Friday, January 4, 2008

Street Corner Conservatives

Kleinheider suggests that it makes sense that folks who are motivated by cultural concerns and feel left out of the (ostensible) benefits of supply-side economics would go for Mike Huckabee.

Yeah, there's probably something to that, though I think the appeal of Huckabee has much less to do with his economic platform than it does with his current status as the Republican Religious And Cultural Conservatives Can (Presently) Agree On Because He Is Rather Religious In The Same Or Similar Way We Are. In other words, I think the econimics are secondary. Case in point from Wes Comer: "I’d rather have morals in the White House than a few extra Benjamin’s in my pocket."

Now, I'd suggest that having "morals in the White House" as your principal aim is about as pointless as rooting for rampant celibacy in Las Vegas, but, anyway, I think this is a good example of what Huckabee supporters are putting first and foremost in their minds.

At which point we turn to the always delightful Peggy Noonan:

[Huckabee's religious supporters] have been bruised and offended by the rigid, almost militant secularism and multiculturalism of the public schools; they reject those schools' squalor, in all senses of the word. They believe in God and family and America. They are populist: They don't admire billionaire CEOs, they admire husbands with two jobs who hold the family together for the sake of the kids; they don't need to see the triumph of supply-side thinking, they want to see that suffering woman down the street get the help she needs.

They believe that Mr. Huckabee, the minister who speaks their language, shares, down to the bone, their anxieties, concerns and beliefs. They fear that the other Republican candidates are caught up in a million smaller issues--taxing, spending, the global economy, Sunnis and Shia--and missing the central issue: again, our culture. They are populists who vote Republican, and as I have read their letters, I have felt nothing but respect.

But there are two problems. One is that while the presidency, as an office, can actually make real changes in the areas of economic and foreign policy, the federal government has a limited ability to change the culture of America. That is something conservatives used to know. Second, I'm sorry to say it is my sense that Mr. Huckabee is not so much leading a movement as riding a wave. One senses he brilliantly discerned and pursued an underserved part of the voting demographic, and went for it. Clever fellow. To me, the tipoff was "Don't Mormons believe that Jesus and the devil are brothers?"

My sense is that Mr. Huckabee's good supporters deserve a better leader.