The plutocrats got showered with riches, and the theocrats got lines from hymns dropped into speeches.
More than that, once the GOP met its electoral reckoning the so-called “theocrats,” which the rest of us on earth know as the social conservatives, were blamed for having wrecked the GOP, which, so we were told, they had so thoroughly dominated during the Bush years. This was a classic error of identifying the base of the party’s electoral strength with the control of its leadership and agenda. Having attributed to them supreme power over the party, it was inevitable that the media, both mainstream and conservative, would wrongfully tag them as scapegoats for the party’s failure, just as they had falsely described them as the masters of the party. As Huckabee’s performance at the “values voters” summit and the Huckabee surge have shown, many of the rank and file social conservatives are not following the movement leaders and activists to endorse candidates deemed safe or acceptable by the establishment.
Indeed, the one thing that makes me think Huckabee can’t be all bad is that the party and movement establishment leaders seem to loathe and fear him, but I am under no illusions that just because he is some kind of anti-establishment figure that he is therefore also a desirable one. In most respects, he is Bush’s natural heir and would be another Bush, but a Bush without the corporate ties. Were he somehow nominated and elected, this would not ultimately herald the movement of the GOP in a more populist direction, but would set the stage for internecine GOP warfare as conservatives would turn against him quickly and seek to oust him as progressives tried to do with Carter. The Carter parallels are already overused, I know, but they seem eerily appropriate.
Lately, I have been very down on Huckabee, since he now has a decent shot at prolonging his campaign into the spring as a real contender. But I did say a few weeks ago:
I don’t like Huckabee, and I don’t want him to do well, but both he and Paul drive different parts of the establishment crazy and could throw the entire race into disarray, which would be a good thing for many reasons.
Well, we have disarray now, and it is good that Huckabee is challenging the notion that blatant opportunism and money can dominate our political process without any resistance. Unfortunately, what he offers in its place (feel-good quips and charismatic, personality-driven politics) is worrisome for different reasons. I still don’t want him to win, but I think his candidacy may make the eventual nominee, whoever it is, have to take social conservatives much more seriously and offer them the kinds of concessions and influence that their leaders seem unwilling to extract on their behalf.
This line from Waldman is a summary of part of what I was saying yesterday:
This primary battle is a symptom, not a cause, of a crumbling conservative coalition.