Huck poses two problems for Romney. First, his vote share of the conservative base of the party — particularly in western Michigan — could come out of Romney’s hide. The conservative Catholics, evangelicals and Dutch Reformed members — some of whom first came to the party in ’88 when Robertson scored a second-place finish in the state — have somebody who speaks their language about faith and the sanctity of life. And then they have a Mormon. Do the math.
What marks all of this analysis and comment is a direct and simple acceptance of religious bias, perhaps even bigotry, and certainly an acceptance of identity politics. I keep coming back to what George Will said a few weeks ago:
If Huckabee succeeds in derailing Romney’s campaign by raising a religious test for presidential eligibility, that will be clarifying: In one particular, America was more enlightened a century ago.
I think Will is very correct in that analysis, and while there will never be precise metrics to check the supposition, the emerging conventional wisdom says it is true. And this presents the Republican party and Republicans in general with competitive goals. It is the classic clash of necessary leadership versus bowing to the will of the electorate in order to gain the power necessary to exercise leadership to begin with.
On the one hand the party and each of us as Republicans should be decrying this fact from the highest point in town. It is a step backwards and it is not healthy for the nation in general. On the other hand doing so runs the risk of alienating a number of voters, voters needed to win elections. Are we forced to take a step backwards to win?
Each voter and each pundit must make the decision for themselves as to how to respond in this circumstance. Personally, I think it is way too early to push the panic button. Things are way, way too much in the air. As we have seen time and time again the press has a path that things should take in mind and when things do not go that way, they become confused and try to argue for an analysis that is clearly not true. The only legitimate analysis possible in this primary is “we do not know what is going on or what is going to happen.
That said, it is wrong for the punditry to simply accept what may in fact be a very real fact on the ground without condemnation. I caught all sorts of heat for quite a long time for calling Jim Geragthy an “accomplice to bigotry” when he did some analysis that accepted this kind of bias and bigotry as simple fact. The accomplice charge may have been a bit much, but we can ill afford to simply concede to it either. Frankly, Martin and Lowry both need to condemn what they are seeing while reporting on it. This blog does has and does.
Of course, the MSM is attempting to argue the Romney is “done.” One thing I am absolutely certain about – Romney cannot drop out of this race before Mike Huckabee, under any circumstances. Such would be like Martin Luther King sitting down in the face of the hoses on the march. Mitt Romney may (big emphasis on may) lose, and religious bias may have a role in it, but as a leader first, he cannot give into that role. It should be remembered that his presence in the race hurts Huckabee as much as the other way around.
Other candidates do not look good to me for a variety of reasons, but Huckabee is repulsive because of his appeals to bias and bigotry. That cannot be allowed to prevail. Romney should play to win and not merely beat Huckabee, but beat Huckabee he must at the bare minimum.
The press and the pundits should join him….
Additional: “Is it a reporter’s job to condemn or support what they are reporting” is a likely response to my comments above. Generally, the answer is no, but in this instance, I think things are somewhat different. As I opened the piece, there are not metrics here to show bias and bigotry objectively. There are bigoted institutions, but there is no institutional bigotry to point to. Therefore, any reporting, other than anecdotal, or incident specific is either the reporters personal perception or presumption of bigotry. The presumption should not be held and the perception would be an argument and as such it is completely acceptable to decry it in that context.