Saturday, January 12, 2008

Why Do Conservatives Fear Mike Huckabee?

I've been curious about why seemingly conservative Republicans across the Virginia blogosphere seem to dislike and mistrust Mike Huckabee so much.

To a Democrat, like me, he would seem to appeal most perfectly to a strong part of their base, the evangelical social conservatives. Indeed, that was a key to his victory in Iowa and will be a large part of his appeal in South Carolina. Yet Republican bloggers are all over the map, with Kat, from Cathouse Chat, staunchly supporting Duncan Hunter, somebody who doesn't have a realistic chance in any primary. Jim Hoeft and Squeaky Wheel, of Bearing Drift, issued a joint endorsement of Mitt Romney a few weeks ago. And Mason Conservative was originally for Fred and then switched to Rudy.

So, what is it about Mike Huckabee that turns off these often socially conservative Republicans?

Fred Thompson gave this rather succinct wrap up explaining why party insiders dislike and mistrust Huckabee, whom conservatives like Leslie Carbone dismiss, as she did in this scathing post.

On the other hand, I've got to say in Huckabee's defense, he's no Democrat despite Thompson's attempt to portray him as such. Nor is he a liberal.

But there is a small but growing segment of young evangelicals who are disaffected with the Christian Right.

They care about issues like responsible stewardship of the environment, poverty and economic justice, racism, and peace. They are disaffected from the culture wars.

They are not liberal on abortion and they don't support gay marriage. But they are also tired of the demonization of gay people and the politicization of those wedge issues to the exclusion of other concerns.

These new Christians eschew the conservative or liberal labels and are part of a movement called the emergent church movement. Their leaders include Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, and Jim Wallis.

Although some Democrats have been hoping to lure these leaders into a closer alliance with the Democratic Party (I'm one of those who supported this), there are things about Huckabee that might appeal to the idealistic young people who make up a large part of this new movement within the evangelical churches.

There are, however, serious impediments to Huckabee picking up their support if you look below the surface of Huckabee's populist appeal.

For example, his fair tax proposal, which is a flat tax, favors the wealthy and would be burdensome to the middle class and the poor. In addition, he has made statements about gays and AIDS that hark back to the culture wars that this group is so tired of.

But Huckabee's bass playing, folksy appeal could play beyond the narrow evangelical base. And that's what's scaring traditional no-tax, let's constantly fight the culture wars conservatives who truly comprise the hard right of the Republican Party.


tx2vadem said...

Ah, the consumption tax! You know Mike Gravel is for this too, which is odd for a Democrat. But on to the "fair" tax... I am really perplexed by why Republicans would support this. I think this must just be red meat for the base though. It seems to be the same let's get rid of the IRS rhetoric they love.

A consumption tax at a level to replace Payroll, Income, Gift, and Estate taxes would be quite high. And considering the consumer spending has been the engine of this economy for many years now, it is hard to see why they would want to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Ultimately, a consumption tax is going to have a much more dramatic effect on spending than an income tax. From a psychological perspective an income tax is money you never see, whereas a sales tax comes directly from your wallet. The effect being sticker shock that prevents people from buying as much. I doubt that is what they really want. The corresponding saving that it would create might spur research and development. However, as that would be a long term economic reward and the contraction of spending would be a short term economic pain, it sounds completely politically unfeasible. Even in corporations, we are all about short term results.

I can't say that I don't like the idea of a consumption tax though. It would force us to conserve and help us get off our addiction to conspicuous consumption. And overall, if we buy less stuff, we conserve energy and resources and preserve the world for future generations. You can exempt necessities from the sales tax so that you don't affect lower and middle income folks as much. And I love eliminating the payroll taxes, why do we tax labor at a higher rate than capital gains? That tells you a lot about what we value as a society.

Quite the tangent on one small item of you Huckabee post, but finance, accounting, fiscal matters are my passion.

As a quick point on Governor Huckabee, I think were he to win. He has the potential to fracture the coalition of fiscal and social conservatives within the Republican Party. We'll see if the Club for Growth and friends tone down their rhetoric if he is the lead after Super Tuesday.

AnonymousIsAWoman said...

Thank you for the tangent tx2vadem.

You are quite right in your assessment that a consumption tax, like the Fair Tax which Mike Huckabee proposes, would be burdensome to the working class and lower middle class. It would have to be very high and would produce sticker shock for consumers.

In fact, it would, as you also point out, probably induce consumers to buy a lot less. In a recession that is exactly what you don't want to do. It would be a disincentive to economic growth.

It would actually slow down the economy at a time when it should be stimulated.

Giving a tax cut to the wealthy has a neutral effect on the economy. The wealthy will take the money from such a tax cut and invest it (good for the long term but not for immediate stimulation) or save it (same as above).

In a recession the type of tax cut that produces the stimulative effect needed to encourage growth is one targeted to the middle class and working class to get them to start buying again.

That is the type of tax cut that Democrats do support, especially at times like this when we are heading rapidly into recession and a bear market.

Andre Kenji d said...

Republicans are more worried with a candidate´s past than with it´s discourse. They know Huckabee´s past, they don´t trust what he says.

It wonders me how liberals forgets Edwards past when talking about him...