Friday, September 7, 2007

What's Mike Huckabee Up To? Escaping from the Evangelical Death-Grip


"I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like victory." (Apocalypse Now)

Note: Treva of is a very insightful mother of three and a ferocious blogger for Mike Huckabee. See her comments (and my responses). She asks me if I think "evangelicals are stupid?" My short answer is that I'm an evangelical Christian, and I don't regard myself as stupid, nor do I regard her as such. Are some evangelicals stupid? Yep, and I provide her a couple of examples in the comments. Mike Huckabee is very bright, and his strategy (discussed below) is brilliant. She also suggests I "distressed" Mrs. R. Frankly, anyone who distresses said person might just cause her to confront reality -- if only for an instant. (Read the Flannery O'Connor story, "A Good Man is Hard to Find.") People who live perpetually in a cocoon of smugness never stay distressed for long.

Sarah Palin's one known comment about Mike Huckabee was that she didn't know very much about him. I hope Mike will rectify that situation very soon.

One of Mike's strongest supporters recently said, "It's time for him to take some risks." He said a mouthful, because it's unlikely Gov. Huckabee will get the nomination without engaging in some unconventional steps, such as naming individuals (perhaps three, including Sarah Palin, Michael Steele, and an Hispanic) that he'd consider choosing for a vice-presidential slot.

Ever since I got deeply interested in the Huckabee campaign -- about five weeks ago, largely because of the influence of Larry Perrault, I said that Mikes greatest asset -- his evangelical Christian supporters, particularly those in the blogocracy -- was also his greatest liability.

What supposed offenses has he committed that have led to major defections?

Mike suggested that he might look favorably on full voting rights for DC, which could eventually result in two Black U.S. Senators and a Black House member. He also suggested he'd sign a congressional ban on smoking in public places. He has talked favorably about union members in the U.S. He has supported a humane resolution to the Immigration issue. He has fired a mild shot at some narcissistic pro-lifers, with his statement that, "Life begins at conception, but it doesn't end at birth." He is an advocate of the traditional family and tradfitional marriage, but he refuses to engage in unChristian gay-bashing.

Also, he has played "country music!" Moreover, he has used humor, which to some people means he lacks the grim seriousness they associate with evangelicals.

All these things -- or at least some of them -- have led to defections among his erstwhile supporters, such as the Romans. The various defectors insist that Mike must be selling out to the Establishment. Perhaps he's really a RINO in disguise. Also, of course, he supported tax increases to improve the infrastructure of the (relatively) impoverished state he governed, so he might be a liberal-in-disguise!

Also, why did Mike, alone among the Republican candidates, address the National Urban League, a (moderate) Black group? Perhaps because he has won a significant number of Black votes in the past and realizes that when Republicans lose 92% of the Black nationally, it leads to certain losses in big states (including Pennsylvania and Illinois). Yes, he is a smart enough politician to know that you don't get something -- Black votes -- for nothing --a wave and a smile.

But why would he -- again, alone among Republican candidates -- address the left-leaning Machinists Union? Perhaps because, as the head of the union revealed, 35% of the Machinists are registered Republican.

And why isn't he foaming at the mouth -- a la Tancredo -- about "illegal immigrants?" Perhaps because (almost certainly because) he recognizes that there are 45 million LEGAL Hispanics in the U.S., and they are the fastest growing minority in the country. Two generations from now -- in your grandchildren's lifetime -- Hispanics will be a majority in the USA. Goodness knows, I hope they don't deport my relatives back to Ireland!

(Let me breathe a dirty little secret that I believe and that Mike -- Heaven forbid -- may also: The defeat of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, CIR-- the final proposal with the $4.3 billion additional for border security -- had NOTHING TO DO WITH BORDER SECRUITY.) It now appears very likely the final word on immigration will be given by the Democrats and President Clinton in 2009.

The "great victory" achieved in the right-wing's defeat of CIR came with a big price tag. One Huckabee supporter who's an expert on "immigration politics," says the defeat of CIR may very well cost Republicans New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado (where Tancredo is polling at 4% among Republicans), California (of course), and Florida. Aside from California, which is a goner from the get-go, the loss of even one of those states -- and Mike knows this -- probably would cost Republicans the election.

Mike also knows he doesn't have the evangelical vote "sewn up." Right now, Giuliani (take a look at South Carolina) is getting as many votes from evangelicals -- if not more -- than Mike Huckabee.

I'm one of those dreaded pragmatists (meaning I must lack some Gadarene-like "principle") who believes Mike wants to win not the Mr. Congeniality title among evanglicals, but the presidency of the United States. He realizes that he can't even come close to doing so merely with the votes of Republican-leaning evangelicals.

He doesn't want to be the most ideologically pure of the candidates. He wants to become President because he believes he can lead the country, the entire country, not just those who say "y'all." To achieve that goal, you have to win the votes of those who say "youse" (Brooklyn), or "Yinz" (Pittsburgh).

