Friday, 4 January 2008

Givin' a Huck

Is the US Republican Party's courting of Christian fundamentalists about to come back and bite them in the behind in 2008?

The results of the Iowa caucus - the traditional opening round of the race for presidential candidacy for both major parties - are in, and it looks like a surprise has been sprung on the Republicans.

By a margin of 9% to his nearest rival, a Southern baptist minister who started the race as an outsider and initially struggled to gain funding for his bid (Link) won the GOP's caucus, and has been thrust into the public eye.

Karl Rove's office may have masterminded the targeting of the religious vote by George W Bush in 2000 and 2004 (Link), while all the while serving the interests of big business and the rich. Mike Huckabee, on the other hand, appears to be the genuine article - as Aaron at Tygerland puts it, "someone with Bible-based principles, not just a prick for hire".

For left-liberals, Huckabee's economic policies range from the positive (probably the most progressive healthcare policies of the GOP candidates) to the bizarre (a replacement of income tax with a flat tax on consumption, seemingly unironically called FairTax).

His social positions, on the other hand, are a disaster area across the board. Huckabee threatens to make the worst nightmares of American liberals on gay rights, abortion, science, guns, and above all the separation of church and state come true (Link). Huckabee is a self-described biblical literalist (Link) and has stated that he wants to "take the nation back for Christ" (Link).

At home - for women and gays in particular - this is frightening stuff. Outside US borders it could hardly be worse. But, of course, the evangelical Republicans of Iowa don't care about either. More worrying for big business and corporate lobbyists, nor do they care about them. The rise of Huckabee has given the powerful something of a scare, and put the rest of us into quite a quandary.

As left-wing journalist Johann Hari put it:

"A panicked corporate Republican establishment – the likes of Bob Novak, Peggy Noonan and George Will – turned on him and threw anything they could find. These Republicans had spent decades inciting the evangelicals to ever-higher heights of rhetorical fancy – only to find the monster they created is now turning on them, demanding their theocratic words be taken seriously." - Johann Hari
Can those of us who have long bemoaned the great influence of the rich and powerful on US politics therefore find something to celebrate in this plucky religious fundamentalist outsider coming to the fore?

Some, like Aaron Heath, say yes. Others, myself included, find Huckabee's positions just too terrifying, were he somehow to gain the presidency, to muster even the smallest cheer at this particular underdog's success - Not that any of the other plausible** Republican candidates represent much of an improvement!

* The title is a pun on the lyrics of this song, by The Darkness.
**Ron Paul, libertarian outside chance who polled 10% in Iowa, is not considered plausible!


Phil BC said...

Thanks for the link, just to let you know I've added you to my list too.

Aaron Heath said...

A good piece.

But I think you're overplaying two factors.

One Huckabee is unlikely to win, Iowa will be useful in scaring the GOP, but I doubt Huckabee will win the ultimate nomination, and then, I doubt he'd win a general election.

Second. Huckabee will have to push the FairTax through a Democrat congress, which is never going to happen. The worst of Bush happened during a Republican domination of the House & Senate, Huckabee will not enjoy such power.

Looking at his record in Arkansas, he'll lead as a populist.