Monday, October 08, 2007

Republicans' Faith-Based Choice

The former Arkansas Governor, a Baptist minister, is becoming everybody’s favorite conservative, except for the Religious Right. Arguably the smartest and most personable of Republican Presidential contenders, Mike Huckabee is stuck in single digits and woeful campaign contribution numbers.

The reason may be his faith. After years of George Bush’s self-righteous religiosity, Republican true believers seem leery of Huckabee’s traditional approach to Christian values that calls for brotherhood and humility.

Unlike Bush, Huckabee grew up in poverty and embraced his religion from childhood, rather than as a middle-aged man grasping for salvation when his over-privileged life was falling apart.

Joe Klein of Time describes him as “a political inconvenience, a destroyer of stereotypes” with a new constituency of Second Commandment Christians who live by the Golden Rule and are “more interested in salvation than damnation.”

“I believe,” Huckabee told him, “that life begins at conception, but I don't believe it ends at birth. I believe we have a responsibility to feed the hungry, to provide a good education, a safe neighborhood, health care.”

In a recent Pew Center forum, moderated by Washington Post liberal columnist E. J. Dionne, he went beyond debate sound bites about evolution and explained his philosophy of governing.

“I was absolutely embarrassed and ashamed of my own government,” he said, “in the response to Katrina. I saw on TV people on the bridges of Interstate 10 stranded for days without water, and I thought...These were the neighbors just to the south of us in Louisiana...We were not going to allow them to be further traumatized, depersonalized and dehumanized by stacking them in some sports arena and calling that a rescue.”

Republican voters may still be too mesmerized by Bush’s fake piety to give Huckabee a fair hearing, but his showing in the Iowa straw poll suggests some are listening.

Back in January, Dionne called Huckabee “the brightest star among Republican presidential dark horses” who “has maintained what you might call loyal distance” from Bush’s Iraq disaster. Voters may begin to notice that, too.

1 comment:

bencharif said...

I saw Huckabee interviewed by, I believe, Ray Suarez on the Lehrer News Hour the other night. I was impressed and, I'll admit, a bit alarmed. If people gave this guy a fair hearing, he might actually win the Republican nomination and--who knows?--perhaps even the presidency.

Unless it's all an act--and I doubt you'll object to a bit of skepticism, well earned--I think Hillary, the presumed Democratic nominee as of October 7, 2007, would have a hard time competing with Huckabee's winning combination of intelligence, straightforwardness and (what appears to be) a basic decency.

Though it was a Democrat who helped sell the disaster that is NAFTA, there's still no way I'm going to give any Republican my vote. But I have to admit, seeing and hearing Mike Huckabee the other night made me think twice.