Let me repeat myself: what you get in politics by giving nothing to huge segments of the population is electoral defeat. As Mike surely knows, it's too hard -- there are too many personal and familial costs -- running for President as some sort of symbolic effort.

In politics per se, moral victories, as one Pittsburgh Steeler coach put it, are for losers.

The key -- and Sarah Palin apparently has that key -- is to be a moral person without offending the majority of the electorate. I hope Mike's supporters won't forbid him from taking the steps necessary to have a decent shot at the presidency.

Oh, and Mike, please give HER a call in Alaska!

Stephen R. Maloney
Ambridge, PA

As promised, I will write about Giuliani and the slime hurled at him, but this is enough for today.


Stephen R. Maloney said...

In the battle over the Romans, one thing (well, maybe many) disturubs me. People tend to mistake blandness and adherence to a rigid and acacrhonistic ideology as a form of "goodness." In fact, goodness is a question of doing things -- "good deeds" as the Medieval play "Everyman" puts it. In a novel I read recently, the author talks about people living in circles with ever-smaller circumfrances. He's talking mainly about suburban life where people have a tiny circle of friends and acquaitances who believe exactly as they do. In politics, I keep running into people who think Hillary Clinton will be easy to beat. Why? Well, because their neighbors or the people at their (evangelical) church don't like her (or claim not to). Yet the Gallup Poll comes out with Hillary as the most-admired woman in the U.S. Apparently, Gallup didn't poll certain neighborshoods of churches. I tell people about New York, where I grew up in Rochester and Buffalo, that the state is very diverse. They look at me blankly. They have the state confused with City. New York probably has more dairy farms than any other state. It has dozens of small cities, and hundreds of small towns. I've been away for many years, but I regard the people as generally terrific. That state has elected Hillary Clinton in two landslides.

steve maloney

ThinkAware said...

Do you have a problem with evangelicals? There is a lot evagelical stereotyping going on here.

I'm an evangelical Christian but I'm not nearly as stupid as you've portrayed.

This is not to pick a fight, I understand it's your b log and respect your right to air your opinions. The spirit of it has rubbed me wrong.

The spirit you have taken toward the Romans reminds me of the verse which speaks of one pointing out the speck in another person's eye without regard to the log in one's own eye.

I held my tongue overnight, and I think the attitude you've displayed has tarnished your reputation to a degree. And I don't even know the Romans that well! It was the attitude of your attack toward them. Who cares if they change their mind about Huckabee (they've come around, by the way). This is America, after all. The Huckabee campaign won't dry up tomorrow without their support, although their support is truly appreciated!

I don't meant to personally offend or attack you. I was just disappointed to witness all of this. I would feel a lot better if you apologized for the anguish you at least caused the wife due to the level of heat you displayed toward them.

Stephen R. Maloney said...

Treva, hi. I'd even give you a phone call to answer some of the issues you raise. (I'm 67 and married so don't worry about flirts.) I regard myself as an evangelical Christian (and regard my wife as the same). Do I think I'm stupid, or she's stupid, or you're stupid? No, I don't. I ask you to go to the Mike Huckabee blogs site and read the comments from the person who says Mike is leading people to perdition by playing Willie Nelson music. I ask you to read the person who reacts to him who says that he should vote for Mike anyway because otherwise Hillary Clinton (a Methodist) will cause "the persecution of hundreds of Christians." I don't remember her husband persecuting Christians, do you? In my piece that you responded to I explained (very truthfully) what Mike Huckabee was doing. He is trying to win election in a very diverse nation, one where one out of four evangelical Christians says they're going to vote for Mrs. Clinton. If Mike gets the other three out four evangelicals, he wouldn't, with that alone, win even a single state. On the issue of racism, I'd like you to go to -- maybe you have to a member -- and scroll back to the immigration debate. Check especially the blogs of heartlandpatriot, pasadenaphil, and virginiapatriot. Also, I'd like you to visit the Souther Poverty Law Center and see the groups they list as "hate groups" opposing immigration reform. Google also the name of Mr. "Tanton," who is a mega-rich lobbyist who basically ran the anti-reform bill campaign. Also, check with Huckabee supporter James ( in regard to racism and immigration reform. Were most of those opposed to the bill racists? Nope, but many were. On Sept. 6 the Romans --they act in tandem -- said that after prayer and thought they could not support Huckabee for many reasons. On Sept. 7, which is today, they had done a total turnaround and support him again (sorta). Treva, I've enjoyed reading your blog, and from everything I can see you are a wonderful person and a great mother. I wish you well in all your endeavors. I'm glad you visited (secret: I knew the Greenville visitor probably was you) and hope you will again. If you ever to want to discuss anything, well, I'm always available. God bless.

On the question of apologizing to S. Roman, see the following comment.

Stephen R. Maloney said...

