well, even if your theory of electability is true, Hillary Clinton as President would be a disaster of George Bush proportions.

Mike B. said...

Well, even if your theory of electability is true, Hillary Clinton as President would be a disaster of George Bush proportions.

Also untrue, and kind of strange. Hillary will, as senator, vote for wars that aren't in our best interests but are going to win majority approval anyway. As president, she would not start said wars. Any Republican would.

That's a difference that many Democrats are willfully ignoring in their distaste for Clinton. Prefer someone who has demonstrated better judgment and less calculation if you will, but don't pretend that the difference still wouldn't be dramatic. It's dishonest and it diminishes your credibility.

Andy said...

Hillary will, as senator, vote for wars that aren't in our best interests but are going to win majority approval anyway.

Well, there's a ringing endorsement.

I disagree that there is any susbtantial difference between her and the current administration. Well, she's smarter. Fine. But in terms of her leadership skills and her ethics, I think she's Dick Cheney in a Chanel suit. And she is perfectly emblematic of what's wrong with American politics, and why so many Americans don't even bother to vote or care. She is not the agent of change we so desperately need. We can do better, and I insist on trying.

Mike B. said...

She is not the agent of change we so desperately need. We can do better, and I insist on trying.

That may be where we differ. I don't think we can do better, and I don't see the point in trying.

We are trapped in a system of government that was a good first draft and that is going to kill us before very long. A two-party system emerged as the only efficient way to have opposition in a winner-take-all democracy, and the realities of winning on a per-district, per-state basis has led to the embarrassing spectacle of a government that is unwilling to reverse failed and unpopular policies. The Republicans have also figured out that they can use the entire executive as an arm of their party, something which the Democrats will be sure to emulate next chance they get. And things can only change if members of a party in power are willing to cede some of that power--which will never, ever happen.

I meant what I said earlier about not blaming the politicians. It's a variant on "don't hate the playa, hate the game"--this is literally the only way someone can become powerful in American politics and hope to at least put a firm hand on the wheel for a little while. And that is literally the best-case scenario. There is no Dave out there, no Josiah Bartlet, no person who will do the "right" things, because those things have been left undone for reasons almost beyond human understanding.

Saving America would mean tearing up the Constitution and starting fresh with what we've learned over the centuries--a parliamentary system, proportional representation, instant runoff voting, limited judicial appointments, a figurehead president. Except Americans are too dumb to do it ourselves; we'd need to have Europe do it for us.

Andy said...

Well, there's some optimism for you. :P I'm not going to disagree, though of course that kind of speech is what sends End-Timers into spasms. You are proposing essentially exactly what they say the Bible predicts will happen.

Anyway, you may be right. If so, can't we just vote for Obama anyway?

Mike B. said...

Well, there's some optimism for you. :P I'm not going to disagree, though of course that kind of speech is what sends End-Timers into spasms. You are proposing essentially exactly what they say the Bible predicts will happen.

Dude, the world's a bigger place than just America.

Anyway, you may be right. If so, can't we just vote for Obama anyway?

You can if you like. Realize when you are doing this, though, that beyond the fresh facade he has made his campaign all about running away from liberals--ducking inconvenient votes, reciting GOP talking points, cozying up to Joe Lieberman, hiring friggin' ex-gays to speak at his rallies. The Iraq vote (which, I might add, he didn't actually have to make) notwithstanding, he's no better than Clinton.

Clinton is smarter than he is, and, frankly, less creepy. She's the better candidate and she'd be the better president.

I still look forward to the election about as much as I look forward to my first colonoscopy. What a repulsive country we live in.

Mike B. said...

And I think I'm defending Hillary too vigorously. Ever since Obama started taking off in the polls, she's been clearly desperate and her campaign has been doing unseemly things at a ridiculous rate.

The only one I actually like is Edwards, who is coincidentally the only one who would be heavily outspent in the general. Well, we'll see. I'm prepared to make peace with any likely outcome.

DJRainDog said...

Mikey: Americans are, by and large, unaware that there are more people in the rest of the world (and more INTELLIGENT people) than there are within the borders if this "great" nation. And yes, Hillary is smarter than Barack. And yes, I trust her more. But I don't want to see her as president, either.

The Scorched-Earth Policy of DJRainDog: Kill every candidate that emerges of his/her own intent. Force Americans to nominate from their ranks persons who are not currently involved in politics, who are not beholden to big business and big church. I'll admit I could deal with a President Giuliani or a President Edwards better than any of the other current options. Actually, I take that back; I think I might like a President Ron Paul, but sadly, none of these are realistic options.

One thing of which I am certain: Cretins like Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney must be destroyed -- publicly, and preferably violently. (Or would that make them martyrs of the variety of which bin Laden has the potential to be?)

We're all fucked, no matter what. I'm staying in NYC because it's easier to hide in a crowd.

little-cicero said...

