When he first ran for president in 2008, I kind of liked Mike Huckabee.
For one thing Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and an evangelical Christian, wasn’t afraid to break the corporate-Republican consensus by saying things like this:
The real fact is, unions are going to take a more prominent role in the future for one simple reason: A lot of American workers are finding that their wages continue to get strapped lower and lower while CEO salaries are higher and higher. And the reality is that when you have the average CEO salary 500 times the average worker, and you have the hedge fund manager making 2,200 times that of the average worker, you’re going to create a level of discontent that’s going to create a huge appetite for unions.
So unions are the natural result of workers finally saying, “Look, I can’t go from a 70,000 (dollar)-a-year job to a $15,000-a- year job and feed by family of four.” That’s when unions are going to come back in roaring form.
And Huckabee could be pretty funny and self-deprecating. Here’s a standup routine he did after he dropped out of the 2008 race:
While nobody has written a full-fledged manifesto for conservative cultural resentment, Mike Huckabee’s new pre-campaign book is a significant step in the direction of full-spectrum cry for the vindication of Real Americans. It is telling that the politician who was widely admired outside the conservative movement during his 2008 run for being genial, modest, quick-witted, and “a conservative who’s not mad about it” has now released a long litany of fury at supposed liberal-elite condescension toward and malevolent designs against the Christian middle class of the Heartland.
The clever conceit of God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy is that Huckabee is explaining to powerful and arrogant elites of “Bubble-ville”—New York, Washington, and Los Angeles—the sturdy folk virtues and beliefs of “Bubba-ville,” by which he means the rest of the country, though it often sounds like just the Deep South as viewed by its older and more conservative white residents. But the book is clearly meant for “Bubbas,” and it is meant to make them very angry. The first chapter is entitled “The New American Outcasts,” and it asks readers to identify with the martyrdom of Chick-fil-A’s Dan Cathy and Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson for defending the “biblical” view of marriage and homosexuality. Huckabee actually launched the very successful idea of a “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” on his Fox News show, giving conservatives the opportunity to show their contempt for “political correctness” by giving the chicken sandwich chain a record day of sales. And he’s long competed with Bobby Jindal in promoting Phil Robertson (a Louisiana native). But aside from these totems, the idea that “Bubbas” must fight back against people who would rob them of all liberty and property permeates nearly every page of Huckabee’s book.
Huckabee very quickly (in the second chapter, on guns) introduces the idea that people like “us” may need to resort to revolutionary violence to stop the assault on our traditions…
But beyond the obvious culture-war issues, Huckabee has appropriated Sarah Palin’s distinctive sneering tone toward the liberal-elite enemy:
For those of us from the land of God, guns, grits, and gravy, being told we need to ride a bicycle and live in a tree stump by an environmental lobbyist in a Gucci suit or an aging hippie who hasn’t been outside the San Francisco city limits since Jerry Garcia died goes over about as well as Pee-wee Herman lecturing George Foreman on how to throw a punch.
While this sort of rhetoric is Palinesque in its hippie-punching contempt for liberals, it also hearkens back to the original model of right-wing “populist” demagoguery, George Wallace, who loved to talk about “pseudo-intellectuals” and “pointy-headed bureaucrats” riding their bicycles to work.
In other words, he seems to have switched much of his anger from overpaid out-of-touch CEOs to privileged liberal elitists– a position which overpaid out-of-touch CEOs can live with.
In 2012 Huckabee issued a dire warning to anyone who contemplated voting for a candidate who was pro-choice on abortion (or contraception), or who supported same-sex marriage.
Like most evangelical Christians in the US, Huckabee is a strong supporter of Israel. But he (or people acting on his behalf) showed a dark side a few years ago when his political action committee warned Israel and the Jews “not to insult” the friends they have.
The warning came after the Anti-Defamation League quite rightly criticized Huckabee for comparing the US government’s alleged failure to address the debt situation to the lack of action to stop the Nazi Holocaust.
Most disturbing of all, Huckabee recently advised against enlisting in the military until the US has a more “Godly” president.
“There’s nothing more honorable than serving one’s country and there’s no greater heroes to our country than our military,” he [said], “but I might suggest to parents, I’d wait a couple of years until we get a new commander-in-chief that will once again believe ‘one nation under God’ and believe that people of faith should be a vital part of the process of not only governing this country, but defending this country.”
To which I, as an non-believer, can only respond: Good God.
Update: This account by Dana Milbank of The Washington Post suggests I may have been unfair to Huckabee. He still seems to have a strong economic-populist streak.