Monday, January 14, 2008

Huckabee and Faith

As I observe Huckabee's candidacy and endlessly discuss (and pile onto) his record and ideas with the three other people who read this blog, I can't help but feel that something is very, very wrong. Why would perfectly normal people, people who I respect and admire, be suddenly ditching their core conservative principles (or what I thought were their core conservative principles) to support a silver-tongued populist? This observation is not limited to my close acquaintances--I also read a good deal of commentary and featured emails from average Republicans as well as calls from them on talk radio programs.

I thought Rush had it figured out when we described the phenomenon known as "identity politics." Identity politics can be best illustrated by looking at the Democrat party. When Democrats vote for one of their candidates, they tend to do so based on an identity. They could be voting for the African-American, the woman, the union guy, the environmentalist, the gay person, etc. They seem to vote based on an identity, a certain label that coincides with their own self-perceived label.

Rush pointed out that Huckabee supporters seem to be emulating this pattern. He is the Christian (better yet, the Evangelical), and his supporters, for the most part, are also Evangelicals. Do not take this to mean that all Evangelicals support Huckabee; the latest numbers break out to about a 33% rate of support. Even so, this line of reasoning seems valid. I will admit that few of my friends will own up to this analysis; they have a number of slightly more sophisticated reasons, mainly that he is viable and very pro-life. We have spent time arguing over such deep questions as, "Would you rather have a liberal, but pro-life president or a conservative, but pro-choice president?"

As long as the argument stays in the realm of policy, all is well. However, what I sense from some of Huckabee's supporters goes beyond the debating of policy. And while Huckabee does seem to resonate with would-be Christian identity voters (I see this among the ill-informed at my church), many of his followers appear to reach yet a deeper connection, one very fitting to Christianity: they seem to take Huckabee by faith.

Some Christians (especially in the past) divide the world into two categories: things that can be known by examining evidence and things that can be known through faith. This may not be a completely inaccurate way of describing the dichotomy, but I see it as simplistic. While many tenets of Christianity must be taken by faith, God does not leave us without evidence. Creationists are forever being cast as people who ignore "science" (i.e., evidence), choosing rather to indulge in faith. My point is that real faith, Biblical faith, does not eschew evidence; it welcomes it.

Modern feel-good, believe-nothing mega churches misuse the concept of faith. Many of them twist it around to mean anything you want, saying "just believe!" and the like. They remove faith from evidence and, thereby, do real harm to the true concept of faith. I fear that many of Huckabee's supporters are taking him on faith, without feeling any need whatsoever to look back at his past governance with anything like a critical eye. Many of these Christians have much to gain from supporting conservatism and much to lose as government expands and freedom shrinks. Jimmy Carter put together such a coalition in the mid-seventies, and then proceeded to wreck the country with feel-good, unbiblical (but Christian-sounding) and liberal policies.

Huckabee claimed in the last debate, not to have raised taxes but, rather, hope. It sounds inspiring on its face. Who could be against hope? But I have yet to hear anyone explain how raising taxes (taking more money from people and frittering it away on useless or harmful social programs) gives anyone more hope, except for maybe bureaucrats in Washington. Conversely, how does lowering taxes (letting people keep more of their earnings) steal away a person's hope? I wonder about these questions. I wonder about the governor's real intentions. And I wonder about my friends and relatives. My hope is that 2008 does not become a repeat of 1976.


todd said...

I hope to be able to respond that essay without becoming a hypocrite – although I’m already not sure I’ll succeed.

Things to clarify up front:
-It seems you’re concerned (I have to take that as a key part of your message)
-It seems you’re also a little bit blue in the face from reiterating your main points against what you would call a “populist”

I mention those things, hoping that they are obvious and that I’m not reaching too far to comment with those items already on the table.
In my view you convey your stance but in a far-from-convincing manner. In fact I must assume you are not trying to convince but rather vindicate your judgment. Perhaps that’s your plan?
Basically you’ve setup a dartboard that is 98% bullseye and stood 3 feet in front of it to launch your projectiles. Here are the points you’ve placed in your big target:

1) The majorities of all people who do not support Fred are either tax and spend liberals or at least fine with voting for one.
2) If someone isn’t in the majority (as in point one) then they are going with their “ill-informed” gut (which you have labeled “faith” or at least phony faith)
3) In the case of Huckabee specifically, there is no evidence that he is anything but a liberal policy maker and legislator.
4) In the case of Huckabee specifically, he is a crafty talker and that should be cause for discarding much or all of what he says.
5) We have legitimate reason to believe that even if a republican is elected, a repeat of the Carter administration woes awaits us.

I ask, have I incorrectly represented your points? I’m thoroughly unconvinced by your reasoning. I won’t comment on them any further but reiterate that these are just too easy to attack.

(My sincere apologies if I have postured myself as your teacher on argumentation – I have no such qualification.)

On the subject of faith and Huckabee:
I’m not yet convinced that Huckabee is the right candidate. I am certainly not convinced that he is the wrong candidate. I’m even more certain that his appeals to Christians and biblical principles are not reason to move him down on my list.

He does make big of his biblical convictions (and so do I and several people that I read this blog). I admit that like the way he does it (or I have no cause for concern yet). To stand up for The Faith is to draw criticism from plenty of sources and I’ve learned that those sources are far from limited to the non-believing.

I don’t attack his Christianity, I applaud it as I would anyone who I believe agrees with and advocates for God’s position. That’s not to say he’s anointed to be president – someone is – and that person might be far from Godly. I just say that appealing to faith is no legitimate angle of attack on this man. If he’s a heretic then I plead God reveal him as such but I’m not going to persecute him for his faith because there’s a lot more important things at stake if I do that – even more important things that the presidency. I tread carefully not because Huckabee’s reputation is at stake but because God’s is.

