Saturday, December 15, 2007

The GOP And The Huckabee Dilemma

It's been interesting to read the Republican reaction to Huckabee. I haven't seen any of the talking heads on TV but I have read quite a few of their op eds. John Cole does a nice round up of bloggy commentary here. I think "panic" is about the right word.

Even Ann Coulter piles on, comparing Huckabee to "a Republican Jimmy Carter."

It's always seemed weird that the more christianist the voter, the more they seem to detest Carter, who arguably exhibited the most Christ-like behavior of any president we've ever had. Oh, the trails of hypocrisy I could follow out of that one.

In fact, it got me to thinking. Let's assume we agree that Mike Huckabee is a fairly earnest Christian man. A man who truly walks the talk. A man who wasn't "born again" as a result of personal weakness ("I'm a drunk, help me Jesus!" or "I'm a cheater, help me Jesus!"). A man of true moral purpose and clarity. A man who appears intent on emulating the teachings of Christ.

Have the so-called Values Voters finally found their penultimate candidate, the one who speaks to them, the one they'll choose to speak for them?

The GOP has been playing the religious right for useful idiots since the mid-80's, promising them everything and delivering nothing. I have been both sympathetic to their plight and astounded by their stupidity. Every two years the strategists wind them up on abortion and gay marriage and then set them loose to organize themselves into a caleidoscope of church driven get-out-the-vote machines. Funny thing is, the slate of candidates on the Republican palette never seem very Christian to me. Sure they all use the right buzzwords but do they throw down some Jesus when it really counts? Not hardly.

With Huckabee now surging in the pools, a real man of God, it could signal a change in the power paradigm. Maybe the religious right is ready to claim its due.

This could be a big moment for the GOP. The alignment of the religious right with the traditional wing of the party may have given them the numbers they needed to be competitive but it's been an unholy alliance. It's worked as long as the religious hicks knew their place; it may not work so well if they start demanding some power.

At the very least it brings to the forefront a few simple questions the GOP may wish to avoid. Like, is religion really compatible with politics? Or even more pointedly, are the politics of the so-called Values Voters really aligned with Christianity? For example, Jesus might be decidedly anti-abortion but what would he say about immigration? What would he say about preemptive war? How about torture? Guns? Death penalty?

Government and politics is dirty business... and maybe it's best for religion, for whatever is left of its goodness and purity (and I'm not saying there's much), to stay out of it.

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