I find myself agreeing with much of what you have written. I am somewhat of a Romney man, myself. Perhaps my agreement signifies that I have not read carefully enough (:

We midwesterners approach candidate-picking the same way we approach apple-picking. A small bump or bruise here or there ensures a genuine, delicious, earthy flavor on the inside. Considering the amount of wax in Romney's hair it's no wonder that he's not doing so well in the midwest.

Gino said...

LC: that is romney's problem. he is the waxed apple. too perfect (outwardly) to accept for many.

i'm for Ron Paul.

but what does it say about the democrats if they are willing to put up the most politically and morally corrupt person available?
is there nothing better from them but hillary?
hasnt 8yrs of white house corruption been enough?

DJRainDog said...

Only 8, gino? Admittedly, the last 8 have been the most egregious, but I count at least 24...

Andy said...

i'm for Ron Paul.

I'm not sure a crazy person is necessarily better than a corrupt person.

Admittedly, the last 8 have been the most egregious, but I count at least 24...

Why 24? Are you suggesting that the first half of Reagan's first term was hunky dory? So, I think that brings us to 26 years, following a little break of well-intentioned mediocrity (Ford & Carter) and then before that...well, we all know.

Come to think of it, maybe "Mike B" is right. (Though, I don't really want to tear up the Constitution, it's pretty fantastic.) But we really should tear down THIS government and start over.

RB said...

"Americans are, by and large, unaware that there are more people in the rest of the world (and more INTELLIGENT people) than there are within the borders if this "great" nation."

As someone who has taught at an elite institution of higher learning for over 31 years, I would certainly take issue with that statement. At Georgetown, we receive students from all over the world. Today, Americans come to us with far better educational backgrounds than their foreign counterparts, with the exception of Singapore.

This was not necessarily true 30 years ago. British students and German students and French students were much more impressive three decades ago than they are today. It is clear that the educational systems in those countries (especially Britain and Germany) have deteriorated substantially, at least at the elite level. In the U.S., by comparison, education at the elite level is, if anything, even better than it was 30 years ago.

I am a political scientist. Let me assure you that Huckabee is a temporary sideshow. The GOP nominee will obviously be Giuliani, short of some remarkable and unpredictable development. Giuliana will knock out the other GOP candidates in the first round of the major primaries.

If one analyzes 2007 polls very, very carefully, and compares them with pre-election year polls from years past, the most likely person to be elected president next year is Giuliani (or any other GOP candidate).

Given the enormous unpopularity of Bush and the GOP, any Democrat candidate should be far, far ahead of any GOP candidate at this moment im time. Nevertheless, the GOP candidates are polling very, very strongly.

This suggest many things. One thing it suggests is the unelectability of Clinton and Obama. Another thing it suggests is a nationwide bias in favor of Republicans at the presidential level. This bias has nothing whatsoever to do with the religious right, as countless studies have demonstrated. Your focus on this issue is entirely misplaced.

You fellows are too young to remember, but I am an old coot in his mid-fifties and I have devoted my life to studying American presidential elections. Carter's very narrow win in 1976 was a fluke (50,000 votes would have changed the outcome of that election). Clinton's election in 1992 was a fluke (a similarly small number of votes would have changed the outcome; more important, 1992 was the "Perot" election--without Perot in the contest, Bush I would have been an easy winner).

That signifies that, since 1964, only one Democrat has won a presidential election with ease: Clinton in 1996 (and even Dole, in 1996, carried more states than Clinton did). If the GOP had had a strong candidate in 2006, Clinton would not have been re-elected.

So if you fellows are banking on a Democrat winner in 2008, you should keep your money in your pockets. Indeed, anything can happpen, which I readily admit, but the trend strongly favors the GOP candidate, whoever he may be.

Most political scientists, at this particular point in time, would call 2008 as follows: the GOP will narrowly recapture the House (too many heavily-GOP districts fell to the Democrats in 2006, and in 2008 voters will resume their normal voting patterns), the Democrats will easily extend their majority in the Senate (next year the Democrats may pick up AS MANY AS 15 SENATE SEATS!) and the GOP will hold the White House.

And elite education in America is very, very, very good, I assure you.

Jeff said...

Perot's effect on the 1992 election is a myth I've seen in lots of places, but it's not true. Perot took votes away from Bush as well as from Clinton. He made Clinton's victory easier, but Clinton would have beat Bush without Perot in the race.

http://www.fairvote.org/plurality/perot.htm

You write:

"...since 1964, only one Democrat has won a presidential election with ease: Clinton in 1996 (and even Dole, in 1996, carried more states than Clinton did). If the GOP had had a strong candidate in 2006 [1996?], Clinton would not have been re-elected."

And if the Democrats had had a strong candidate in 2004, Bush wouldn't have been re-elected; had they had a strong candidate in 1988, Bush Sr. wouldn't have been elected; and so forth. Right?

