Monday, November 26, 2007

Mike Huckabee and the Conservative Divide

Is Mike Huckabee a "false conservative"? That's the argument Robert Novak makes in today's Washington Post.:
The rise of evangelical Christians as the force that blasted the GOP out of minority status during the past generation always contained an inherent danger: What if these new Republican acolytes supported not merely a conventional conservative but one of their own? That has happened with Huckabee, a former Baptist minister educated at Ouachita Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. The danger is a serious contender for the nomination who passes the litmus test of social conservatives on abortion, gay marriage and gun control but is far removed from the conservative-libertarian model of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.
But rather than representing false conservatism, doesn't Huckabee represent one of conservatism's two distinct wings in a party that has an increasingly divided Big Tent? Novak has a distinct view of what conservatism is, and his version certainly long held firm. But conservatism also now "is," to some degree, its socially conservative, religious evangelical wing as well. For so long the Democratic Party had to balance disparate and often conflicting constituencies. The rise of conservatism in the last third or so of the twentieth century as uch as anything capitalized on the Democratic inability to maintain that balancing act by drawing some of that constituency toward the GOP. Think, for example, of Reagan Democrats. But the rise of the religious right appears not to have strengthened the Republican party by making it bigger, but rather to have created a divide among conservatives and the party within which they long have felt comfortable.


Stephen said...

Count me in the "hope you are wrong but worry you are right" camp.

dcat said...

Steve --
Any way this could fall into the "necessary corrective" camp from the vantage point of conservatives? And that if the corrective takes place, it could represent opportunity? Or is that too removed from the real world of sharp elbows and sharper tongues of politics?
Obviously as a liberal I can look on internecine battles among the conservatives with a certain detached bemusement. But at the same time as an American I cannot help but wonder what the long-term impact of such a visible struggle might be amidst a party that could well continue to vie for power in the country in some shape or form.
I hope that the true conservatives win out over the true believers, but my fear is that the GOP and its conservatives are morphing into an uncomfortably welded whole so that the party cherrypicks the worst elements of its two faces. That's what i see too frequently in this administration, anyway.


Mark said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark said...

[some link problems]
You're not the only one to notice the wing divide: The Future of the GOP.

Stephen said...

And take a look at the response to Gerson. Check columns by George Will and Robert Novak. The Republican nominee will clear it up, methinks.