More on the Huckabee Stool

Mike Huckabee’s loss in South Carolina’s Republican primary made clear his weakness in the race: his inability to expand his support beyond conservative evangelicals. For all the talk in the press about Huckabee’s broad, populist appeal, and for all his own efforts to convince the GOP base otherwise (most recently with exuberant stands on immigration and the Confederate flag), it could be those two narratives just cancel out, leaving him with a campaign built on second-string religious-right activists and church-based get-out-the-vote.

Like Gary Bauer, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins has been critical of Huckabee for the candidate’s supposedly narrow appeal. This week, Perkins once again recalled the “three-legged stool” metaphor:

Perkins likens the coalition to a three-legged stool with Iowa winner Mike Huckabee representing the social leg, New Hampshire and South Carolina winner Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) the defense leg, and Michigan and Nevada victor Mitt Romney the economic leg.

“What’s required is bringing those three together … and I think we’re seeing this,” he continues. “We’re moving closer to embracing all three of the components of the conservative coalition. Fiscal conservatism, defense conservatism, and social conservatism.”

If that’s the strategy, Huckabee’s got his work cut out for him. His attempt to establish foreign-policy credentials entailed a visit to apocalyptic megachurch pastor John Hagee, but that only managed to alienate Catholics. His tax plan is so far to the Right that even the Right wants no part of it.

Writing in Human Events, Marvin Olasky—architect of faith-based government initiatives—suggests Huckabee adopt a fusionist argument: “Social conservatism makes possible fiscal conservatism.” Sounds simple, but the argument can get a little tricky:

The key is realizing that growth in governmental “human services” has come in part through the recognition of real problems. When a guy and a gal shack up, it’s not purely a personal matter. That’s because one result, a certain percentage of the time, is likely to be a child with a single mom, and that child at some point is likely to receive governmental support.

Olasky continues, arguing that equal rights for gays “also lead to bigger government”:

Ave Maria University Professor Seana Sugrue has pointed out that the same-sex marriage movement is a subset of a sexual revolution based in liberty, but liberty “achieved through the empowerment of a state with the strength to destroy sexual norms.” Since referendum after referendum has shown that most people do not favor same-sex marriage, it requires overreaching courts to decree it, and propagandistic schools to get students to see as normal what most instinctively recognize as weird.

Libertarians rightly relish the theme throughout American history of government ordaining and individuals disdaining. But what happens when individuals or their churches believe that homosexuality is wrong? Gays need strong governmental action to keep people from speaking out against it. They need criticism of homosexuality to be declared “hate speech.” They need government to force religious organizations to hire gays or facilitate adoption by gays. 

Huckabee may be in a tight spot now, but he may want to wait until he’s really desperate to try to pass off recycled anti-gay talking points as “libertarian” economic philosophy.