“I’ve been outspent 20 to 1,” bare-boned Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee often tells a crowd. “[Just like] you feel you have been outspent 20 to 1 in just about everything you have ever tried to do.” Unlike, say, Hillary Clinton’s, his audience’s tears are real.
Warm, witty, and wearable, Arkansas’ former Governor has been the GOP phenom of early 2008. The less con man than Everyman won Iowa, braved New Hampshire and Michigan, and almost won South Carolina: a Republican – I kid you not – for the little guy. You’d think his George W. Bushwhacked party would rejoice. Think again.
Our age fights the culture war. Huckabee’s war defends Main Street v. Wall Street. He tars “hedge fund managers,” scores “East Coast Establishment Republicans,”renames the philistine Club for Growth the Club for Greed. Nodding: people trying to save, buy a home, and teach children work, family, and a reverence for everything American. Huckabee speaks for them, being one of them.
Candidates Mitt Romney and John McCain were sons of a governor and admiral, respectively. Huckabee’s dad was “a generation removed from dirt floors and outdoor toilets,”a firefighter “who worked a second job, from the shipyard, not Harvard Yard.” Romney has summer homes in Michigan and New Hampshire. Growing up, to Huckabee “‘summer’ was not a verb.”
In New Hampshire, Huckabee ate a burger named after him. In Washington, GOP elites of outsourcing, globalization, unfair trade, border insecurity, and illegal immigration quaked over sushi. The Wall Street Journal noted “the near-panic among [party] corporate and political” consultants, lobbyists, journalists, and contributors. Hating him, they want a Huckabust, not Huckaboom.
Vowing “not to carry [George W.] Bush’s water,” Rush Limbaugh, yapping “class warfare,” carries more. George Will lashes Huckabee’s “curdled populism” – a Silent Majority of small businessmen, blue collars, northern Catholics, and Southern Protestants. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce launches a media blitz. “[Like McCain] Romney embodies the leadership class,” writes David Brooks, ”Huckabee attacks it. The Old Guard has thrown everything they have.”
What explains its cuckoo calculus? How has an unknown former minister, facing ”overwhelming obstacles” – no old-boy network: little staff and cash – done far more with far less than anyone in this campaign?
First, most privileged GOPers are clueless; thus, hopeless. I have known dozens of upper-class GOP mandarins. I can count on two hands any that had to work a day, sweat a mortgage, fret over a bill. Born on third base, they hallucinate that they hit a triple. W.’s White House, Republican National Committee, and K Street reek with poor little rich swells oblivious to their electorate. To them, “summer” is a verb.
Second, like Marx, GOP capitalists think only money matters. One official lashed Huckabee for “putting the health of the family ahead of the economy’s.” Read that again. Portfolio stock transcends human stock: It might be funny if it weren’t sick By contrast, to
Huckabee you can have five golden rings, seven yachts a swimming, and eight resorts a waiting – and still be a troll. Like Mayberry, he loathes our sewer culture, especially its “the rigid, often militant secularism and multiculturalism,” writes Peggy Noonan. What we are counts more than what we have.
Third. Many elites are corrupt. “Whatever happens [to Huckabee],” says commentator Tony Blankley, “the party will have to talk persuasively to growing economic anxiety.” Don’t hold your breath: The Establishment deems such anxiety declasse. Politics should be a means, not end. The GOP hierarchy’s is an end: power. To preserve it, Beltwayers will smear even an outsider leading, as Huckabee has, all Republicans in a national Gallup Poll.
Finally, elites like losers. In 1968, they wanted Romney’s dad v. Richard Nixon. As President, Milhous won 49 States. In 1976, they wanted Gerald Ford v. Ronald Reagan. The Gipper won 49. The 2000 Establishment choice was W.: case closed. Unlike Bush, Huckabee’s left-center economic and right-center social populism weds issues – sovereignty, culture, law, and religion in public life – without which Republicans had been a minority party, and will surely be again.
A Washington Post writer once told me, ”I didn’t know there were Republicans like you still around.” She meant it as an insult. I took it as a compliment: unlike elites, preferring mom ’n’ pop to IBM. There are few GOPers like me left in Washington. Outside it, there are more than enough Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to elect a President.
Yogi Berra urged, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Huckabee is unlikely to be nominated. His lesson, though, informs. The Arkansan’s road leads to a new Republican majority. The Establishment’s path would make the GOP as extinct as the Federalists and Whigs.
Abba Eban often said, “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.” Neither does the Republican elite.
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