Thursday, October 25, 2007

Our Conservative Choice: An Endorsement of Mike Huckabee

[Note: This post is co-authored with Joe Carter and Matthew Anderson.]

When it comes to politics, we three are pragmatic idealists. We are dedicated to the pursuit of noble principles and goals while never forgetting that politics is the "art of the possible." Because we are idealists we are choosing to endorse a candidate who most aligns with our principles and values and is most worthy of our sacred trust. Because we are pragmatists we are choosing to endorse the one candidate who we believe is most capable of defeating Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Because we are pragmatic idealists we are endorsing Gov. Mike Huckabee.

For several months we have admired the scrappy campaign of Gov. Huckabee but believed it would be a wasted effort to support him with our time, energy, and finances. We bought into the notion that he could never get the GOP nomination since conservative voters would not support him. And the reason we were told conservative voters would never support him is because he could not get the nomination. To quote John Piper (from a different context), "It’s like the army being defeated because there aren’t enough troops, and the troops won’t sign up because the army’s being defeated."

We can no longer sit idly by and allow the campaign of a worthy candidate and an honorable man to flounder for lack of support.

Only after prayerfully considering the issues, the candidates, and the electoral calculus have we decided to settle on this joint endorsement. We hope that you will join us in careful deliberation of Gov. Huckabee's candidacy and that you will join us in pledging to cast a sacred vote for the office of President of the United States. Our army may go down in defeat, but it won't be because we refused to enlist in this worthy cause.

Addendum: We hope to persuade other conservatives that Gov. Huckabee is capable of not only appealing to the three legs of the conservative coalition—social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and defense conservatives—but to a broader confederation of Republicans and independents. The following is our reasons and rationale:

Social conservatives. Gov. Huckabee is by far the most socially conservative candidate running for President. He supports passage of constitutional amendments to protect the right to life and the definition of marriage; he opposes embryo-destructive research and promises to veto any pro-abortion legislation; he supports policies that ensure children receive "a quality education, first-rate health care, decent housing in a safe neighborhood, and clean air and drinking water"; he proposes a nine point Veteran’s Bill of Rights; and he emphasizes that there is a religious and moral imperative to conserve resources and protect God’s creation.

Defense conservatives. Gov. Huckabee vows to remain vigilant in the "world war" against Islamic extremism and says that "this threat is one that we cannot negotiate, accommodate, or placate—it is one which we must eradicate"; he supports the Powell Doctrine of using overwhelming force to accomplish a mission; he believes that "Iraq is a battle in our generational, ideological war on terror" and is committed to defeating Al Qaeda there in order to bring stability to the country; he supports a regional summit so that Iraq’s neighbors become financially and militarily committed to stabilizing Iraq now rather than financially and militarily committed to widening the war later; he is a strong supporter of Israel, "the only fully-functioning democracy in the Middle East, and our greatest friend in that region"; he believes that securing the border is a national security measure and must be done immediately.

Fiscal conservatives. Gov. Huckabee is a candidate that should appeal to fiscal conservatives. He has signed the Presidential Taxpayer Protection Pledge which binds the signer to "oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses … and oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates"; he supports the FairTax, which would abolish the IRS and replace the Internal Revenue Code with a consumption tax; he believes in free trade (that is, fair trade) and claims that "globalization, done right, done fairly, can be the equivalent of a big pay raise by allowing us to buy things more cheaply."

Some of us were initially duped by the white paper on Huckabee that was released by the Club for Growth. Even though the CFG is slightly outside of the mainstream on conservative fiscal policies (CFG is to fiscal conservatism what the Christian Coalition is to social conservatism), we respect the organization and appreciate their valuable work. Nevertheless, we were dismayed by their report that was at times misleading, if not outright dishonest.

We acknowledge that the Club for Growth believes that state sales taxes should never be increased to pay for such entitlements as education, Medicare, highways, and economic development. We understand that this is the reason that they oppose Gov. Huckabee’s record. But we believe that most Americans—and most conservatives—are not minarchists. We do not think the fiscal conservative bona fides of a man who cut taxes and fees almost 100 times, saving the taxpayers almost $380 million, and left a surplus of nearly $850 million should be denigrated because he took such actions as implementing a 1/8-cent sales tax hike. Although we respect the CFC, we are dismayed at the disingenuous means that the group has used to smear the Governor’s character. (We plan to issue a point-by-point response to the white paper in a future post.)

