Hang on Tight

Forget about Christmas sneaking up on you. Do you realize the Iowa Caucuses are a week from tomorrow? Enjoy this holiday week as the calm before the storm. Unless you live in Iowa, of course.

Most recent poll results basically say all the races in Iowa are tightening up. One poll says that Mike Huckabee is losing support — mostly to Ron Paul — among male voters. It may be that Huckabee peaked a bit too soon. Although he may not win in Iowa, I still say Mitt Romney is the most likely eventual winner of the nomination, because he seems to be the GOP establishment’s choice.

Regarding Huckabee, Quinn Hillyer wrote a couple of days ago,

Amazingly, Huckabee remains at the top of the polls despite receiving strong and repeated criticism from the entire spectrum of conservative leaders (yes, there is a spectrum; these are people who on intra-conservative-movement issues often disagree with each other). Lined up as strong critics of Huckabee are George Will, Fred Barnes, Charles Krauthammer, Robert Novak, Rush Limbaugh, David Limbaugh, Michael Reagan, Peggy Noonan, Phyllis Schlafly, Donald Lambro, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, Mark Levin; the vast majority of top conservative bloggers from sites such as Red State and Powerline; and most of the writers from the top conservative political magazines: the American Spectator, Human Events, National Review, and the Weekly Standard. National Review, the flagship of the great William F Buckley, has been particularly scathing about Huckabee, with Rich Lowry, Jonah Goldberg and Kathryn Lopez leading the way.

I wrote awhile back about Lowry’s consternation over Huckabee’s popularity. Hillyer continues,

The roots of this bizarreness lie in Washington. Since 1998, the majority of congressional Republicans have shown they have no clue about what motivates most right-leaning voters and even less of a clue about what constitutes good public policy. Pork-barrel spending that garners almost no votes, but plenty of campaign cash, still abounds. Ethical reforms are ignored or run around. With strong GOP support, Congress passes farm bills and energy bills and all sorts of other legislation that are monstrosities containing no internal logic, no discernible philosophical basis, and no serious provisions for efficiency or effective oversight. Meanwhile, President Bush never has been a fiscal conservative or a foe of big government, meaning the old Barry Goldwater wing of the party – still the largest subset of the conservative coalition – has had no champions in Washington except those toiling from the back bench.

Hillyer was writing for The Guardian of the UK; you don’t see this kind of bare-assed honesty about conservatism in US media.

It’s never been entirely clear to me what “big government” actually means. I infer from this Rich Lowry column from spring 2006 that “big government” means one with a big and inefficient bureaucracy. He argues that lean and efficient government would be stronger than cumbersome, bloated government. If those are your only two choices, then he’s probably right. However,

Some government programs actually promote strong government. A large, capable military is a foundation of national power. The Patriot Act and the National Security Agency spying program — by updating governmental capabilities to deal with a new national security threat — represent strong, flexible government. It is also possible to foster desirable values through government programs. Welfare reform promoted responsibility among welfare recipients.

On the other hand, spending money on domestic programs is bad.

It creates a self-perpetuating appetite for even more government. The prescription-drug plan hasn’t placated seniors, but whetted their appetite for an even more generous program. As spending increases, so does pressure for higher taxes.


When the GOP begins its post-Bush departure — roughly after the midterm elections in November, when the 2008 presidential nomination race begins — “big-government conservatism” will probably end up on the ash heap. The party will have to relearn what it used to know: A strong government is a limited government [emphasis added].

Except we don’t want to limit spending that’s going into the pockets of corrupt government contractors, and we don’t want to limit government violation of citizens’ rights. Those parts of government must be unlimited, Lowry says. Perhaps you can see why I am confused about the “big government” thing.

Anyway, I think what Lowry et al. don’t get is that their “movement conservative” ideology never was as popular as they believed it was. Hard-core movement conservatism always was a minority faction in America. Conservatives won elections by whipping up hysteria on some issue or another to drive the soft-headed and under-informed to the polls. In my lifetime I’ve seen one scoundrel after another elected by means of anti-Communist hysteria, racist hysteria, religious hysteria, anti-abortion hysteria, anti-gay hysteria, and most recently terrorist hysteria. Many of the voters who gave winning margins to conservative politicians didn’t give a hoohaw about Lowry’s precious if inscrutable notions of “limited government.”

Last week Amy Goldberg pointed out that many of the same conservatives running away from Huckabee’s religiosity sang a different tune in the recent past.

Rather than wringing their hands about the decline of reason in our civic life, right-wing opinion-mongers have, until now, heartily celebrated the volkish virtues of an archetypal Nascar-loving, megachurch-attending, Darwin-denying Ordinary American. Noonan has been the high priestess of mawkish religio-nationalist kitsch, titling her collection of post-9/11 columns, A Heart, A Cross and a Flag: America Today. In one piece, lamenting the fate of a man she encountered on an airplane, she writes: “I bet he became an intellectual, or a writer, and not a good man like a fireman or a businessman who says ‘Let’s Roll.'”