As for "winning with ease," no Republican has done that in 20 years.

RB said...

You are wrong about 1988. In 1988, Bush I carried 40 of the 50 states. 1988 is what is classified as a near-landslide.

You are wrong about 1992. Perot cost Bush more votes than Clinton, at roughly a three-to-one ratio, according to most reliable studies. There is a substantial literature about this within the field, and this is no longer a topic of dispute among political scientists, if it ever truly was.

About 2004, I agree with you. A strong candidate, running a strong campaign, would have defeated Bush. Kerry was the wrong candidate, and ran a disastrous campaign.

However: keep in mind that, even in 1996, Clinton only received a plurality, not a majority, even running against the hapless Dole.

That is an astonishing fact.

Andy said...

RB, are you trying to get me to throw myself off a cliff?

I think if we nominate Hillary, Giuliani will win. Which is why I'm pulling for Obama and Huckabee.

RB said...

The fairvote.org reference is not authoritative (or even well-informed).

It is based upon no raw data. It is a journalistic article by an amateur, looking at different vote tallies and making numerous unwarranted and unfounded speculations. The speculations have no merit.

Privately-commissioned studies by both parties, commissioned after the 1992 election, reached the same conclusion: Perot's participation in the race gave Clinton the election. Not only were the Democrat and GOP post-election 1992 analyses the same, even the naked data collected by both studies was identical.

RB said...

No, indeed, certainly not, Andy.

I only commented upon your blog because I was dumbfounded as I read one glaring misstatement of fact after another.

Many commenters are engaging in nothing more than wishful thinking--not that there is anything inherently wrong with that--and not dealing with reality.

Sometimes when I encounter things I know to be incomprehensibly untrue, I cannot contain myself, and I have to comment.

You appear to have a very, very nice blog, Andy, and I wish you all the best.

Now here is an opinion, and an opinion only: the Democrat with the best chance to win in 2008 is Richardson.

And please keep in mind that my opinion, like all opinions, is worthless!

And all of this started with a google search of "the last debate"!

Jeff said...

Well, perhaps I'm wrong about the '92 election. I'd be curious to see the studies you refer to -- not because I want to disprove you, but because I'm genuinely curious.

And given the electoral college's bias toward small states, I'd definitely agree that the system is biased toward Republicans nationally right now.

Andy said...

I only commented upon your blog because I was dumbfounded as I read one glaring misstatement of fact after another.

Well put. Well, I still stand by my assertion that Huckabee is surging not in spite of his wacky statements, but because of them. His views reflect the views of the Republican Party base, though they have no basis in reality. If you want to look at glaring misstatements of facts, I'd read some Republican blogs.

Princess said...

Dear Andy,

I'm back... and you'll figure out who I am by my screen name.

There is only one candidate I can live with and that is Edwards. If the Democrats aren't savvy enough to take down the Republican nominee this time I am going to move to Italy.

rb: You are right. You CAN get the best education right here in the US if you're lucky enough to grow up in the right place and have the resources to go to a good college.

RB said...

Andy, in making the statement you quote, I was thinking, not of you, but of some of the comments you had provoked. I am sorry I did not make that clear.

Most especially, the comment I took most grievous objection to was the comment I particularly mentioned at the very beginning of my first comment: the comment that stated that Americans are somehow less intelligent than unidentified other nationalities.

That very notion is absurd on its face, and I could not let that remark pass unchallenged. Were it not for that remark, I would never have commented on your blog in the first place.

DJRainDog said...

Okay, I'm back to defend my statement, which has been taken to mean something it did not mean. I, too, have taught at an "elite" institution -- an Ivy League one, no less, though decidedly NOT in the area of political science, and certainly not for decades. I was also educated in elite institutions exclusively, so this is a perspective to which I can relate. And against which I must rail, even as I embody its stereotypes. What you overlook is that this country is filled with far more podunk community colleges (and thank heaven for them, or the populace would be even less well-educated than it is) than elite institutions. The students you see (and the students I saw) are the tip of the iceberg, the best and brightest; they are NOT the majority! Furthermore, they're generally the youth of the nation -- again, at least according to recent estimates, not the majority. At last count, there were somewhere aroune 300 million people in the U.S. of A. China has over a billion! Speaking strictly in terms of numbers and proportions (which IS what I was doing, for a change, rather than grinding my "Americans are Idiots" axe), there are likely to be more people OUTSIDE the borders of the U.S. whom I'd consider "intelligent" (and here I must confess that doesn't necessarily mean "well-educated" -- there were more than a few people in my graduating class at Yale whom I deemed complete idiots) than there are within. There are teeming masses of uneducated AND unintelligent folk in this country, and I dare say they are the majority, God help us all. My point was merely that Americans have a tendency to assume that "our way is the only right way", which is absolutely false. And I still want to see most of the current crop of candidates for President guillotined, along with the entirety of the current administration. Vive la Révolution! ;-)

kr said...

