Monday, December 10, 2007

What's the matter with Huck?

It's shock and awe for Mike Huckabee right now. When you are taking incoming at the HuffPo and National Review Online, it's got to feel all Bastogne.

I am not a Huck supporter, but I am intrigued by the animosity he raises on both the right and the left. Could there be a whiff of realignment in the air?

In books like What's The Matter with Kansas. left liberals have lamented "social values" voters who often have lower incomes and frustrate the left by refusing to "vote their pocketbooks," i.e., support candidates who advocate greater redistribution of income. Similarly, politicians who appeal to those moral values can't really mean it. It's the cynical exploitation of "wedge" issues.

These social values voters are told that they need to come to their senses and get over their attachment to quaint moral niceties. They need to make common cause with Democrats who, while they may support what these folks regard as moral license, will at least try to throw them a few more bucks.

There are, of course, huge problems with this. First, it assumes that redistributive policies will make Kansas better off and that Kansans should have no moral objection to taking someone's money. It's possible that Kansans might beg to differ.

Second, it assumes a separation between social and economic issues that may not be there. One of the tragedies of the modern left (both here and abroad) is that it tends to forget that economic prosperity requires a cultural capital that is not itself a function of economic materialism. This wasn't always the case. I think a very good argument can be made that the sexual revolution, whatever good it has done, is also indicted as a co-defendant in the persistence of the underclass in a prosperous country. Maybe they know that in Kansas.

But let's assume that there is a disconnect between the social values and economic interests of these voters. Why should they reconcile them by throwing their social values away? Why not demand a candidate that will cater to both? Maybe nothing is wrong with Kansas. It's just that the political parties have forged world views and coalitions that aren't how they see things in Topeka.

Huckabee offers a mix of economic populism and moral conservatism that we don't generally see anymore. I do not believe that he would abandon free market principles but it does seem likely that he would govern to the left of the GOP platform on economic issues in some rather significant ways. At the same time, he is likely to be a champion for moral conservatism.

So there is something for both Democrats and Republicans not to like and, perhaps, to fear.

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