Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

So Long Huckabee

David Domke is Professor of Communication and Head of Journalism at the University of Washington. Kevin Coe is a doctoral candidate in Speech Communication at the University of Illinois. They are authors of the The God Strategy: How Religion Became a Political Weapon in America. To learn more about the book check out their handy website here, to read more posts by them click here.  In the post below they bid farewell to Mike Huckabee.

On Tuesday, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee finally gave up on his bid to win the GOP presidential nomination. Let us be among the first to say good riddance.

Huckabee’s long-shot campaign should be remembered for what it was at its core: an unprecedented and dangerous implementation of “the God strategy.” Again and again, Huckabee showed he willing, even eager, to use religious faith as a political weapon.

9780195326413.jpgEarly in the campaign, Huckabee mobilized supporters in Iowa by running an ad touting himself as a “Christian leader” and saying “faith doesn’t just influence me, it really defines me.” The implied contrast to Mitt Romney, a Mormon, was hardly subtle.

Then, as he gained ground on Romney, Huckabee ducked and dodged when reporters asked if he thought Mormonism was a religion or a cult. He eventually affirmed in a New York Times story that Mormonism was indeed a religion—the one that “believe[s] that Jesus and the devil are brothers,” right? Huckabee apologized to Romney for the remark, but the desired damage was done.

So distasteful were Huckabee’s tactics that several prominent commentators, even some within the conservative fold, voiced criticism. Peggy Noonan questioned whether Ronald Reagan could survive the de facto religious test being imposed on candidates, and Charles Krauthammer correctly labeled Huckabee’s “exploitation of religious differences for political gain” as “un-American.”

Perhaps Huckabee just couldn’t help himself; maybe he truly believed that he was an agent of God. When he finally gained ground in the polls, after struggling for the first several months of the campaign, he suggested his rise was due to divine intervention: “There’s only one explanation for it, and it’s not a human one. It’s the same power that helped a little boy with two fish and five loaves feed a crowd of five thousand people.” Even as his hopes of winning the nomination dimmed, Huckabee kept the faith. In February he told the Conservative Political Action Conference that he would continue his campaign, saying: “I didn’t major in math, I majored in miracles, and I still believe in them.”

There is an uncomfortable and all too familiar arrogance in a politician who believes that God is on his side. In a world where millions are denied sovereignty, where poverty and disease are widespread, where people regularly kill each other because of their differing religious views, one would like to think that God has more important things to worry about than getting out the Huckabee vote.

Huckabee’s insistence on making his run for the presidency a faith-based crusade was all the more disquieting because of its implications for policy. In January, Huckabee called for the U.S. Constitution to be changed to conform to his own religious views: “[Some of my opponents] do not want to change the Constitution, but I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living God, and that’s what we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards.” Altering the Constitution based on one narrow interpretation of the Bible is, of course, exactly what the Founding Fathers sought to avoid.

And, after all of this—after doing absolutely everything possible to make religion the centerpiece of his campaign—Huckabee still had the gall to criticize those few journalists who actually scrutinized what his religious views might mean to his presidency. In February, he had this to say to the Christian Science Monitor: “There has been an attempt to ghettoize me for a very small part of my biography. The last time I was in the pulpit was 1991.”

Last in the pulpit in 1991; last in a political campaign in 2008. God willing, it will stay that way—for the good of faith and the good of the American experiment in democracy.

Recent Comments

  1. QuoVadis

    Gall? You have a fair amount of your own with this twisted piece of work. Every incident you mention is given from the most negative angle you can create!

    This article is the perfect example of what is wrong with our country right now. Everyone is so busy looking for “gotchas” in what people say to use against them to further their own agenda that they are making no effort to actually try to UNDERSTAND what people are saying.

    For just one example, Huckabee clarified his remarks about the Constitution when he was questioned about them later, but NOWHERE, not even in the article you cite did he say anything resembling “the U.S. Constitution [should] be changed to conform to his own religious views”.

    I am continually amazed at the ignorance among “intellectuals”. Spin history all you want, but the evidence is still before us even now simply by looking at the political map of the world – the Judeo-Christian principles upon which our country was founded are what made Western civilization not only great, but readily distinguishable from the East.

    Respect & dignity for all people, the inalienable rights of the individual “endowed by their Creator”, the Christian virtue of tolerance (which means respect for the free will of others to hold different beliefs rather than the relativism with which so many confuse it) are not found in the East except in places where the seeds were planted from the West.

    Sneer at our faith all you want, but secularism in the East hasn’t helped those few countries who embrace it to catch up much – and all it has brought in the West is cultural decay & decadence. Which history tells us is the downfall of all great civilizations…

    P.S. Rome fell, but Judeo-Christianity did not.
    Napoleon fell, but Judeo-Christianity did not.
    Hitler fell, but Judeo-Christianity did not.
    Stalin’s USSR fell, but Judeo-Christianity did not.
    FWIW, Huckabee is not going away either. Perhaps you should consider immigrating to one of those abundantly prosperous countries where God & religion are carefully kept out of the govt.

  2. Jessica Bennett

    The only two good things I can say about Huckabee are that he seems sincere in his faith and he’s up front about the fact that he values it more than he values the Constitution.

    I would like to remind the author of the last comment that getting the state out of the business of religious enforcement was designed to avoid the very tyrannies he mentions. Enforcement of any religion via the apparatus of the state replaces the church or temple with the governance of man. By their association, both are rendered incapable of accomplishing their stated responsibilities.

    Sticking “Judeo” in front of “Christianity” doesn’t hide the fact that he’s got the narrow worldview of a fundamentalist Christian who has been told that his religion is superior to all others and has bought it every step of the way. I know it very well because I grew up in those teachings. And I’ll fight tooth and nail against being governed by them.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *