First of all, a little disclaimer, I’m a HUGE Jonah Goldberg fan. I’m looking forward to buying his book, Liberal Fascism, just as soon as I get the chance. He understands true Conservatism (and modern “Liberalism”) more completely than most.
But he’s wrong on Mike Huckabee.
And that’s OK, noone’s perfect, and if I were in his position I’d probably feel the same way. But I’m not, so I’m going to try to add a little perspective.
Jonah Goldberg had an article in the L.A. Times a few months ago that is definitely worth reading. The reason is worth reading is because Jonah Goldberg is the best at analyzing political thought, and calling it like it is. Here’s an excerpt:
What’s troubling about The Man From Hope 2.0 is what he represents. Huckabee represents compassionate conservatism on steroids. A devout social conservative on issues such as abortion, school prayer, homosexuality and evolution, Huckabee is a populist on economics, a fad-follower on the environment and an all-around do-gooder who believes that the biblical obligation to do “good works” extends to using government — and your tax dollars — to bring us closer to the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.
For example, Huckabee has indicated he would support a nationwide federal ban on public smoking. Why? Because he’s on a health kick, thinks smoking is bad and believes the government should do the right thing.
And therein lies the chief difference between Paul and Huckabee. One is a culturally conservative libertarian. The other is a right-wing progressive.
First of all, there’s a key word in that first paragraph: “represents.” Mike Huckabee represents something that Jonah is severely uncomfortable with. Never mind that the Governor has never pushed for “populist” economics. And never mind that although the Governor does believe there is an obligation for us as U.S. citizens, biblically and otherwise, to do “good works”, he has never said that federal tax dollars (or even State tax dollars for that matter) were best suited to do it.
And on the smoking ban, I think Huckabee’s position on it might be flawed. Like I said, noone’s perfect. However, noone on the “Libertarian” side seems to be willing to have the conversation about what Huckabee’s position is on it…and that is he believes it’s a workplace safety issue, and that a ban on smoking in the workplace is equal to any other Federal safety regulations.
I’m not sure I agree with Huckabee either on this one…but is Jonah Goldberg willing to argue with him on the merits? No…scream “Free Markets” and move on…OK. I’ve done it myself, but it doesn’t really add to the discourse does it? And the issues themselves are irrelevant because it’s what Huckabee represents that’s important.
Indeed, Huckabee represents the latest attempt to make conservatism more popular by jettisoning the unpopular bits. Contrary to the conventional belief that Republicans need to drop their opposition to abortion, gay marriage and the like in order to be popular, Huckabee understands that the unpopular stuff is the economic libertarianism: free trade and smaller government. That’s why we’re seeing a rise in economic populism on the right coupled with a culturally conservative populism. Huckabee is the bastard child of Lou Dobbs and Pat Robertson.
(Again that word) Now we see how economic populism has now been combined with social populism? What is social populism all of a sudden. Just a second ago, I was under the impression that “populism” was by definition economic. What an interesting turn of events. What I don’t understand from this argument is that Jonah feels that social and economic conservative principles are mutually exclusive.
More importantly, in the same SENTENCE that Jonah accuses Mike Huckabee of dropping economically Conservative principles for the purpose of embracing socially Conservative principles, he posits that the “conventional belief” is that Republicans should just drop the Social Principles. Wow. I’ll come back to that.
Historically, the conservative movement benefited from the tension between libertarianism and cultural traditionalism. This tension — and the effort to reconcile it under the name “fusionism” — has been mischaracterized as a battle between right-wing factions when it is a conflict that runs through the heart of individual conservatives. We all have little Mike Huckabees and Ron Pauls sitting on our shoulders. Neither is always right, but both should be listened to.”
This is all true, except it ignores the concept of Federalism, which Jonah understands all too well, but has chosen to completely leave out of the conversation for reasons that are unclear. The problem is: Jonah Goldberg, while accurately describing the internal conflict within true Conservatives has decided to kick the little Mike Huckabee off of his shoulder and listen only to the Ron Paul. He doesn’t like Mike Huckabee because Mike Huckabee is a Conservative and not a Libertarian. Jonah Goldberg is very much a Libertarian. There is no Mike Huckabee on his shoulder or he wouldn’t be poopooing a stance on traditional marriage or sanctity of life.
And the issues of sanctity of life, traditional marriage, family values, etc. are not “in-tension” with the views of property rights, right-to-bear-arms, and Free Markets. They are inexorably intertwined…if you really follow Mike on almost every issue, you’ll find that his Social Conservatism defines and strengthens his Libertarianism and vice-versa.
It’s much more like the Freedom and Security “tension” (you can’t be Free if you’re not safe, and if you can’t be free why be safe at all) If families, communities, Faiths, Traditions, are not respected and preserved, then Government fills that void…EVERY TIME.
So Jonah, go find that little Mike Huckabee that you flicked off of your shoulder and have a conversation with him. Better yet…get out of Manhattan and D.C. and go talk to someone in Middle America, and after you’ve talked with a few of them …tell me if their Social Conservatism doesn’t have a sincerely Libertarian tint to it.
Your Libertarianism isn’t any more or less important than theirs just because it’s defined under different terms.