Globalization is the closest thing the money-cons have to a religion. In addition to thinking that it’s good for them, they genuinely believe that it’s good for the world. Huckabee, by contrast, seriously believes that the U.S. should be economically autarchic, with high trade barriers. That’s what really sticks in the money-cons’ craw; the outpouring of abuse directed at Huckabee’s social background (he’s “Huckleberry” to some of them) and his religiosity is largely secondary to the fear of Huckabee’s Peronist economic tendencies. ~Mark Kleiman
Peronist? That’s a bit of an exaggeration. He’s more like a “Perot-nist” in some respects, and you would be hard-pressed to find him arguing for autarchy. In his careless moments, I have heard him speak well of NAFTA (he said so in his interview with Ross in GQ, for example), so his corporation-bashing and rhetorical nods towards protectionism may not be as indicative of his policy views as we may think. I agree that it is his trade and economic views (or at least what they think his trade and economic views are) that make him unusually unpopular with conservative elites:
What I think really bothers the mainstream about Huckabee, to the extent that they are bothered (and if he wins Iowa, you can expect them to come after him with guns blazing), is his view on trade. Along with Hunter, he is really the only other protectionist in the GOP field. Like Hunter, he has not had much luck raising very much cash, because his position on trade alienates wealthy donors and establishment figures. The main orthodoxy Huckabee is running up against is not over the size of government, but rather the free trade orthodoxy that has almost completely captured the GOP (and which is, incidentally, killing them in the Midwest and elsewhere). In practice, this is a much more important “orthodoxy” and politicians who go against it have a much harder time getting support. What I think frightens the mainstream about Huckabee is that he may be able to smuggle in his protectionism under the cover of the big-government conservatism that the GOP has been practicing for years. What is also frightening to them about Huckabee is that his views on trade are much closer to a strong plurality view within the GOP (his views on immigration, not so much), which gives him a decent shot at appealing to the voters in the primaries and the general election. If he advances very far, Huckabee’s appeal will throw free traders into a bit of a panic, since it will mean that major candidates on both sides are openly talking skeptically about the benefits of free trade.
This still seems right, but the other factors are still very important. I think you also have the desire to marginalise or keep down social conservatives, subordinate their goals to those of economic and “national security” conservatives (as usual) and resist the takeover of the party leadership by someone who embarrasses urban sophisticates with his rusticity and creationism.
The calculation that a Huckabee nomination leads to epic electoral disaster for the GOP is naturally one that his opponents within the party would promote, but it is curious to see how readily it is being accepted on the other side. Here’s Yglesias:
A Huckabee-led Republican Party would, even if it got its act together and started offering a well-briefed candidate with cutting-edge policies out of the conservative think tax universe, be very very very Southern and not even in a particularly “New South” kind of way. You could pull this off, perhaps, under generally favorable political circumstances, but given the bad overall climate it’d be a recipe for disaster.
Unless the nominee is Obama, I’m not sure I see how Huckabee’s Southern-ness becomes that salient, and if the nominee is Obama the Democrats are going to have their own electability problems. How does his being from the South really impact a Clinton-Huckabee or Edwards-Huckabee race? In any case, I don’t see the disaster happening. I should qualify that: I don’t see a GOP electoral disaster happening because of a Huckabee nomination. If the GOP are going to be blown out or at least defeated next year, it will be because of changes in the electorate brought on by disillusionment with this administration and its actions. The Republicans are either unwilling or, in some cases, unable to fix that, so they have to find a nominee who gives them the most competitive chance. According to the conventional (and wrong) wisdom that social conservatism wrecked the GOP and the Republicans needed to cut back on it to be competitive, Giuliani or McCain seemed the logical choices for making the GOP as competitive as possible. Appealing to social moderates by nominating a social moderate made a certain amount of superficial sense. However, as the economy became one of the main issues in the campaign and the leading issue of concern to voters, these two were never going to be particularly well-positioned to win over an electorate that will likely be in a much more populist mood. Likewise, Romney and Thompson would also make poor standard-bearers, their other personal flaws and liabilities aside, given their rosy and positive assessments of the economy.
What many observers seem to be missing about Huckabee is that he is very New South, which is what has informed his heretofore gushy “compassionate” views on immigration policy. Unlike Bush, who has no more real claim to being a Southerner than I do (west Texas is not the South), Huckabee is someone born and raised in the South who has embraced much of the New South image, particularly as it pertains to race relations. Like Bush, he has made appealing to minority voters something of a priority, but unlike Bush he has actually been successful in getting black voters to vote for him (this is itself partly a function of his heterodox policy views). According to exit polls in his ‘98 re-election, he supposedly won 48% of the black vote, which is almost certainly too high, but he probably did get at least 20%. His populism will be helpful in the Midwest, which the GOP has to hold to win the election, and his views on teaching creationism in schools are actually in agreement with the majority of the public. He is in some ways the only candidate the GOP has on hand to appeal to “downscale” voters, and while the champions of Sam’s Club Republicanism don’t want to identify their cause too closely with him (understandably, given the current backlash and the man’s real flaws) he is nonetheless the most plausible candidate for what they are promoting.
For all the people who are constantly chattering about how the GOP has to expand its coalition or go into decline, Huckabee is in some ways the obvious choice…except that he frightens off the money and the elites back East. The hostility to Huckabee derives finally, I think, from the fear of a Huckabee victory and not fear of an electoral blowout by the Democrats. As I have suggested before, this would mean GOP fratricide for four years. This might then pave the way to a Democratic landslide, or it might not, but it would probably leave the GOP changed beyond recognition.