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.