late to the game

DJR + gino "agree" (about Ron Paul)
therefore
the EndTimers are right, Armageddon is upon us!!
so
Andy should be less demeaning of the EndTimers ;)

rb--
thank you for your contribution, which puts so coeherently my sensibility about the whole political situation :(
I have hopes that someone will figure out how to blow the system wide open
or maybe someday there will be a Pope John Paul II moment, where the cultural confluences will surprise everyone from within the system
(rb, the whole political science thing was highly suspect to me as a concept until I read "The Making of the Popes 1979" by Andrew Greeley ... I was astounded that the computer picked the Polish Archbishop ... and amused that the computer's human handlers discounted it as an impossibility, a fluke numbers mistake ;) ... )

DJR/rb--I think the argument can (fairly easily) be made that schooling in America (and all other Western-influenced, meaning Prussian-influenced, systems) is what is destroying us; the question should not be "are you educated (ie, schooled)?" but "can you think clearly and fully function as an adult?" Our problems are clearly systemic, and until we are willing to dump the system, we cannot expect a significant change in the results.

I currently also stand for Ron Paul.

DJRainDog said...

kr: Gino and I actually agree on an astonishing number of things. I read him pretty regularly, and he very often makes me smile. I suppose perhaps I'm not quite what I might seem. ;-)

Andy said...

RON PAUL?!?!?!?!?!?! Seriously, KR? The guy who said "Maybe if we allowed people to carry handguns on airplanes, 9/11 would never have happened?" The guy who would leave EVERYTHING up to "the free market"? No Department of Education, no IRS, no Social Security, no Medicaid/Medicare, no EPA... do you want to leave the environment up to "the free market"? Do you want students turned into commodities? Do you want schools turned into corporate run advertising opportunities? I mean, look at what the corporate world did to the MEDIA, you want them taking over education? You want private industry establishing the costs for a grade school education with profit as principal motive? You want profit motivating decisions in healthcare? RON PAUL??? I'm trying to restrain myself from saying (typing) something I'll regret here, but...sweet mother of mercy, I don't know why you think this country should be abandoned like that. Re-think this.

kr said...

:)

I love you Andy ;)

at this point, I think the federal government needs a hefty dose of Libertarianism ... well, of the options available. Both parties live highon the hog right now, and forcing an issue-by-issue reexamination of governement spending seems like a necessary step (haven't both parties been promising it to voters for years, every time they are out of power?).

Besides, he'd only be the President, not the entire three-pronged government, and I CAN'T imagine he would be elected a second term. And it's not like he won't get shove-back from all Legislators from Everywhere (who are elected on promises to bring home federal cash).

I got three paragraphs further (Dept of Education and IRS should be dismantled; medicare, medicaid, kids' lunches can be caught by either NGOs or local govs with donations from our tax-savings) and decided I wasn't up for a full-out.

But, I am awfully tired of liars/deceitfulness. Lying is just not tenable any longer.

"I currently also stand for Ron Paul" includes this implication: "y'got something bettah?"
I think about two more election cycles and one of the parties will experience a major crash; there are too many people they've lost hold of ... presuming we don't all die of Global Warming by then ;).


DJR: I wondered if you sometimes lurked at Gino's. Heh. But, to agree in public ;)?? And of course I was teasing, all three of youse guys ;).

kr said...

damn, I'm tired.

typos: sorry.

you know your lifestyle is untenable when:

... when you are driving back across downtown at 9:15 AM from dropping your two oldest kids at their two schools which are only 5 miles apart--across downtown--and you think, "why am I so tired? I didn't get up until ... until ... damn, it was only 3:40, I shouldn't be this tired! I slept most of the night before!"

Yep. Definitely sleep-deprived.

Yes, going to bed. Soon. Probably.

Andy said...

"y'got something bettah?"

You mean, something better than a crazy man who thinks we should replace the NTSB with vigilantes?

I agree that government spending needs to be wildly reviewed. I agree that BOTH parties are complete disasters. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi absolutely make me cringe, they are just so embarrassing. It's just constant grandstanding. This administration would be so easy to bring down if they would just speak unvarnished truth, but NOoooooo, they have to put partisan spin on EVERYTHING, which far from serving their cause undermines their credibility (and likeability). I'm still glad the Democrats are (nominally) in charge rather than the Republicans, but dissatisfaction with Congress is at such a high because they have not done what we elected them to do.

I am supporting Obama because I really, truly believe that he is the change that this country needs.

Anonymous said...

Huck is a old testament christian. If you think Christ is about Luke then Huckabee is not a Christian. If you think Christ is about leveticus then Huck is your man. Love vs hate. Huck is a hater, plain and simple.