Huckabee: The Most Reaganesqe

23 01 2008

Filed under: Politics, Conservatism, Ronald Reagan

Lots of working and coaching this week, but came across this article yesterday highlighting Huckabee’s likeness to Reagan. With all the invoking of President Reagan this cycle, it’s nice to see some backing to these claims. This piece, by Congressman John Linder (R-Ga), is written from experience, not theroy – Linder worked on the Reagan campaign.

Read the whole thing, carefully, because invoking Reagan is popular, but serious business these days. I’ve bolded the key phrases applicable to this election.

Two years after that first election, I went to work on the Reagan campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. I was one of the leaders of that campaign in Georgia, and my friend, Paul Coverdell, led the establishment’s efforts to nominate President Ford.

Most of them [my friends in the party] thought the nomination of Ronald Reagan was not only impractical, but would destroy our party.

Reagan had just served two terms as the governor of California. His record was not all that conservative. He signed the biggest tax increase in the history of the state. He got the best he could get with a Democrat-dominated general assembly. He signed a bill legalizing abortion. But governors have different challenges than presidents.

Their concern with Reagan was that he just wasn’t up to it. What did he know about foreign policy? How could he stand up to the Soviets? Did he understand detente?

Coverdell approached me, after Ford had won the first several primaries, and urged me to switch sides. Paul was convinced that Ford had the best chance of winning. Paul recited all of the reservations mentioned above and then said, “John, Reagan cannot win. No one will take him seriously.” That was also the consensus of the Republican writers and commentators.

I said, “Paul, I think politics is all about what you believe. I know what Reagan believes. I have no idea what Ford believes. But you need to watch Reagan connect with the people. He is the best communicator I have ever seen. He is bringing new people into the party. And these are folks you won’t be meeting at the club for lunch. They carry a lunch bucket to work. Or a brown paper bag.”

Four years later, I worked again for Reagan and Paul worked for George H. W. Bush. Again, the Wall Street crowd sat at the head table, and the Main Street crowd sat at the small round tables on the floor.

The same arguments came from the establishment. His tax cut idea was a “riverboat gamble.” In fact, his tax cuts doubled the size of the economy and doubled revenues to the treasury. Unfortunately, they spent that and more.

Reagan didn’t understand that the world is a dangerous place and dealing with the Soviets required a more “understanding” policy. It also required a willingness to sign more treaties. They didn’t know that Reagan had no interest in understanding the Soviets. He wanted communism consigned to “the ash heap of history.”

It was a neverending series of put-downs until New Hampshire. Then it was over.

Reagan won that election with the support of Larry Lunch-bucket and Betty Brownbag. They were called the Reagan Democrats. When we celebrated that victory, I asked some of them why they chose to join us. They said, “When he talked, we felt that he was talking to us.” The Reagan Democrats believe they have been ignored since 1988.

The establishment doesn’t like change. They have always felt that their seats at the head table were threatened by those new to the club. The establishment that so ardently opposed Reagan’s nomination in 1980 crawled all over each other to chair his 1984 race.

Today they now see themselves as those who put Reagan in power. His presidency was their presidency. They believe they are the keepers of the flame.

Today’s establishment includes elected officials, consultants, lobbyists and even conservative writers and commentators. Unless you allow them to write the rules and approve of your positions you are unwelcome. Anyone who does not genuflect before their altar is “not conservative.”

When you look at the many fine candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president, who do you believe can best speak to those Reagan Democrats?

I believe that candidate is Mike Huckabee.

When Reagan became president, one of his first moves was to reduce income taxes from 70 percent to 50 percent and ultimately down to 28 percent. As pointed out above, both the size of the economy and the federal revenues doubled in eight years.

Huckabee doesn’t want to lower income taxes. He wants to abolish them – along with the IRS, the most intrusive, coercive and corrosive federal agency ever. Mike would replace those taxes on income with a sales tax – the FairTax. Every American will become a voluntary taxpayer paying taxes when you choose, as much as you choose, by how you choose to spend. How conservative can one get?

Most conservative pundits, including Rush Limbaugh, would disagree on the grounds that Huckabee is part of some “new conservative” movement. I would argue that it’s simply a matter of this common mantra: “Principles and ideals are few and never change. Methods and ideas are numerous and do change.”

Conservatives have been burned by the Republican party, with a few exceptions largely on the social front. National security has been formidable, but costly and the country is weary. Spending was way out of control and no immigration reform was passed.

A domestic attack, an inherited recession, and a war, have stripped President Bush of any opportunity to demonstrate his conservatism. Those are outside forces. He could have done a better job managing the war certainly, but I’m not going to blame him for that. Spending and immigration are where the most conservatives got mad and, looking at the crop of Republican candidates and not seeing the “perfect” candidate, it becomes very easy to blame and attack. Huckabee has taken the brunt of the blame and wrongly so. As with any relationship, this is not a healthy course of action. But admission of guilt is step one, and we aren’t there yet and it’s less than two weeks to Super Tuesday.

As I said before, I won’t hold my breath waiting on the pundits. The pressure to adhere to the establishment or break the next Rather-gate is too great. Instead, most are just glad Thompson stayed in long enough to steal enough votes to prevent Huckabee from winning in South Carolina.

But now that Thompson’s gone, Huckabee benefits the most, though Romney also benefits some as well.

It’s been so long since we’ve had a solid conservative, most conservatives don’t recognize him when they see him.

Read Joe Carter‘s post on why McCain vote against the Bush tax cuts is actually a conservative position (hint: he’s against SPENDING).

Michelle Malkin‘s post on Fred’s withdrawal gives the impression he was the sole conservative candidate. Do we not recognize it anymore?

Right on the Right: “We need a full spectrum Conservative, and that man left the race. Now we need to rally behind the next best candidate. John McCain, the media-anointed frontrunner, has way too many faults to be our nominee.”

Hot Air on Fred: “The man who stopped Huckmentum”

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