Last year Lowry ridiculed a spate of books about the growing political power of the religious right (including, I’m flattered to say, my own): “When the theo-panic passes, maybe a few of them will regret their hysteria.” In defending Christmas against its supposed antagonists, Krauthammer has chastised “deracinated members of religious minorities” who “insist that the overwhelming majority of this country stifle its religious impulses in public”.

Krauthammer these days is twisting himself into rhetorical pretzels trying to explain why Huckabee’s religious expression goes too far.

Here Goldberg is brilliant —

As mainstream conservatives recoil from what they’ve created, their cynicism is revealed – to us, but also, perhaps, to themselves. Obviously, some right-wing leaders always saw the pious masses as dupes who would vote against their economic interests if they could be convinced they were protecting marriage and Christmas.

But there there’s also a certain species of urbane Republican who live in liberal bastions and, feeling terribly oppressed by the mild contempt they face at cocktail parties, imagine a profound sympathy with the simple folk of the heartland. They’re like alienated suburban kids in Che Guevara t-shirts who fantasize kinship with the authentic revolutionary souls in Chiapas or Cuba or Venezuela. Confronted with the actual individuals onto whom they’ve projected their political hallucinations, disillusionment is inevitable. Whatever their nostalgie de la boue, the privileged classes never really want to be ruled by the rabble. They want the rabble to help them rule.

Spot on. See also Jane Hamsher on the Huckabee-Limbaugh feud.

Anyway, now we have Rush Limbaugh. He’s been putting out the message on behalf of the GOP to millions of the AM radio faithful so long he thinks he’s one of them, a “man of the people,” or as he likes to say, “part of the Cape Girardeau [Missouri]-Middle America axis.”

But Rush is no such thing. Unless his audience is composed of a lot more people making $35 million a year than I’m aware of, he’s an ugly weld spot between the corporatists and the rank-and-file within the party. Huckabee knows that audience rather better than Rush does, at least the Southern contingent, and given the fact that the GOP has become largely a regional party, that’s a significant portion of Rush’s base.

The Limbaughs of Cape Girardeau have been wealthy and prominent going back many years, btw. Cape Girardeau may well be in the “heartland,” but the Limbaughs were strictly privilege bubble people.

Rush eats left-wing hate like candy. It only makes him more popular with the true believers — it’s tribal, a sign that he’s “one of them.” But when Rush wasn’t looking, the left crafted a narrative about him (in a swift akido move employing many of the themes Rush himself popularized) that has now been picked up by Huckabee, who has the ability to carry it into the heart of the beast. Huckabee is a messenger who will be taken seriously in a way the left never could, and I imagine also in a way that Rush is going to have a hard time competing with.

Rush is betting that his listeners will see him as “part of the Cape Girardeau [Missouri]-Middle America axis.” The GOP elite have told him to take down Huckabee, and his ego is so engorged with money and seven years of right wing hegemony he thinks he can win that battle. He doesn’t see the weld spot preparing to crack.

Anyway, I take it the Right is gearing up to run the 2008 campaigns on illegal immigrant hysteria rather than terrorism hysteria, which is bad news for Rudy Giuliani. We’ll see how it works for ’em.

18 thoughts on “Hang on Tight

  1. The GOP will try to generate hysteria on something, to be sure; I’m still thinking terrorism… or to tell us how fabulously the war is going, or something. Immigration seems to be the result of Karl Rove miscalculating just how short-sighted, hateful and racist his own party is, while he desperately tried to make a beach head into the fast-growing Latino sector of voters… go figure. Without Tancredo, no one’s heart is really in it on that, but we’ll see.

    This will only the second time since 1952 and the first time since 1964 that there hasn’t been either a Nixon, a Dole or a Bush with a spot on the GOP national ticket (and wait… there’s still time for JEB!) The party of primogeniture always has some problems when it’s not quite sure what it wants to do… Mitt Romney, at least, is super-rich, and hence, lives a life consistent with actual GOP values; Rudy is now rich and well on his way to being super-rich, so he’ll do too, though his lack of personal discretion does present numerous problems (none really insurmountable). Fred Thompson was a successful lawyer and a t.v. and movie star; so he’s got to have some bucks too… he’ll do nicely as well (although he DID SEEM mean to that nice Mr. Nixon, or at least, pretended to be.) McCain had some problems with opposing tax cuts and torture, and near as we can tell, has pretty much spent his life on the public dime, and although his second wife has some bucks, we’re not sure if John can be trusted; by and large, given the campaign finance streak he has… and he adopted a dark-skinned child from Bangaladesh… I think it’s safe to say that in GOP circles, the rap is McCain simply can’t be trusted. If he actually does well anywhere, look for the knives to come out vis a vis him. Again.