Treva, in the September 6 column by Mrs. Roman she accuses Rudy Giuliani, a candidate for President, of lying about his record. Giuliani's record as Mayor of New York is one of the most distinguished in history. Mrs. Roman provides no evidence to the contrary and seems blissfully unaware of Rudy's stellar performance during and after 9/11. Also, she calls him a "skunk" and generally trashes the man. Go read it, and then read their nasty characterization of Mike's performance in the debate. In educating your children, I doubt you're teaching that to talk about other people in that way. If I'm not correct on that, then I've badly misjudged you. Apologize? For what? In some evangelical communities, the combination of blandness, ignorance, and lack of independence might be regarded as some sort of Christian virtue. Not in my community, however.


Stephen R. Maloney said...

I've communicated several times with Treva, who has a great blog featuring picture of her own beautiful self and her movie-star-quality children. She homeschools her kids, and I don't really know why. A little African-American girl (kindergarten age) in Ambridge recently responded to my question about school with the response, "I CAN'T WAIT TO GO TO SCHOOL." She almost (almost!) made me wish I was still in teaching. I do look at people like Treva, who's in Greenville, not too far from Athens, GA, where I lived happily (tho not ever afterwards). I expect she's a good person (not a bland, self-righteous person) but a good one. She loves to read. I wonder how well she avoid that "cocoon of smugness" I talk about on the blog. I see in her a kind of yearning (for knowledge, for a personal identity, for whatever) that's quite fascinating. She thinks I should apologize to some woman who called Rudy Giuliani a "skunk" and a "liar." They may be a little too quick to apologize in Greenville, S.C. these days. Although I'm not Jewish, I always got a kick out of the motto of the Jewish Defense League ("Never forget. Never forgive.") Of course, they were talking about the Nazis, which don't seem to be a factor in my life. I wonder about the Trevas. I wonder if she can avoid the situation that the poet Yeats described in these words: "Sometimes all of life seems a preparation for something that never happens." Avoid that fate, Treva, avoid it like the plague. Last advice, for now. Pass it on to your beautiful children.

Larry Perrault said...


We've disagreed and been nearly diametrically opposed on some matters. Yet, we've done so without flapping our wings and getting our feathers up. I wish a lot more disagreements were handled that way. People have visceral reactions, and calling their character into question when they do, usually exacerbates the discomfort. However you judge the prudence of a response, tread softly on the toes. Encourage, don't discourage.

Now, speaking of all that, I had some responses, reading your post:

First I want to say that I know it can be taken for granted in politics, but I shrink from ascribing political calculation to Mike Huckabee's actions.

Call me naive, but I think he does those things because they are the right and Christlike thing to do, though he may rightly feel that that often turns out to be the most effective way to deal with them, too.

Mike Huckabee didn't propose statehood for Washington DC, and I don't think he would. That would require an overt defiance and amendment of The Constitution. There goes the 2 senators. But he did say that voting rights for all of those citizens merited consideration, and I think he's right. Some special innovation would have to be designed for that.

He didn't say he'd sign a ban on smoking in public places. He said he'd sign a smoking ban for workplace safety, like an OSHA regulation.

I think what he said about immigration was just RIGHT: seal the borders (and filter dangerous people), but don't resent or restrain people who want to come to the US to work, as immigrants always have. My sentiments, exactly.

He addressed groups like unionists and The Urban League and The National Education Association because its the right thing to do. But, he wouldn't support a government enforced closed union shop, endorse the withholding of merit pay, or government-enforced affirmative action.

I think his statement about broadening perspective on the right to life is just that: get a wider angle lens on protecting and nurturing human life.

It cheapens those things to distill them down to just politics. Will these things startle or frighten nervous people? Yes. I told you, I got outright reamed on a conservative blog, this week. And in the past, people have called ME extremist and jihadist and such. I can't change my beliefs, but I can and should work diligently on my tone.

And speaking of immigration, I'm not or never was a McCain supporter. But he responded correctly: sealing the border was in the bill, "but the people didn't believe us." That's right. I didn't. Why should people believe them? They're going to enforce the new law, but not the old law? McCain got the message: We have to prove ourselves by sealing the border, first. DUH! Huckabee's position, BTW.
Even if I thought I was right on the facts, I would go to the Romans bearing flowers. In fact, as a Huckabee supporter, I may do it, myself.

Stephen R. Maloney said...

Larry, I'm going to put your comment on "blog central" and respond to them. You probably have the world's best understanding of where Mike Huckabee -- I think the world of the guy, of course -- stands on issues. Some of those issues, including immigration, are extremely complex and difficult to solve. Is there some racism involved in the general political response to immigration? Frankly, there's racism in most issues in America, but if Mike notes that "inconvenient truth," he will get slammed by some people? Is it sometimes necessary to raise taxes to pay for something like children's health care or desperately needed infrastructure? Of course, but to do so is to invite criticism from hard-right people who think every tax increase is a socialist plot. As a Christian (minister) Mike knows what his responsibility is to his "neighbors" (everybody else), but some Christians, perhaps less aware of what that designation means, believe they don't have such a responsibility. They're probably reading the wrong Bible or going to the wrong church. In general, evangelicals are a very giving people -- and the giving involves reaching deeply into their wallets/pocketbooks. It is critical to discuss these issues, and you do exactly that.

steve maloney