My goodness, professional conservative activists and commentators certainly are busy these days trying to put up a pup (rather than a three-ring) tent for the GOP. A few weeks ago, it was social conservatives reading Giuliani out of the party. Now, in an almost Sicilian revenge pattern, several free-market, low-tax conservatives are coming after Mike Huckabee with baseball bats -- or perhaps with badminton rackets (given the elite Eastern origins of the attackers.)
One prominent conservative commentator last week, whose writing and judgment I usually admire, warned us that Huckabee was yet another in a long line of "Southern Poor-boy Populist Demagogue(s).
"Think Huey Long or George Wallace, James K. Vardaman or 'Pitchfork' Ben Tillman, to name the most salient examples of this genus. Even so canny a politician as Franklin Roosevelt feared Huey Long, for Long's motivational skills among a huge segment of the Roosevelt Coalition."
Forgive me, but while I never met Huey Long, I have met, sat down, broken bread and talked with Mike Huckabee. He is no more like Huey Long than our pet kitten "Tiger" is like his jungle beast namesake. Huey Long's use of his state police to bully Louisiana politicians and businesses (as well as his vicious demagogic rhetoric) earned him the dubious place he has in our history. As far as I can tell, Huckabee's worst sins are refusing to sign Grover Norquist's no-tax pledge and expressing in word and policy some limited sympathy for the working poor of Arkansas.
While I support Norquist's pledge and hold a hard-line position on illegals, it is absurd to consign Huckabee to some ideologically dangerous, nondemocratic, political zombie graveyard. Free-market, low-tax conservatives may point with alarm at Huckabee's policies if they wish. But what is it in the conservative drinking water recently that gives rise to such bilious language and such excluding ways of thinking?
It would behoove those of us who have been conservative Washington voices for some decades now to exercise a little modesty and humility when it comes to defining what will constitute the new, winning, principled conservatism for the next generation. National conservatism has won more elections than it has lost in the past quarter-century. But in the absence of a completely dysfunctional Democratic Party, we are not likely to continue to do so in the future with exactly the same talking points and programs we have held in the past.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.