    Huckabee… that’s somewhat new. As to the mania against Huckabee, I must say… it makes me want to clutch my own pearls (and I don’t wear pearls). Oh heavens… a man who actually seems to have taken his Bible seriously enough to conclude that if Jesus were presented with a choice of feeding the poor or lowering capital gains taxes, the first one is the moral imperative… Heavens!

    It appears that the plutocracy has now concluded that if SOMEONE isn’t going to stand up for the powerful, then our whole carefully balanced system might just crash down on us. In short, Huckabee must be stopped, before he ruins everything.

  2. I’ve been uncomfortable with Mike Huckabee for some time now, but have been unable to put that discomfort into words. Today, however, I heard the term “identity politics” defined for the first time, and I now believe that phrase clarifies my feelings about Gov. Huckabee.

    Identity politics is defined as choosing a candidate based on his or her “identity” rather than their stance on the issues or their political philosophy. For example, some people vote for the “black” candidate, or the “women” candidate for no reason other than that they are black or a woman. It appears that a substantial portion of Huckabees’ support comes from people who identify themselves as evangelical Christians simply because he has openly positioned himself as an evangelical Christian.

    This is an old, common practice among the political left in this country, but is relatively infrequent among supposed conservatives. At least since the Reagan era, conservatives, generally Republicans, have defined themselves as being passionate about a set of issues and/or a political philosophy, rather than an ethnic, socioeconomic, or other group. Republicans have had their greatest success emphasizing that distinction. Examples include not just the 1980 and 1984 presidential elections, but also the 1994 congressional elections, and the 2004 presidential race.

    So, why has Huckabee seemingly embraced this tactic? Presumably because his record on a variety of issues important to conservatives is mixed. He has been soft on illegal immigration, school choice, and crime. He and his supporters seem to believe that being pro-life and anti-gay marriage trumps all other concerns.

    The risk in this is two-fold: First, I believe most conservatives still believe in issue-driven politics rather than “identity” politics, and see it as inconsistent with the party of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan. Newt Gingrich, etc. Second, and more immediate, are the consequences of a Huckabee nomination. Many suspect that if Mike Huckabee becomes the Republican candidate for president in 2008, the party is in for not only an electoral disaster but perhaps a total realignment. Most Americans simply can not support the mixing of politics and religion that would inevitably occur if a Southern Baptist minister became president, and the result would be a lanslide win for almost any Democrat candidate. Further, the non-evangelical Christians of the Republican party would likely be so alienated from, if not disgusted with the process that selcted Huckabee as to desert the party in droves. There is real potential for a substantial Republican schism (to use a religious term) in 2008 if Mr. Huckabee continues on his present path.

  3. What seems most fascinating in the recent trends is that as Huckabee gets pulled down in the polls, Ron Paul is rising in Iowa. If he actually were to take the caucuses I think all heck is going to break loose.

  4. Oh no. the Republicans would never, ever practice “identity politics”…

    Why, they’d never pretend to be the “Patriot’s Party” whilst portraying their opponents as a bunch of “Dirty Fucking Hippie-Commie Traitors”…

    From “Welfare Queens” to “NASCAR Dads” is a short and cynical trip…

    (If you didn’t want us to know you’re another Republican dickhead, you would not have mentioned the “Democrat candidate”)

  5. And while we’re on the subject of Cape Girardeau’s “Favorite Son”…

    Just so happens I’m aquainted with a person who was a member of the Limbaugh family circle when young Rusty was a child…

    This person reveres the memory of the original Rush Limbaugh…

    Rusty’s grandfather was one of a breed which is very sadly extinct these days: Progressive Republicans who had their political viewws inspired by the likes of Teddy Roosevelt and the LaFollets, etc…

    This person from Limbaugh’s childhood will not allow the use of the name “Rush” Limbaugh when someone refers to the radio talker…Always correcting the speaker by noting that the Republican blowhard is unworthy of the use of his grandfather’s name…

  6. Huckabee has not caught on simply because he is evangelical. Pat Robertson ran and his campaign went over like a Lead Baloon. There is more to his campaign than a cross-waving ultra-conservative. He is sincere, though I disapprove of his platform; the man is not plastic. Mitt is; Rudy is and Hillary is plastic as toy made in China. So look at the candidates who are rocking the boat. Ron Paul, Huckabee, Obama and Edwards. All these campaigns don’t just present themselves as being outside the beltway; they all ARE outside the beltway, and voters awe finding a lot to like about candidates who can respond to an issue without a telprompter or professional handler whispering in their ear.

    The natives, regardelss of political persuasion, in large numbers are becoming aware of the man behind the curtain, and a VERY few are aware that it’s the SAME man behind the curtain pulling the strings on ALL the plastic candidates. And the voters are gravitating to a REAL candidate.

