Huckabee fancies himself persecuted by the Republican "establishment," a creature already negligible by 1964, when it failed to stop Barry Goldwater's nomination. The establishment's voice, the New York Herald Tribune, expired in 1966. Huckabee says "only one explanation" fits his Iowa success "and it's not a human one. It's the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of 5,000 people." God so loves Huckabee's politics that He worked a Midwest miracle on his behalf? Should someone so delusional control nuclear weapons?
Speaking of delusions, Edwards seems unaware that the world market sets the price of oil. He says a $100-a-barrel price is evidence of -- surging demand in India and China? unrest in Nigeria's oil fields? No, "corporate greed." That is Edwards' explanation of every unpleasantness. Mitt Romney's versatility of conviction, although it repelled Iowans, has been a modest makeover compared to Edwards' personality transplant. The sunny Southerner of 2004 has become the angry paladin of the suffering multitudes, to whom he shouts: "Treat these people the way they treat you!" Presumably he means treat "the rich" badly -- an odious exhortation to one portion of Americans, regarding another.
Although Huckabee and Edwards profess to loathe and vow to change Washington's culture, each would aggravate its toxicity. Each overflows with and wallows in the pugnacity of the self-righteous who discern contemptible motives behind all disagreements with them, and who therefore think opponents are enemies and differences are unsplittable.
The way to achieve Edwards' and Huckabee's populist goal of reducing the role of "special interests," meaning money, in government is to reduce the role of government in distributing money. But populists want to sharply increase that role by expanding the regulatory state's reach and enlarging its agenda of determining the distribution of wealth. Populists, who are slow learners, cannot comprehend this iron law: Concentrate power in Washington and you increase the power of interests whose representatives are concentrated there.
Barack Obama, who might be mercifully closing the Clinton parenthesis in presidential history, is refreshingly cerebral amid this recrudescence of the paranoid style in American politics. He is the un-Edwards and un-Huckabee -- an adult aiming to reform the real world rather than an adolescent fantasizing mock-heroic "fights" against fictitious villains in a left-wing cartoon version of this country.