Republican Reformation?

Provocative thoughts on the meaning of the Huckabee upset–as well as why cultural issues trump economics–from David Brooks:

Huckabee won because he tapped into realities that other Republicans have been slow to recognize.

First, evangelicals have changed. Huckabee is the first ironic evangelical on the national stage. He’s funny, campy (see his Chuck Norris fixation) and he’s not at war with modern culture.

Second, Huckabee understands much better than Mitt Romney that we have a crisis of authority in this country. People have lost faith in their leaders’ ability to respond to problems. While Romney embodies the leadership class, Huckabee went after it. He criticized Wall Street and K Street. Most importantly, he sensed that conservatives do not believe their own movement is well led. He took on Rush Limbaugh, the Club for Growth and even President Bush. The old guard threw everything they had at him, and their diminished power is now exposed.

Third, Huckabee understands how middle-class anxiety is really lived. Democrats talk about wages. But real middle-class families have more to fear economically from divorce than from a free trade pact. A person’s lifetime prospects will be threatened more by single parenting than by outsourcing. Huckabee understands that economic well-being is fused with social and moral well-being, and he talks about the inter-relationship in a way no other candidate has. In that sense, Huckabee’s victory is not a step into the past. It opens up the way for a new coalition. A conservatism that recognizes stable families as the foundation of economic growth is not hard to imagine. A conservatism that loves capitalism but distrusts capitalists is not hard to imagine either. Adam Smith felt this way. A conservatism that pays attention to people making less than $50,000 a year is the only conservatism worth defending.

Will Huckabee move on and lead this new conservatism? Highly doubtful. The past few weeks have exposed his serious flaws as a presidential candidate. His foreign policy knowledge is minimal. His lapses into amateurishness simply won’t fly in a national campaign. So the race will move on to New Hampshire. Mitt Romney is now grievously wounded. Romney represents what’s left of Republicanism 1.0. Huckabee and McCain represent half-formed iterations of Republicanism 2.0. My guess is Republicans will now swing behind McCain in order to stop Mike. Huckabee probably won’t be the nominee, but starting last night in Iowa, an evangelical began the Republican Reformation.

His third point is the best, articulating well how “it’s not the economy, stupid”; rather, “it’s the culture, stupid.” But do you think the Republican party needs a reformation? And, if so, who is its Luther?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Richard

    Alan Keyes–just kidding.

  • Richard

    Alan Keyes–just kidding.

  • Joe

    It needs a reformation of sorts. What it needs to recognize is that we are not fitting the same battles that Reagan fought. The Reagan revolution was a success, we won it, we righted the ship. What we have not done well is captain it.

  • Joe

    It needs a reformation of sorts. What it needs to recognize is that we are not fitting the same battles that Reagan fought. The Reagan revolution was a success, we won it, we righted the ship. What we have not done well is captain it.

  • Bror Erickson

    Joe,
    You are right. We are not fighting the same battles as Ronald Reagan. But I think we need another Reagan. That doesn’t mean someone who invokes his name at every stop on the campaign trail. But someone who can assess the problems that are facing us, unite the country behind him, and fix the problems.

  • Bror Erickson

    Joe,
    You are right. We are not fighting the same battles as Ronald Reagan. But I think we need another Reagan. That doesn’t mean someone who invokes his name at every stop on the campaign trail. But someone who can assess the problems that are facing us, unite the country behind him, and fix the problems.

  • Bror Erickson

    I think Huckabee and McCain should unite on the same ticket somehow. Two years ago I didn’t like McCain at all. I really do not care for that Campaing finance reform. But I do like his stance on foreign policy, and illegal immigration. I think if the two got together they could do a lot to benefit one another. McCains foreign policy experience would be a great asset to Huckabee. The two are in agreement in many issues. Huckabees wit would go a long way for McCain who seems to some how be able to talk with out moving his lips, or make facial expressions whatsoever. He isn’t quite as stiff as Romney but close.

  • Bror Erickson

    I think Huckabee and McCain should unite on the same ticket somehow. Two years ago I didn’t like McCain at all. I really do not care for that Campaing finance reform. But I do like his stance on foreign policy, and illegal immigration. I think if the two got together they could do a lot to benefit one another. McCains foreign policy experience would be a great asset to Huckabee. The two are in agreement in many issues. Huckabees wit would go a long way for McCain who seems to some how be able to talk with out moving his lips, or make facial expressions whatsoever. He isn’t quite as stiff as Romney but close.

  • Don S

    I agree that Huckabee’s message seems to be that we need to be about more than economic issues. But how does the federal government address cultural issues, such as divorce? Huckabee’s answer to this question is unclear to me. In my view, the best thing the feds can do is get out of the way, by returning to traditional Republican and Constitutional values of limited government. Dismantle the Education Department, which causes great mischief by funding many anti-God mandates and NEA initiatives, and hasn’t improved our education system one bit, dismantle HHS, returning more responsibility for the poor to the states and private charities, and reforming laws of standing so that special interest groups like the ACLU cannot litigiously thwart every attempt by God-fearing people to include notions of faith in God in the public discourse. Allowing the faith community to fully participate in the fabric of society will do far more to address cultural issues such as divorce than 1000 government programs and “social safety nets”.

    A side benefit of reducing the size and scope of the federal government in this way would be substantial reductions in taxation and needs for government funds.

    When I hear Huckabee saying these things, which I believe would be well-received by traditional conservative Republicans such as me and the Club for Growth, I will happily vote for him.

  • Don S

    I agree that Huckabee’s message seems to be that we need to be about more than economic issues. But how does the federal government address cultural issues, such as divorce? Huckabee’s answer to this question is unclear to me. In my view, the best thing the feds can do is get out of the way, by returning to traditional Republican and Constitutional values of limited government. Dismantle the Education Department, which causes great mischief by funding many anti-God mandates and NEA initiatives, and hasn’t improved our education system one bit, dismantle HHS, returning more responsibility for the poor to the states and private charities, and reforming laws of standing so that special interest groups like the ACLU cannot litigiously thwart every attempt by God-fearing people to include notions of faith in God in the public discourse. Allowing the faith community to fully participate in the fabric of society will do far more to address cultural issues such as divorce than 1000 government programs and “social safety nets”.

    A side benefit of reducing the size and scope of the federal government in this way would be substantial reductions in taxation and needs for government funds.

    When I hear Huckabee saying these things, which I believe would be well-received by traditional conservative Republicans such as me and the Club for Growth, I will happily vote for him.

  • fw

    My this man sounds like a democrat.

  • fw

    My this man sounds like a democrat.

  • fw

    and not the good kinda democrat…

  • fw

    and not the good kinda democrat…

  • Joe

    Bror – with that definition of Reagan I would agree.

  • Joe

    Bror – with that definition of Reagan I would agree.


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