Huckabee – The New Face of Conservatism?
By: Nathan Tabor
After the South Carolina primary and the subsequent withdrawal of Fred Thompson and Duncan Hunter’s presidential bids, the Republican field has narrowed considerably. Barring a Giuliani victory in Florida, the nominee will almost certainly be Romney, McCain, or Huckabee. As none of the remaining candidates can lay full claim to the conservative mantle, how do conservative voters select from among these three without splitting the party and dividing the base?
In the past, the various factions that compose the GOP made common cause based on a set of principles; a muscular foreign policy, free market economics, and promoting a culture that values life. After spending decades in the political wilderness, Republicans chose Ronald Reagan to turn these principles into policy. The order of events was no accident; the man (Reagan) met the moment (the Cold War and the supply-side boom) once Republicans were united in purpose.
In 2008, party unification (and subsequently, electoral victory) hinges on one thing: internalizing the lessons of the past. It is for that reason that conservatives and Republicans must approach the primaries from a different angle. Rather than viewing a choice between the current candidates as a series of trade-offs (Huckabee the social conservative vs. Romney the economic conservative), we should look at the principles beneath the positions. In that light, the current choice is between two conservatives (Romney and Huckabee) and a moderate who leans right on foreign policy (McCain).
In order for the GOP to usher in four new years of conservative governance, its voters must have one priority: to pick the candidate who 1) best embodies conservative principles and 2) is able to put those principles into practice so that they fully address the needs of the nation and its citizens.
For this reason, Mike Huckabee deserves a second look by primary voters who have written him off as “the social conservative candidate” or “an economic populist.” While he has drawn heat from a number of prominent conservatives for his attacks on the Club for Growth and the fact that he raised taxes while governor of Arkansas, there is more to Huckabee than meets the eye. While it is true that he raised taxes five times as governor, he also lowered them ninety-four times.
Additionally, polls indicate that the middle class is trending Democratic-largely over economic issues. While tax cuts are excellent for stimulating economic growth, they do nothing for job security. Huckabee’s overtures to Americans concerned about their jobs have not abandoned the principles of free-market economics; they still emphasize empowering individuals over expansion of government power. Rather, they are an attempt to answer the needs of the voters without resorting to the socialism-lite offered by the Democrats.
The fact is that America in 2008 faces different problems than in 1980, and while principles should not change, solutions must change where necessary to effectively meet America’s needs.
An avowed supporter of the pro-life movement and traditional marriage, Huckabee also offers a fresh perspective on the culture of life. By speaking on the genocide in Darfur and the slaughter of the unborn in America in the same breath, he has effectively linked America’s responsibility to the unborn and its responsibility to champion freedom and protect the innocent abroad.
This moral clarity is vitally important.
To those in the party who would like to put the issue of abortion on the back burner in favor of economic and foreign policy issues, Huckabee’s rejoinder is, why choose? All life is sacred. At the same time, it is an eloquent rebuttal to those Americans who are suffering from Iraq-induced fatigue and prefer a “non-interventionist” foreign policy. As President Bush noted, the terrorists began this conflict, but we’ll decide how and when to finish it.
Though the slate of Republican candidates is smaller than ever, conservatives need not despair. There is more than one candidate remaining whose platform is rooted in conservative principles. If, however, conservatives are looking something more-if they are looking for a candidate who can utilize these principles to craft new policies to meet our current challenges, they could not do better than to consider Mike Huckabee. The man from Hope is selling his own brand of optimism to voters-which makes him Reaganesque in more ways than one.
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