Sullivan is right when he says about Huckabee:
What matters is cultural and religious identity, rather than policy.
I say this frequently, but this response to candidates still drives me crazy from time to time. In fact, I argued the same thing when I talking about the risks of describing Obama in terms of his familiarity and connections to other nations and religions:
“Vote for Obama–he’s not like you in so very many ways” is not a winning slogan in a mass democracy. Identitarianism is one aspect of democracy that is one of its most deplorable features and one of its most basic and unavoidable. Being able to identify with a candidate is essential, and anything that weakens this hurts the candidate.
This is how it works all the time. Somehow it still surprises me when it happens. I don’t agree that it is a product of “sectarianization” of politics, since I think identitarianism is part and parcel of mass democracy. Even so, despite understanding this, I continue to be amazed at the ludicrous forms identitarianism takes.