A Memo to Mike Huckabee (Civic Leadership)

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee waits backstage before speaking during the Freedom Summit Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)


To: Mike Huckabee

re: Civic leadership

So … Mike―

The two-time Republican presidential also-ran lashed out Erickson, again on Fox News, accusing the conservative of attempting “to blow up the Republican Party.”

“The message that’s coming across is the voters are stupid so we’ll figure out a way to make the decision for you because we don’t trust your decision,” Huckabee complained of Erickson’s anti-Trump effort.


―you do realize, do you not, that sometimes that’s exactly what civic leaders are expected to do?

In our own American heritage we say the Constitution is not a suicide pact. In our human endeavor, we might simply say that civilized society is not a suicide pact. Observably, the Donald Trump phenomenon disdains either expression.

Do you recall Romer v. Evans, Mr. Huckabee? Many conservatives do; it still pains them to this day. I was not in Colorado in ’92, but, rather, Oregon. Our version, called Measure 9, was so twisted it could be read to include altering medical school curricula to suit religious fancy. After all, the ostensible centerpiece of the fight was a public library book. Consider, also, the idea of being unable to prosecute a murder simply because the victim was gay. Would you support this outcome, Mr. Huckabee?

Should a court?

The U.S. Constitution?

What conservatives are angry about in this case is that the federal courts said voters in a state could not arbitrarily choose to ignore the U.S. Constitution.

That’s what conservatives have been breeding in their think-tank laboratories. Time and again with doomed misogynistic and homophobic policies. The whole point is to convince the base they are persecuted, that their equal protection is violated because they cannot be superior under law.

And this rabid populist movement, looking for a pied piper, found one in Donald freaking Trump?

What the hell?

For all their cynicism toward institutions, celebrity, and entrenched influence, this is their avatar?

Look at what is happening, sir:

I’ve been coming to this conference, the Faith Angle Forum, for years. I’ve never seen anything like this mood. These people—evangelicals, Bible-believing reporters, conservative media stars—detest Trump. They feel him tightening his grip on their people and their party. The moderates already feel lost. David Brooks, the New York Times columnist who has been preaching compromise to hardline Republicans, is here. He laments at one point, “I’m representing a political ideology that’s dead.” The Christians, meanwhile, sense that they’re in a battle for souls, and they’re losing.

Many of the attendees and organizers are evangelical. For them, Trump’s support among self-identified evangelicals is an embarrassment and a puzzle. Smith suggests that many of these voters are only “nominal evangelicals.” They say they’re evangelical because in South Carolina and similar states, that’s what you’re supposed to say. But they don’t live a Christian life or even go to church. According to Cromartie, Trump’s support among putative evangelicals plummets when the sample is narrowed to those who attend church at least once a week.

It sounds as though Smith and Cromartie are just making excuses. But they go further. Smith calls out the “straight-up xenophobia” among Trump’s supporters. “Their religious identity is a stalking horse or code for something else,” he argues. Evangelicalism, Smith suggests, can be used as a fig leaf to “cover your American nationalism.” He accepts pastoral responsibility to confront the underlying prejudice, through “theological correction within the Christian community.”

One thing you’ll learn from a conference like this one, if you didn’t know it already, is that there are thoughtful, responsible people in evangelical circles and in the right-wing media world. These people aren’t yahoos. They don’t even hang out with yahoos. But that’s part of the problem: How can they reach the yahoos when they don’t know them? Smith pokes fun at secular liberals who have no contact with devout Christians, but he seems totally unfamiliar with Trump’s evangelicals. In a side conversation afterward, a conservative writer makes a similar confession: She interviews people at churches, but Trump’s people don’t go to church, so she doesn’t meet them. Liberals, it turns out, aren’t the only elites who are out of touch with today’s angry white voters.


And yes, Mike, you built this. That is to say, you helped.

Think of it this way: If I convinced voters in a state to declare the Southern Baptist Convention a hate group, effectively ending their status as a church and therefore terminating their immediate free religion under the First Amendment―which can, in fact, be retained, anyway, through more complex arguments than simply being a church―should the courts allow that to happen?

I would hope not. What say you?

Because conservatives in general and evangelical Christian conservatives in particular have been arguing for a society in which that is possible. Did you ever, really, think it through? For all we hear about slippery slopes and letting boys kiss boys, or whatever the hell it was you and Ben were on about with rubbing one out in the restroom, did you ever think about what could happen if you actually succeeded at pitching this supremacist ideology? Wasn’t it clear to you that the old way of presuming that Christians get to decide who gets rights is over? Did you not think about the implications of carrying the same stupid arguments Christians made about books and music thirty years ago into a national political strategy? I mean, sure, it sounds like a great appeal: Feel empowered! You don’t even have to make sense! In fact, it’s wrong to expect you to make sense! Don’t let people oppress you by expecting you to make sense!

No, seriously, Mike, what the fuck could possibly go wrong?

And now we know.

And here you are, cheering it on.

Very well, it is easy enough to accept that you want such painful and harmful and useless outcomes.

Now, then: Why?


Image note: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee waits backstage before speaking during the Freedom Summit Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Saletan, William. “The Religious Right Is in a Battle for Souls, and It’s Losing to Donald Trump”. Slate. 15 March 2016.

Tesfaye, Sophia. “Conservatives turn on Erick Erickson for jumping aboard #NeverTrump: ‘Don’t give us any pious baloney'”. Salon. 18 March 2016.

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