Of course, Gov. Huckabee is not a perfect candidate. No candidate ever is or ever will be. But we believe that he possesses qualities that should be appealing and encouraging to all branches of conservatives.

Just as importantly, Gov. Huckabee has the ability to appeal to non-conservative voters. He’s charming and charismatic, a gifted speaker with a quick wit and disarming sense of humor. He is the anti-Hillary.

In many ways, Gov. Huckabee is also an antithesis of President Bush. He has a real chance of being the successor, at least in one aspect, to the Great Communicator, Ronald Reagan. Conservatism—and the country—have been deeply hindered by President Bush’s inability to communicate the conservative vision. "Huckabee is something that the party needs," noted David Brooks of the New York Times. "He is a solid conservative who is both temperamentally and substantively different from the conservatives who have led the country over the past few years."

As Jonathan Alter, senior editor of Newsweek, recently wrote:

The GOP is in a deep hole and keeps digging. Even after Mike Huckabee won big among attendees at last week’s "Values Voters Convention," many evangelicals have been telling the former Arkansas governor—and onetime Baptist minister—that they like him but won’t back him because he can’t beat Hillary Clinton. They have it exactly backward. He may be the only Republican candidate with a decent chance to beat the Democrats next November.
Some of the reasons include the weakness of the other candidates, especially Rudy Giuliani: "[The Mayor's] positions on Iraq, S-CHIP and the need for anti-abortion Supreme Court justices are all deeply unpopular in Blue States and would be hung around his neck next fall." He is also unacceptable to social conservatives and other religious voters. Mitt Romney is considered too slick, too corporate, too calculating, and too Mormon. And Fred Thompson, as Alter notes, "is not ready for prime time."

Huckabee also has an engrossing personal story. Alter continues:

Voters in general elections are less ideological than in primaries and more intrigued by a compelling personal narrative. Huckabee’s story hits closer to home than any other. After chest pains and a diagnosis of diabetes, he lost more than 100 pounds with diet and exercise. He tells the story with wit and grace (as well as the one about his wife’s cancer diagnosis many years ago) and would kill on Oprah. When Huckabee talks about broader health-care issues he does more than brag about Arkansas’s success under his leadership. He speaks in a folksy and comprehensible way that would match up well against Hillary’s facts and figures or Obama’s abstractions. The same holds true on education; his support for large-scale federal support of art and music programs to improve creativity (and thus competitiveness in the global economy) would resonate with millions of voters.

Even on faith and politics, Mike is easy to like. From afar he seemed extreme because he raised his hand in a debate when the candidates were asked en masse if they believed in evolution. But when Bill Maher pressed him to justify that view on his HBO show, Huckabee responded with a nuanced and presentable discussion of the origins of the universe that seemed to pacify even the atheist host. (I found this as well when we discussed the subject some months ago.) He has surely said some wacky right-wing things that could be used against him, but no more than any of the others in the Republican field.

For these reasons and more, we have become persuaded that Mike Huckabee can indeed win the general election for President of the United States. Again, quoting Jonathan Alter of Newsweek: "He may be the only Republican candidate with a decent chance to beat the Democrats next November."

But he cannot win the general election if he does not first win the Republican nomination. Up until now, there have been few who have believed this is possible. But this is starting to change. David Brooks recently wrote, "It’s quickly clear that Huckabee is as good a campaigner as anybody running for president this year. And before too long it becomes easy to come up with reasons why he might have a realistic shot at winning the Republican nomination."

Gov. Huckabee cannot win the nomination without our votes and without our support. Now is the time to act. If you care about the three legs of the conservative stool—social conservatism, fiscal responsibility, and strong defense—and if you do not want four (or eight!) years of Hillary, then you should join us in supporting Mike Huckabee for President.

Make a donation to the Huckabee campaign.