Is Huckabee the Only "Identity Politics" Candidate?

2 01 2008

Filed under: Rush Limbaugh, Huckabee, Election, 2008, Politics, Conservatism, Christianity

Rush used his first day back on the radio from the holidays to blast Huckabee with both guns blazing saying he is running using identity politics.

Identity politics is: “Vote for me, I’m an evangelical! Forget everything else you know about me. Forget what my issue stands are. Forget my record. Forget my past. I’m a Christian!”

That’s identity politics, and usually the left does that: “Vote for me, I’m the black guy!” “Vote for me, I’m the gay guy!” “Vote for me, I’m the lesbo!” Now, we Republicans and conservatives generally don’t do that, but Huckabee did.

Here is the audio:
Hat tip: Hot Air

I believe Rush Limbaugh is a formidable partner of both conservatism and Christianity, which go hand-in-hand on most issues. Now, this is commonly known to everyone including the media which explains why the media was infatuated with Huckabee in the initial stages of his surge – they believed he would be easily beatable by the Democrat candidate and it presented the perfect storm to inflict some major damage in the hull of the religious right.

But I disagree that Huckabee is using identity politics (the way Rush describes it) and here are three reasons why:

  1. If he was, Christian leaders would be far more unified behind him. Instead, we have Richard Land (SBC) endorsing Romney, Pat Robertson endorsing Giuliani and the National Right to Life Committee endorsing Thompson.
  2. Every candidate in the race is trying to identify with Christians. And that includes the Dems too. More so this election than ever before. We see most of this from Obama and Edwards, but even Hillary is speaking to more Christians than Bill ever did. Republican candidates know they can’t win the nomination without evangelical support, which is why Rudy swallowed the discomfort and chose to speak at the Values Voter Summit rather than face the heat later on why he skipped out. And Democrat candidates are trying to seduce at least a small portion of that Christian support to their side in an effort to beat the GOP.
  3. In prior elections the candidate tapped by the GOP to win its nomination has been sufficient for the religious right. This is the first time that there is no clear-cut winner on the GOP side that is simultaneously acceptable for social issues. As a result, it’s been up to each individual Christian to choose whom they’ll support. Huckabee may have a significant portion of that, but the fact that Romney and Thompson also have a portion indicates some dissension among evangelicals.

Certainly, Huckabee is discussing his faith and appealing to Christians more than other candidates. But every candidate in the GOP field, including Giuliani has petitioned for evangelical support by highlighting the importance of their faith. Huckabee is leading the field because he embodies the best combination of conservatism and Christianity.

I don’t see Huckabee portraying a “forget my issues, record, or past” inclination, as Rush concludes. A cursory search of his website will show that he is just as conservative as the other candidates on the major issues. He has defended and explained much of his record and past actions instead of running from them.

Several days ago, I posted this candidate comparison chart:

screen-capture
Click to enlarge (Image courtesy of AdvanceUSA)

For me, the only weak area in Huckabee’s issues is with immigration. But his views are shared by McCain and Giuliani as well. And these views certainly aren’t open-borders.

I think Rush tagged Huckabee as the identity politics candidate because his campaign was the first to have a supporter criticize him as being “an entertainer.” Though I don’t think Huckabee handled the situation entirely well, I don’t think Rush fully recognized that Huckabee doesn’t have a full time staffer in DC and therefore his statements about Rush were not a true representation of the Huckabee campaign. I thought Rush said he didn’t take any of that personal. If he didn’t, then why the need to launch 2008 with a good Huck lashing?

Others: Stop The ACLU.

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