One of the good things about New England ice storms and the extended power outages that follow is that you can find time to catch up on your reading. In my case, that consisted of Mike Huckabee’s recent release, Do the Right Thing.
I was interested in Huckabee’s book because I wanted to spend a little more time getting to know the mind of an evangelical- turned-presidential-contender. In spite of Huckabee’s engaging personality and surprising showing during the 2008 Republican nomination process, I never got the sense that he was treated with the same seriousness that other candidates received. The beauty pageant that is the American presidential election cycle, by catering to sound bite and superficiality, never gets too far below the surface of any of the hopefuls. As a result, we learned more about Huckabee’s cooking peculiarities than we did how he might manage the country.
I knew from reviews and other discussions that the book would be part manifesto and part campaign confidential, so revelations that Mike Huckabee doesn’t much care for former rival Mitt Romney, and that Mike Huckabee doesn’t much care for Libertarians were expected. Most of the book’s more salacious content has been covered already – and you expect a little more from me than regurgitated anecdotes about Huckabee’s new best pal, Chuck Norris.
So even though I think that many Libertarians hold to a purer conservative philosophy than most Republicans – I am a registered Libertarian, after all – my focus was on Huckabee’s balance and reconciliation of personal faith and public political position. I was also interested to see how Huckabee the candidate jibes with my perception of Huckabee the author.
Despite my misgivings about his take on Libertarians, as I worked my way through Do the Right Thing, I found myself nodding in agreement. Many of his positions on economics and tax policy, social issues, healthcare, and national service and volunteerism are fairly close to my own. Why then, I asked myself, was I not persuaded to support him during the primary season (even if, as a registered Libertarian, I could not have voted for him in Massachusetts)?
Partly because my personal opinion of Huckabee could not be reconciled with my more general aversion to candidates who wield the club of religious faith to gain political advantage. Many times in the book Huckabee expresses his disappointment over not receiving the endorsement of a number of prominent Christian figureheads, including Pat Robertson, Bob Jones III, John Hagee, and Gary Bauer. He sounds as if his fellow evangelicals had an obligation to do endorse him. And, interestingly, there was no mention in the book of the steadfast support Huckabee received from the likes of friend and prosperity gospel charlatan Kenneth Copeland.
My duty as a Christian is not, after all, to blindly cast my vote for whichever candidate is best able to convince me of his religious sincerity, but to study the word of God, strengthen my faith, and be guided by wisdom and the Spirit before prayerfully casting my ballot. Besides, we’ve already got a template of what can happen when the so-called religious right aligns itself with a candidate simply because he claims the mantle of faith. And the temptation for politicians to put their faith (whether genuine or artificial) on display in hopes of currying favor with an important voting bloc is all too real, even when outward evidence would suggest a less than sincere devotion.
Mike Huckabee asserts, by writing this book and remaining an active voice in American politics, that he is trying to reform the Republican Party by helping it return to a more traditional brand of conservativism, and that by enunciating his views he will inspire values voters to bring pressure on party leadership to fall in line. I think Huckabee should stop wasting his time with the GOP, which has demonstrated that it is perfectly comfortable with malleable principles that have given us unprecedented expansion of the federal government, economic ruin, and the lack of a national moral compass.
In keeping with his Christian tradition, Huckabee may believe that his party is not beyond redemption, but I disagree.
I’ve argued before that if the religious right is sincere about its desire to reform the American political system, it should do so not from within the party that has betrayed its most loyal members, but by leading an exodus of those voters to a new party – a political promised land as it were.
We know you want to be president, Mr. Huckabee, but are you prepared to be a Moses?