Blogging the Right Thing: Politically Homeless

We continue our blog of “Do the Right Thing” because while certain people think we shouldn’t do it, others think its useful to take a more broad look at what Huckabee is saying in the book for more reasoned analysis and discussion, rather than taking a few quotes out of context.

Secondly, this book is fairly popular. My brother went into Borders and they were all out, this CNN i-reporter had about 800 people show up in Bentonville, AR and there was record-breaking lines in Cedar Rapids. I think because this is a book that people are reading, it’s important to know what’s in it and what’s it about.

In Chapter 4, Huckabee mentions rivals, but it’s pretty sparing. He briefly discusses Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani’s position on abortion, has a kind work for Former Governor, HHS Secretary, and short-time Candidate Tommy Thompson and then talks about the irony of Bob Jones endorsing Mitt Romney to get a winner when Romney finished with half the votes of Huckabee or McCain and was beaten by Fred Thompson.

The focus of the book is on “Faith Voters.” Huckabee chided the media for labeling everyone concerned about social conservatives as an “Evangelical Voter” writing, “Many of these voters are Catholic, Jewish or even nonreligious.” If some are non-religious, I’m not certain the term “faith voter” is particularly apt, but probably more so than “Evangelical Voter”

Huckabee grabs a hold of the theme of homelessness as an analogy for cultural conservatives suggesting that political operatives running campaigns have a similar understanding that most people do to the homeless. “We know of them, but we don’t really know about them. We know what they are, but not who they are.”

Carrying this forward, he writes:

Increasingly, these voters are expected to be satisfied with a crumb of attention from the ruling class, but no one wants them to show up at the main table. If anything, they are expected not to get in the way, not to be that visible during the day, not to engage in conversations with the political elites. Just like during the holiday season when the swells often show up to dish out a plate of turkey and dressing, the politically homeless can typically expect to be permitted visibility during the two political “Holy Days,” the primary and the genral election, when the unwashed masses of religious zealots are expected to dutifully attend rallies holding signs, pull all-nighters doing yard-sign placement and literature drops, ring doorbells, man phone banks, and stand at polling places. They are expected to make the noise at the election night party in the main room, even though most of them won’t be able to get near the nice finger food being served to those whose large checks have apparently exempted from the kind of street work done in the trenches.The faith people are driven by a simple desire to preserve simple principles of faith, family, and freedom for their children. They are not expecting to be named an ambassador to a European nation or invited to a sleepover in the Lincoln bedroom. They are not expecting to attend the inauguration, because the trip would cost more than two months of their salary. They have no illusions about sitting next to the first lady during the State of the Union or catching a ride on Air Force One. They did none of what they did in order to get more involved with the government, but rather to keep government from getting even more involved with rearing or educating their children, confiscating their hard earned paychecks, or adding to the burdens on their already stressed-out employers.

This is definitely a passage that will resonate with frustrated cultural conservatives and it defines their feelings and where much of the tension comes.

Huckabee then spends several pages talking about his conversations with the Arlington Group, a group of religious conservative leaders which he thought at the time could provide his campaign a shot in the arm. The group, in a move that symbolizes much of the lethargy in the cultural conservative movement, ended up endorsing no one. Huckabee said he was “spared” as the endorsement would have basically turned him into a candidate of the Arlington Group and given the sheer volume of questions asked about his faith, that would not have been good.

Huckabee pays homage to Cultural Conservative movement: Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, and Bill Bright. Huckabee suggests that the giants are dying or becoming less active and the current Arlington Group is wavering as they had “become more enamored with the process, the political strategies, and the party hierarchy than with the simple principles that motivated the founders.”

Huckabee points to several up and coming leaders who are more concerned about principles than the horserace mentality. Some of these names I find kind of odd: Don Wildmon has been around a while, and Michael Farris since the 1990s and Beverly and Tim LaHaye for quite some time, but I think that’s some sense of diplomacy in not lumping them in with some of the other Christian Conservatives who were criticized.

Huckabee’s criticism of Gary Bauer has made headlines. Huckabee went after Bauer for telling he was more focused on national security than traditional cultural conservative issues. Huckabee wrote, “…it occurred to me if a pro-family organization was now focusing on the might of the military and the role of the CIA in combatting terrorism, then it was no longer a pro-family group, but a national security group, just like dozens of others similiarly focus. It would be like the NRA saying, ‘Well, we we still care about guns, but what we really want to focus on is global warming.’ When an organization can’t even focus on its focus, it’s hopelessly lost.”

Bauer has fired backsaying Huckabee wasn’t conservative enough on multiple issues, and furthermore:

Immediately after attacking me for talking less about life and marriage, he writes about Christians like himself who have, β€œβ€¦an expanding concern for issues like human poverty, AIDS, disease, and hunger.” So the problem is not about whether these newer issues are important. Rather, it concerns which issues have become so important that they should join the list of most important issues. “

Actually, this is something wrote about. In the same paragraph Bauer quoted, Huckabee said, “The irony was that while I was being rejected because I thought Christian groups should be addressing this expanded list of issues, those who rejected me for that were the ones who said that my views ought to include a certain orthodox on global warming, terrorism, and torture.” Let the reader decide who’s side irony’s really on here.

Bauer concludes his piece with this statement, “After he is finished attacking all those who he thinks denied him the GOP nomination, I look forward to working with him to reform the GOP and revitalize the conservative movement. “

Actually, Huckabee doesn’t so much say that the Arlington Group denied him the nomination but rather that current cultural conservative leaders are ineffective, divided, and more focused on Inside Baseball than the issues their constituents care about. Huckabee doesn’t say, “If not for Gary Bauer…” He rather suggests a need for new voices and that new leaders are emerging.

The rest of the chapter includes Huckabee’s feelings on being pegged as the religious candidate, as well as his annoyance at the “game show” style of Presidential debates that in many cases left him with half the time of other candidates and questions that weren’t relevant.

He recognized the key turning point of the campaign was at the Values Voter Debate in Ft. Lauterdale, Fl. where Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and John McCain skipped out and the debate was not carried by major TV networks. That, he considered the start of the Huckaboom.

He also pointed to the debate hosted by Tavis Smiley and largely targeted towards minority audiences that Huckabee attended while other candidates dodged. Minority outreach is kind of hard when you won’t go and outreach to minorities.

If there’s one thing in this chapter, I’ll criticize Huckabee for, it’s the use of somewhat obscure scripture allusions that I’m not even sure most Christians know. Sadly, most of our churches don’t teach the finer points of 2 Samuel and 2 Kings and I’m not sure how many Christians, let alone secular folks, will get the allusions to Elisha and to King David’s prophet.