Getting Our Huckabearings

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The Greenberg Center’s gimlet-eyed associate director, Andrew Walsh, has noted a certain fuzziness in this blog’s picture of Mike Huckabee, and we’re not the only ones having trouble getting our bearings when it comes to the former Arkansas gov. Part of the problem is that Huck is rather a work in progress as a national political figure, and some the positions that once seemed to distinguish him as a different kind of Republican candidate–for example, his approach to illegal immigrants–now, in his more evolved state as a presidential candidate, are not much in evidence, so to say.
He’s also the Rashomon of the field, giving different impressions depending on where he’s grabbed. Thus, Max Blumenthal’s piece in the online Nation, “The Real Mike Huckabee,” purports to reveal the Christian wacko behind the friendly scrim. It’s mostly an exercise in guilt by association, with the associate being one Jay Cole, an old and ailing Baptist minister and radio talk show host from Fayetteville who expects the imminent return of Christ. It’s conventional for leftish journalists to to try hang millennialism around the neck of all evangelical politicians, and Blumenthal embraces the convention. But there’s nothing much to tie Huck himself to this theological outlook, other than Cole’s say so. Still, the piece is worth a read.
Then there’s David Kirkpatrick’s survey of evangelical support for Huck in today’s New York Times. The central claim is that while the old evangelical leaders are largely lukewarm towards Huck, the younger generation is on board. Whether it’s the younger generation or the grass roots is not entirely clear, but the piece offers some good reporting on state organizing efforts, with some interesting asides on efforts by the Huckabee campaign to round up conservative Catholics. In principle, Huck’s willingness to stand up for the less well off in society should be appealing to Catholics. The populism may come from different religious places, but, as Michael Kazin’s recent biography of William Jennings Bryan makes clear, the Great Commoner himself cultivated the Catholic working class of his day, and pretty successfully.