    This trend will cause some serious panic, becuase the man behind the curtain has always allowed, even encouraged the natives to move from liberal to conservative and back again, while he was safe knowing that he had control of how important matters would be decided; let them fret about abortion or gun-control or prayer in school; with every election, the man behind the curtain drew the noose ever tighter, oil, energy, profits, trade, taxes and then back again to profit and taxes.

    The mice are not running the maze he constructed in the manner he intended, even with all the favorite ‘authority figures’ speaking the words that he wrote to guide them to the ‘choices’ that lead to his predetermined goal. What will happen if they all start thinking for themselves????

  7. The right knows exactly what motivates their voters at the polls: Angry reaction against… gays women hillary secularism, etc, but they only know the negative motivators of fear and anger, instead of more positive( to their eyes at least) that Huckabee represents.

    As to ‘big’ government, that is easy. It is government that gives to someone other than youself.

  8. I once heard a farmer railing about “big government” and “entitlements”…

    When I pointed out to him that the same “government” was paying him not to raise corn to feed the hogs he was being paid not to raise, he got very red (in-the-face) and very loud…

  9. I agree with you Maha that illegal immigration will be a focal point of the Right’s campaign strategy in 2008. With the ecomomy headed toward rough seas, the illegal aliens draining our economy will provide the perfect rallying cry for a scapegoat and diversion. It won’t take much prompting to unleash misdirected anger to an easily indentifiable target, and I’m sure the Righties will be eager to stir up the illegal immigration nest.

  10. I’d say the man behind the curtain is unbridled conservatism. It wants to run us like a pack of wilderbeasts, and those who can’t keep up with the herd will fall prey to the hyenas. It’s the natural order of things..only the strong survive to perpetuate the conserative species.

  11. Swami – The man behind the curtain is all the multi-national corporations who cut themsleves a perpetually larger slice of the American pie, while Americans get ever less.They are not Democrats; they are not Republicans Did you notice that the telecoms have managed to convert the Democrats to their cause?
    Amnesty for illegal surveylance, and they made a buck; you can bet. According to Glenn Gereenwald, all the top tier Dems favor an expanded military.Dem or Rep; deos not matter; just keep buying war stuff. What’s the trend on oil prices (and profits)? Seen any action from Dems? The Drug companies got a dream bill passed at the taxpayers expense. You heard lots of partisan talk. Seen any modification to the bill? Bush and the Dems stand united to keep wages low, by flooding the labor market. The Dems understand but don’t CARE what the economics mean, because more po’ folks means more Dem voters. Bring on the poverty!

    Follow the money, Swami. Until business can NOT legally contribute – directly or indirectly – to campaigns we are all part of a grand circus. They allow us the pagentry of hot-button issues that do not affect their profits while they control all the choices on all the profit issues – so they are actually not choices at all.

    When those on the right and the left realize the extent of the swindle, and unite to thorow out the money-changers from the temple, then you will see democracy. And a lot of fun it will be.

  12. Right on, Doug (6), Right on, Swami (12). I think this is happening. Lanky Linc was right. You can fool all the people some of the time, and you can fool some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

  13. Good point, Doug. Corporations are not entitled to the rights of human beings. They are fictions, and have no right to exist whatever.

    I had a post a while back on corporate personhood, if you can call my brief style a post.

  14. They want the rabble to help them rule

    I’d say more help them win. The chattering class doesn’t want the rabble anywhere near the levers of power. Whether the establishment kills this momentum as they have done previously remains to seen but Huckabee struck a nerve by letting Rush’s audience in on the secret.

    Limbaugh would rather chair the committee to elect Hillary Clinton emperess for life than associate with his adoring public. He’s the Lonesome Rhodes of his generation.

  15. People in America are brought up by the corporate media to love and trust the corporations who are trying to sell them things and to equate corporations with America.

  16. Whig – you are sooo right. A long time ago, I recognized te tendancy or approved histories to use the words democracy & capitalism together. Indeed I supect many think they would be conterparts in a thesarus. The founding fathers cared deeply about democracy but a lot of them were suspicious of the exploitive nature of cities and business in Europe.

    A much overlooked fact is the profit motive that radio & TV have. This is not an inherently BAD thing, but if you count the number of cell-phone ads per hour, you appreciate why the MSM gives the controversy over amnesty in the FISA bill, very short shrift.

    The advertiser is free to take his business where he wants, and if the attitude of the network is too hostile to business, they may be hunting for revenue among advertising scraps.

  17. Doug, I wouldn’t say the founders were deep believers in democracy either, it was a very contentious time and there were then as now the same divisions. The constitution was a compromise document, and it had some very serious defects some of which have yet to be corrected. We’ve had corporations since before America, the British East India company was the original corporation against which the colonists rebelled.

Comments are closed.