"No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
Why is Mike Huckabee staying in the race for the Republican nomination?
I think it is all of the above, in varying degrees, and that’s why there is an Article VI angle to this very political story.
Here’s some interesting background. I listened to the Dennis Prager program while driving in to work today. Prager’s guest was Ari Fleischer, President Bush’s first press secretary. The two had a fascinating exchange on the state of the Republican race.
Fleischer made no bones about Huckabee’s role: Huck’s staying in the fight in order to be the “spoiler.” Other than that, Fleischer said, “I can’t see for the life of me why he stays in this race.”
Dennis Prager responded (my paraphrase):
Evangelicals would vote for a Jew or even a Hindu, but a lot of them would not vote for a Mormon. Over time, however, they have decided simply to swallow that, vote for Romney, and worry about the theological differences later.
Now back to those reasons for Huckabee staying in the race. Prager’s right that most Evangelicals have not heeded Huckabee’s siren song; but some of them have, just enough to make a huge difference in the outcome.
Anger over Iowa? That’s a political issue, and I’d love to address it. But not on this blog.
Religion, however, is definitely within our scope here, and ambition’s tie-in with religion is also fair game.
So my sense (and that’s all it is) is that Huckabee is not motivated by anti-Mormon sentiment, and that he’s not one of those Southern Baptists who cannot abide the notion of a Mormon serving as president. He is reportedly from the more moderate wing of that faith, and he’s been in politics a long time and understands the realities of that world.
And it is precisely that combination of politics, faith, and ambition that really tells the story of why Huck’s staying in. It’s because he understand, and knows how to play, the intersection of politics and religion.
Huck knows, McCain knows, and Romney knows that if it were not for Huckabee’s continued presence on the ballot on Super Tuesday, Romney would be a much more formidable candidate for McCain to beat. McCain still is not pulling anything close to a majority of the conservative vote. Flesicher, citing exit polls, said that 17% of McCain’s Florida vote came from independents who registered as Republicans in order to vote for McCain. But because Huckabee siphons off a sizeable chunk of conservative “values voter” votes, Romney struggles and McCain wins a plurality of votes. “Values voter” is pretty much just another way of saying “Evangelical voters.”
Thus all the scenarios look good for Huckabee:
I could go on and on (and some will say I already have). My point: This is all happening because Mike Huckabee has chosen to play the religious card in a very big way.
Who would ever have predicted this?
“Out of Ur” is a blog of Leadership magazine, which is a publication from the Christianity Today people. Yesterday, they posted on a forthcoming book The God Strategy. There is some pretty smart thinking in there:
In other words, we seem to either buy the God strategy and cozy up to a candidate or doubt a candidate’s sincerity and oppose him or her. In either case, we avoid the issues and are swayed by the candidate’s personality and appearance of authenticity.
Domke and Coe identify four strategies politicians use to win, or dupe, religious voters. These points are a basic summary of the God strategy:
- Acting as political priests by speaking the language of the faithful
- Fusing God and country by linking America with divine will
- Embracing important religious symbols, practices, and rituals
- Engaging in morality politics by trumpeting bellwether issues
Politicians can’t take all the credit for the effectiveness of the God strategy. Ministers encourage their congregations to view politicians as priests when they imply that having the right president or the right party in control of Congress will result in legislation that will deliver our nation from its sin.
I love that quote, “In either case, we avoid the issues” It seems like we use religion to save us from doing the hard work of being citizens.
I am not sure I agree with the analysis of this book wholly. Party loyalty is very important in doing politics right. If Christians are to be serious about doing politics, they have to be serious about party politics. But the general point that we cannot hide behind religious labels is a darn good one and a darn smart one.
The New Statesman publish a very smarmy analysis of the role religion has played in this election. At times you want to smack the guy upside the head. Hoever, his near concluding paragraph is a winner:
All of which, I am beginning to suspect, could make this a landmark election that will put America’s religious freedom and tolerance to the test every bit as much as its attitudes towards race and gender.
Which brings us to this piece out of Woscester, MA analyzing Super Tuesday in terms of religious demographics. One of the biggest problems with playing religious identity politics is it reduces religion to mere demographic. religion is so much more than that, and if there is a loser in all this, it will be the reduction of religion to label.
A Christian nonprofit says a Texas televangelist turned a national ministers’ gathering last week into a fundraising opportunity for Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, a newspaper reports.
The Trinity Foundation, a charity that monitors televangelists and viewed a live Internet broadcast of the event, said the fundraiser took in $111,000 and generated pledges nearing $1 million, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported in a copyrighted article Tuesday.
The fundraiser was held at Kenneth Copeland Ministries’ campus in Newark, Texas.
The Copelands and Huckabee are old friends. What is more important, from my perspective, is that they are under congressional investigation regarding their funds handling, luxurious lifestyle, the sort of stuff that just makes one feel a little slimy with televangelists.
This popped up in the internet searches, and is notable only because the conspiratorial tones and the simple “Huh?” factor exceed even the usual raving stuff. Personally, I think it is proof that LSD and politics should not mix.
For Romney supporters, this one has left a mark. Is it a referendum on The Question? At this point, impossible to say. There are two things we can say with certainty.
We have studies that show, conclusively, that some political charges aimed at Romney are little more than codes behind which anti-Mormon sentiment resides. We have temporary part-time Huckabee staffers on yet-to-be-transcribed tape saying the same thing. The study shows that roughly 30% of voters that say “flip-flop” in reference to Romney means “Mormon.” That is certainly enough to change the outcome of this election. Does that mean Romney would win were he not Mormon? No way to tell. Many of those peope might find a different reason to dislike him. There is a bit of a populist revolution going on in the party.
Unquestionably, Mike Huckabee has and is playing a spoiler role for Romney. With no chance of winning, that is his only role going forward. The question is why. Well, we know unquestionably some, if not many, of his supporters are animated by anti-Mormon sentiment.
The Huck Effect
Exit polls show Romney winning the Evangelical vote, even over Huckabee, but not by a huge margin. Still, we have to ask the question: What would happen if Huck were not in the race? Most of those voters would go to Romney. McCain knows this, Huckabee knows it. Huck is using his pull on Evangelical and values voters to keep McCain in the race.
If McCain wins the nomination, Huck will be rewarded. We can’t be sure how.
If Romney get the nomination, Huck may still be someone Romney has to deal with, but if Huck can’t even win the Evangelical vote in most states, it’s hard to see how he ends up with a lot of clout.
Thus Huck has a lot riding on McCain winning tonight.