Pardon me, but have you seen my Republican Party lately? I don’t recognize it anywhere.
My mom worked for Barry Goldwater as she carried me in her womb, Ronald Reagan was elected Governor of my home state of California when I was two years old, and I’ve believed in the principles of Goldwater and Reagan all my life.
But given the surge of the “Huckabee for President” campaign, it would seem that many Republicans have abandoned Reagan’s vision in favor of something more reminiscent of President Carter.
As a former Governor, Huckabee has a less-than-conservative track record on a wide range of crucial policy issues, from taxation to immigration to judicial appointments. But Huckabee speaks fluently about Jesus Christ, and theology, and for some people this is apparently all that matters.
And this is why I’m confused. How can so many members of the Republican Party be so quick to abandon the principles of Ronald Reagan?
Huckabee is an anathema to the political conservative movement, a movement that has existed as long as I’ve been alive. But he also poses challenges for another group that has existed for most of my life - - the religious social conservatives.
While making the case for its own policy ideas, the “Christian Right,” as it is sometimes called, has always maintained that attending church regularly and studying the Bible does not disqualify one from participating in our politics. I have always agreed with this assertion, and have been fully supportive of it.
But now we have a presidential candidate who is saying something quite different. By both implicit and explicit means, Huckabee has been conveying that his Evangelical Christianity - - his personal faith, his having attended a Bible college, and his status as an ordained Pastor - - qualify him to be President! This is problematic for the presumed “leaders” of the religious social conservative movement, on at least a couple of accounts.
First, for all the obsessing about a Mormon interjecting his religion into our nation’s politics, Mitt Romney simply has not done this (indeed he has tried to avoid talking about his church as much as possible). Yet in the past several weeks, Huckabee has been interjecting his Evangelicalism into the political process at nearly every turn - - and that seems to be just fine for the “leaders” of the movement.
Huckabee has repeatedly invoked the name of Christ; has fired-off innuendo’s criticizing the theology of other candidates (primarily Romney’s theology); has dismissed any criticism of his behavior as “political correctness;” and has generally sought to present himself as the “most Christian” of the candidates. Yet the same “leaders” who are so afraid that Romney might “mix politics and religion” can’t even bring themselves to question Huckabee’s behavior as he forces theological arguments into the political debate.
Additionally, the reaction (or “non-reaction” as the case may be) to the Huckabee campaign from the religious social conservative movement affirms the worst suspicions of the critics. Rather than being a movement that proposes policies that are good for ALL Americans and then seeks to build consensus around those policies, the movement now appears to be fraught with a “double standard,” just as it also appears to support only candidates that profess the “right” theology - - policies and job qualifications not withstanding.
After reading this, many people will email me Bible verses, and tell me that I don’t get it, and tell me that Mormonism is more evil that I realize, and remind me that we want a “godly man” in the White House. And this illustrates my precise point: there is a time and a place for theological arguments, and this isn’t it. I’m writing here about politics, and advancing political ideals. This is what presidential campaigns are about, as well.
While one’s faith can, and should inform their politics, personal faith and personal politics are not the same thing. But it appears that now, in the year 2007, many Republicans view faith and politics as being very much the same thing. This dangerous mindset precludes the possibility of building consensus with anybody who doesn’t happen to go to the “right” church.
So what happened to the Republican “big tent” concept? And how did we arrive at a point where a candidate’s governing philosophies can be so easily ignored, simply because he has been to Bible college and professes the name of Jesus?
The current success of the Huckabee campaign spells trouble for both the Republican Party, AND the religious conservative movement. It is now my hope that there are other conservative Americans who are as disgusted with these conditions as I am, and are ready to bring about change.