Mike Huckabee, the second-tier candidate many at the Values Voter Summit hope will become their champion, brought down the house when he said that he appeared “not as one who comes to you, but as one who comes from you.” In an endorsement of Dobson’s threat to bolt the Republican Party, the former pastor and governor of Arkansas came back time and again to the idea that some issues are “non-negotiable”: namely, opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion.
Huckabee also sought to shore up his right-wing credentials on other issues, such as the war on terror, “broken borders,” taxes, and even America’s declining manufacturing base for weapons, poaching the niche of fellow second-tier candidate Duncan Hunter. In promoting the gimmicky Fair Tax system, he managed to link it to another bugbear of the Right, saying that not only would it eliminate the IRS, it would “stop the muzzling of ministers,” referring to the tax code that limits politicking of groups classed as charities.
But the entrée was the power of abortion and same-sex marriage as top priorities. He promised to support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, decrying “people who are unwilling to change the Constitution but seem more than willing to change the holy word of God when it comes to marriage.” Similarly, he promised to make “constitutionally clear” that “life begins at conception.” According to Huckabee, among the many ills that can be traced to Roe v. Wade is immigration, as abortion has supposedly created a demand in the labor force. To put it in the rhetorical template that is apparently his signature, he said, “We do not have the right to move God’s standards to meet cultural norms. We need to move cultural norms to meet God’s standards.”
And these “non-negotiable” positions meant that the crowd shouldn’t negotiate on a candidate. “Let us never sacrifice our principles for anybody’s politics,” he said, criticizing those who “merely lip-synch the lyrics to our songs.” Anything less, according to Huckabee, and “values voters” lose their power to shape the Republican Party’s politics. He echoed Dobson’s threat: “I do not spell G-O-D G-O-P … Our principles are more important than anybody’s party.”
Rejecting “expediency,” Huckabee asked the crowd to “pledge … our sacred honor” to this formula. And if their response was any indication—Huckabee was clearly the audience favorite—they agreed. Whether they will hold to this deal if Huckabee fails in the primary, or whether, instead, they will heed what Robert Bork told them next, to “put the kind of Court we want” above the “moral purity” of the Republican candidate—that’s another story.