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Of Slipping Masks

It was inevitable that, with the vaulting of Mike Huckabee into the top tier of GOP presidential contenders, the rhetorical knives would be drawn. Huckabee was never one of the anointed candidates of the GOP establishment, and espouses a version of the now-discredited "Compassionate Conservatism" that has proven so disastrous under Bush; beyond that, there are the facts that several of his announced policy positions alienate key factions within the GOP establishment, that he was rather liberal and imprudent in granting clemency to ne'er-do-wells, and that he demonized - prior to his recent 'conversion' to the cause of immigration reform - advocates of immigration enforcement as hard-hearted bigots acting contrary to the highest ethical dogmas of Christianity.

There is more to the matter, though, than this. There is also the GOP's very own dialect of class warfare.

Huckabee, you see, would lead the GOP on a campaign of electoral suicide, overidentifying the party with one constituency, a constituency derided by the left - obviously wrongly - as poor and easy to command and resented (consider the oozing condescension of the post) by the establishment right, apparently, because that constituency has not beaten a path to the campaign of the anointed candidate of the establishment right. Now, having played the anti-elitism card for generations in the political campaigns against a liberal establishment, the GOP is entertaining second thoughts about ceding so much moral authority to 'the people'; instead of asserting that it would be better to be governed by the first 5,000 persons from the Boston phone directory, the establishment now rediscovers the cult of technocratic expertise, and insinuates that the masses should learn to take direction from their betters.

However, while the unsheathing of the long knives undoubtedly has much to do with a sense of resentment and affront, umbrage taken at the fact that the lowly social conservatives and evangelicals won't accept their ordained places in the order of things - ordained so that they will not embarrass the great and the good - it is not merely Huckabee's overt evangelical religiosity that offends the GOP establishment, it is that its political expression is a reproach to the de facto faith-commitments of that establishment, despite the fact that, were Huckabee a credible and competent advocate for his stated positions, he would probably prove an electoral asset for the GOP. (For the record, Huckabee's credentials in this respect are dubious at best, given that he has announced that his thought on international affairs has been shaped by Thomas "The World is Flat" Friedman, the apostle of the very globalism Huckabee appears to critique. Huckabee is either somewhat raw and inexperienced, unformed as it were, or profoundly cynical; given the context, I'm opting for the former: he's just not ready for prime-time, and if he were engaged in some sort of double-game with respect to economic policy, the GOP establishment would be playing along - which they're obviously not.)

And so, the sad denouement of this episode of conservative and Republican fratricide is that Huckabee cannot wish everyone a Merry Christmas without kindling the ire of the guardians of right-thinking. The masks have slipped; the establishment would sooner insinuate bigotry on the part of those who insist upon wishing others a Merry Christmas, as opposed to the soulless Happy Holidays than accord respectability to someone who leads people for whom they have contempt in questioning their non-negotiable, quasi-religious political and economic commitments. The establishment right would sooner play the tolerance card against Christmas than countenance a little probing of Kudlowite dogmatism.

Addendum: Shame on me for failing to note that foreign-policy deviationism also figures in the festival of gibbering Huckabee-hate, though the other factors seem to have come to the fore over the past several days. Josh Trevino has written an excellent column debunking the charge that Huckabee's foreign-policy represents a substantial defection from the Republican orthodoxy on the subject. Though I'm no subscriber to that orthodoxy, and though I could do without the censure of Ron Paul, this is exactly right. That Huckabee hasn't crossed every T and dotted every I on foreign and trade policies, and that he represents a faction which ought to be, in the minds of the establishment, led rather than leading, is enough to earn him enmity. One almost wishes that he would win the nomination, not because he would be the most qualified candidate, and not because he would make a fine president, but just to watch the fireworks.

Comments (19)

I'm only focusing on the Christmas thing. What is Katherine Jean Lopez up to there? That is _so_ weird.

I guess it's just, "NRO endorsed Romney. Wishing people a Merry Christmas looks like a swipe at Romney's Mormonism. Hence, an ad wishing people a Merry Christmas must be a below-the-belt, cynical political ploy to use religion to distract attention from policy issues." I'll betcha anything she wouldn't be against a Merry Christmas ad if NRO weren't all gung-ho for Romney. Weird stuff.

K-Lo has been on the Romney bandwagon for aeons already, so that is a factor. But the religion thing goes deeper at NR now. If I've time later this evening, I'll put up something else.

Ron Paul said of the Christmas ad "It reminds me of what Sinclair Lewis once said. He says, 'when fascism comes to this country, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.' Now I don't know whether that's a fair assessment or not, but you wonder about using a cross, like he is the only Christian or implying that subtly. So, I don't think I would ever use anything like that."

What is this all about?

This stuff--from Ron Paul _and_ from NRO--is really pretty juvenile. We've got nothing better to do than criticize a presidential candidate for telling people "Merry Christmas"? Really childish. But the fact that it's coming from R.P. as well shows that this isn't just "establishment conservatism" throwing this nonsense around. At least K-Lo didn't use the word 'fascism', even in semi-endorsed quote.

I suspect that that this will be the definitive rebuttal, from a conservative perspective, of the entire Merry-Christmas-as-Fascism meme, since it heaps scorn upon something so richly deserving of it.

As for the rest of it, the intramural fighting amongst Republicans, well, that's not nearly so silly. Entertaining, though, for someone like myself, who has grown weary of the tired, old dog-and-pony show.


