We've seen a lot of social conservatives upset over today's intemperate attack by Kathleen Parker (Note: she was unnecessarily contemptuous, but her point that "the Republican Party -- and conservatism with it -- eventually will die out unless religion is returned to the privacy of one's heart where it belongs" is worth serious consideration).
Well, I am a libertarian, so let's talk about the Kathleen Parker of the social conservative crowd: Mike Huckabee.
This week, Huckabee called libertarians the "real threat" to the Republican Party...
In a chapter titled "Faux-Cons: Worse than Liberalism," Huckabee identifies what he calls the "real threat" to the Republican Party: "libertarianism masked as conservatism." ... "I don't take issue with what they believe, but the smugness with which they believe it," writes Huckabee, who raised some taxes as governor and cut deals with his state's Democratic legislature. "Faux-Cons aren't interested in spirited or thoughtful debate, because such an endeavor requires accountability for the logical conclusion of their argument."
We've come quite some way since 1975, when Reagan said "I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism."
Oh, and it happens that Huckabee does, in fact, take issue with what we believe. In May of 2008, Huckabee called blamed election losses on Republicans being too "libertarian" (this is obviously some strange usage of the word "libertarian" that I was previously unaware of), accused us of being un-American (my response to that is unprintable, but I would be glad to say it to his face if he wanted to repeat his comment to my face) and then proceeded to make the standard, cartoonish Democratic argument against libertarianism.
The greatest threat to classic Republicanism is not liberalism; it's this new brand of libertarianism, which is social liberalism and economic conservatism, but it's a heartless, callous, soulless type of economic conservatism because it says "look, we want to cut taxes and eliminate government. If it means that elderly people don't get their Medicare drugs, so be it. If it means little kids go without education and healthcare, so be it." Well, that might be a quote pure economic conservative message, but it's not an American message. ...
If you have a breakdown in the social structure of a community, it's going to result in a more costly government ... police on the streets, prison beds, court costs, alcohol abuse centers, domestic violence shelters, all are very expensive. What's the answer to that? Cut them out? Well, the libertarians say "yes, we shouldn't be funding that stuff."
Excepting the anarcho-capitalists (who basically aren't a part of the electoral equation, anyway), I don't know a single libertarian who says we shouldn't fund police, prisons or courts. Most libertarians who are aligned with the Right or the Republican Party are less concerned about the few billion that Huckabee describes here than they are about the few trillion other dollars the government is spending, or the uncountable additional costs of unnecessary regulation and legislation. (This is a perfect illustration of my problem #3 with Mike Huckabee, noted below)
So, let me boil down my problems with Mike Huckabee.
- Huckabee is a Rawlsian liberal + social conservative: Mike Huckabee describes his political philosophy as (a) the Golden Rule ("Do unto others as you would have them do unto to you", and (b) a passage from the Bible ("Inasmuch as you have done to the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me"). This is not "conservatism"; it is basic Rawlsian liberalism.
- Huckabee makes little distinction between religion and politics: It's not that he's religious. It's that Mike Huckabee appears to be incapable of drawing a meaningful distinction between religion and politics. For instance, in 1997, Governor Huckabee held up a disaster relief bill for weeks because he objected to its description of floods and tornados as "an act of God". He explained his position on another bill by saying "I drink a different kind of Jesus juice." He has asserted a Christian duty to support other policies. The Right desperately needs to remember that where the government intrudes, church recedes.
- Huckabee accepts the Democratic framing: Mike Huckabee seems to have far more complaints with Republicans than with Democrats. Worse, he embraces liberal or Democratic caricatures to attack Republicans. Whether it is his attacks on libertarians, business or the Club for Growth, Huckabee almost invariably misrepresents their views, portraying them in the same cartoon terms that Democrats like to use (see the examples quoted earlier in this post).
This is easily as contemptuous, as offensive as anything Kathleen Parker has written about social conservatives. So, yeah, a columnist express disdain for social conservatives. Cry me a river. We libertarians had a social conservative Governor and Presidential candidate call us the "real threat" and "smug", and brazenly misrepresent our views before calling our message un-American.
Social conservatives have to realize that they need the fiscally conservative, socially moderate/tolerant voters if they want to be a part of a winning coalition. The limited government message won revolutionary victories for Republicans in 1980 and 1994; it is the only viable organizing principle for the current Republican coalition.
Huckabee may believe libertarians are the "real threat", but his God, Guns and Butter agenda would destroy the Right far more effectively than the libertarian cartoons that exist in Huckabee's head.