Again, if, as I am writing this, Huckabee is speaking or writing something that confirms that he is perpetrating biblical faith just to get votes then let him be exposed. There are surely consequences for the nation that follows or even considers such a man. If however he is sincere in his commitment to biblical Christianity then may God do what is best for him and his candidacy.

I can’t find reason to declare Huckabee as a “faith” manipulator/user.

I’m outta time to continue this but I’ll tie-off by adding that I do whole-heartedly welcome and see the need for discussion of issues and certainly evidence. I look forward to that type of content exactly to make its way BACK into this blog.

Philip said...

Okay, the line-by-line:

Your up-front observations: correct and correct. I am concerned and getting tired of having to talk about this.

On to the "big dartboard":

1. I don't believe I mentioned Fred in this post--we are discussing support of Huckabee. His supporters are either a)tax-and-spend liberals b)winning to overlook that aspect of his campaign or c)unaware of his position on tax increases.

2. I'm not sure which group from my number one is more likely to be taking Huckabee, for the most part, on faith. I suspect this is occurring among the least-informed.

3. I don't deny that there are plenty of great Huckabee positions. He's just fatally flawed by a few REALLY bad positions (i.e., his willingness to raise taxes and give benefits to illegals as well as being weak on defense). I agree with many of his other positions.

4. He is a crafty talker, but that is not the reason people should reject him. Huckabee has the habit of not answering the tough questions in a direct way. This is a reason for accepting his words with caution.

5. If we elect a president who closely echoes the policy leanings of Carter (from either party), we have a least a chance of seeing a similar (or worse) result. This is pure speculation on my part, but it should be considered as a possibility.

I hope that clarifies my position. I do not mean to attack Huckabee's Christianity. I have no problem with a Baptist minister being the president, so long as he wouldn't raise taxes and look to the government first for solutions.

As Reagan Famously said, "Government is not the solution to the problem, government is the problem." As far as I can tell, Huckabee's view is that government is a BIG part of the solution. I side with Reagan.

Part of the confusion of this conversation is that we are arguing on several different levels.

Level One: What are the best policies for America? I would say conservative principles.

Level Two: Would Huckabee deliver on those policies? I think he would not govern as a conservative.

Level Three: If Huckabee claims to be a conservative, is he being truthful? If he does claim this, I believe his record shows otherwise.

That pretty much sums up my view.

Stephen said...

Yep, I'm getting pretty tired of talking about Huckabee too, especially since it doesn't look like he's going to win ...

todd said...

For real who knows who really has a shot to win at this stage? In my crystal ball Huckabee, Rudy and potentially Romney have the best chances.

I probably think this because I'm most interested in those three. Well. . .also interested in Duncan Hunter but he doesn't fit into the "has a chance" category I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Something that is really bugging me is the fact that people think Republicans can't raise taxes. They can compromise on tons of other things and still be labeled as "conservative" and "republican", but if they raise taxes or talk about raising taxes, then they are given the liberal/democrat label.

In regards to Huckabee and taxes, he pushed through the Arkansas Legislature the first major, broad-based tax cuts in state history — a $90 million tax relief package for Arkansas families.In total, Huckabee cut taxes and fees over 90times during his ten and a half years as governor, saving the people of Arkansas almost $380 million

As a side note, I heard that when Ronald Reagan became Governor he raised taxes by 1 million. In today's money that would be 10 million. Interesting thought for all of those people out there that keep saying they want a "Reagan Conservative".


todd said...

Good discussion Morgan-
The definition of "conservative" is getting debated agressively on this blog. That's really key to your thoughts.

[what follows is a bit simplistic but that's pretty much me}
In terms of taxes (without intentionaly trying to attach the word conservative to my views), I believe issue is government expansion through spending. It takes money to run the government and the government earns no money -- instead they take mine to operate. I'm paying for border control, stem cell research, national defense, arts endowments, health care for the uninsured, the white house Christmas tree, etc.

Right now I (the government funding program) don't have enough money to pay for what they spend (in debt). One way to remedy that is to increase income by charging me more. This doesn't necessarily mean government is getting bigger but it stinks nonetheless. That's taxes and Americans need to be preparred for that nomatter who is elected. (Although some choices are still wiser bets than others on this)

The other issue is government spending. Some bureaucrats like to focus on spending money they don’t have instead of figuring out how to fix the money issues. I know lots of people like this, not just the congress and senate. This is the type of idiocy that no one could conscientiously vote for in a president. Yet Americans will vote for someone who follows this plan because it’s a reflection of who many Americans are – wanting and spending instead of earning and planning. The buzz words that often mean spending are "programs", "equity", "take responsiblity", "affirm", "aide", "provide support", "provide", "passing legislation", "increasing access" and so on. Certainly not all uses of these terms are evil but be on the alert.

Bottom line for me (and don't lable ANYTHING) is I want someone who responsbility manages -- and pickins are always very slim, as is the case now.

Philip said...

Morgan: If you like higher taxes, just vote for Obama or Hilary. If you like lower taxes, vote for a fiscal conservative. If you only care about value issues, stop talking about taxes.

Todd: I have a few more words to add to your list of red-flag buzz words: "hope" and "change."

Anonymous said...

Quoting Philip: Morgan: If you like higher taxes, just vote for Obama or Hilary. If you like lower taxes, vote for a fiscal conservative. If you only care about value issues, stop talking about taxes.

I was bringing up the whole issue to get opinions on why Republicans can't raise taxes, not saying whether or not I wanted higher taxes. That wasn't the issue. Mostly I do only care about value issues, so I guess I'll stop talking about taxes.