It is unsurprising that Huckabee, despite all his problems, an authentic Christian, would upset the Trotskyite sensibilities of the neocons.

National Review and FrontPageMag seem to be battling over who can outdo the other in their enforcement of political correctness. Just read Ben Johnson’s new hit piece on Buchanan at FrontPage, or Frum's new hit piece on Huckabee.

To be honest, I had many reservations about Huckabee from the beginning. In short, he seemed to be a shill for globalism. If Giuliani and McCain agreed with the neocons 99% of the time, and Romney 96% of the time, then Huckabee probably agreed with them about 92% of the time. Much of Huckabee’s rhetoric involved the invoking of universal human rights to condemn authentic traditionalists and conservatives, dismissing patriots as “racists” who want to curb the Third World invasion of their ancestral lands.

More recently, however, Huckabee is sounding more like Buchanan, especially on trade and immigration. He allegedly had a “conversion” on immigration, and now is running Tancredoesque ads. Is Huckabee attempting to play the “Middle America card”? If so, I wish him the best. But I still doubt his sincerity (although I'd like to be proven wrong).


As Scott Richert says, I think that Ron Paul made a big mistake by saying what he did: http://www.takimag.com/blogs#905

To Everyone: Merry Christmas!

Huckabee would be Bush II all over again - but with even more "compassion" and even less conservatism.


You are probably right.

I've never for a moment doubted that Huckabee possessed all of the misbegotten instincts that brought us "Compassionate Conservatism", now derisively referred to as "Gersonism", after the fulsomely self-serving former Bush speechwriter, who actually makes David Frum appear reasonable by comparison. And mainstream conservatives have criticized the policy faults and foibles that Daniel McCarthy so aptly sums up; but the ostensible and sometimes altogether illusory deviations on trade policy and foreign policy, coupled with the religion factor in a campaign in which the mainstream has tried to unify behind Romney, have brought out the real vitriol, which has been entirely unmerited. Attack him for being a more articulate and folksy Bush, a tax-hiker and do-gooder, another foreign-policy interventionist who can't decide whether to talk to Iran or bomb them - any such substantive policy difference - but keep the contempt for the evangelicals and the middle-class skeptics of Wall Street trade policy out of it. The former are the electoral base of the GOP, and the latter have some points.

It's depressing that, in a pinch, the establishment right would rather make emotional appeals laced with coastal disdain for the heartland than substantive arguments - which are waiting to be made against Huckabee.

It looks like Mark Steyn isn't toeing the party line on this one.

"...to curb the Third World invasion of their ancestral lands."

For several decades after the university building I am looking at out of my window was built, much of those "ancestral lands" were Mexican. It's easy for us to forget that. Maybe not so easy for them. I have no doubt that there are Mexican families in Texas that have been there longer than any of Sam Houston's heirs.
But, hey...it's ours: we stole it, fair and square.

It reminds me of what Sinclair Lewis once said. He says, 'when fascism comes to this country, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.'

Kind of an odd thing to quote. I understand the quoted language to mean that dangerous things often come to us cloaked in something familiar and benign. Not sure how he meant to apply that to Huck.

Given that most nations have come into being, at least partially, by the agency of injustice, or by means morally ambiguous at best, I'd say that, yes, we conquered it fair and square, and are in consequence entitled to prevent them from retaking it, demographically or otherwise.

But this is a bit of a tangent from the meltdown of the GOP establishment.

"But this is a bit of a tangent from the meltdown of the GOP establishment."

I bring it up only to provide a plausible basis for Huckabee's disputed sense of compassion for the migratory Mexicans which was cited as a symptomatic part of the "meltdown."

Rodak, to the extent that they possessed the American Southwest at all, the Mexicans and their Spanish forebears stole it, too, from the Indians who lived there. Which Indians no doubt stole it from other Indians before them. It's turtles, or conquerors, all the way down. None of which seems to confer any obligation upon Americans now simply to give way before a tide of migration by people whose known ancestors didn't live in Texas, Arizona, or California.

"None of which seems to confer any obligation upon Americans now simply to give way before a tide of migration by people whose known ancestors didn't live in Texas, Arizona, or California."

Nor did I say that any such obligation exists, per se. There is, however, a fairly large Mexican cultural presence in our Southwestern states. I have personally known (in Ohio) Mexicans originally from Texas who have relatives living in Mexico. I'm not saying that the laws should not be enforced. I'm only, I repeat, mentioning one plausible basis for the compassion that some Americans feel for these people.

Reconquista talk as a basis for "compassion." Weird way of thinking no matter how you slice it.

Reconquista talk as a basis for "compassion." Weird way of thinking no matter how you slice it.

Huckabee has engaged in "reconquista" talk?

It's turtles, or conquerors, all the way down.

Since most of the Mexicans crossing the border are, I think, more "Indian" than Spaniard, I guess one might say, "It's turtles, or Indians, all the way down"?

More recently, however, Huckabee is sounding more like Buchanan, especially on trade and immigration. He allegedly had a “conversion” on immigration, and now is running Tancredoesque ads.

Anyone who says that Huck is tough on illegals is either arguing in bad faith, ignorant or a fool.

5 min spent on researching Huck's immigration "plan' is enough to see that "plan" is a carbon copy of a sham plan by Repub Congresscritter Mike Pence, see Mikey Kaus www.slate.com/id/2180311 ( search for Dec 14 entry).

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