You Can't Fight YouTube Politics

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Two weeks ago, Richelieu wrote:

Ol' Huck deserves credit for getting this far, but success brings much higher stakes. The Goober act will have to go back to Mayberry. If Mike Huckabee is serious about winning, he must begin running a serious-minded campaign. He should lose the stupid Chuck Norris cartoons and start acting like a president. Or at least a vice president.

Two days ago, after the whole debate over the YouTube debate, Peter Suderman wrote:

I have to say, this seemed the most lively debate of the last few months, as, after the first few, they’ve all tended to blur together. But some of that, I think, is that, as an event, it was just… bizarre. American politics has always been something of a wacky traveling circus. But this was just a full-blown freakshow.

That’s not, however, to say that Republicans should resist it. Politics is becoming more of a sport, an entertainment event, and to resist that, I think, inevitable trend, will only hurt more in the end. Like it not, the GOP’s just going to have to learn to play along.

Reluctantly, I think I'm with Peter. Huckabee should keep the Chuck Norris ads, and the GOP should keep doing YouTube debates. Immediately after watching the, ah, freakshow I briefly felt as if the people who'd insisted that the GOP candidates absolutely had to do it (myself included) might have been wrong, and the people who worried about debasing the Presidency and all the rest of it had been right. But that feeling passed, and I came back to Peter's position. I think the bulk of the conservative response to the debate has thus been exactly right: The thing to do isn't to withdraw from the arena, but to make sure that 1) you know how to play the game (as Huckabee clearly does) and 2) the people managing the arena are playing fair, and inflicting the same "gotcha moments" on both sides. On this latter subject, Peggy Noonan's column seems to me to be the last word.

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Ross Douthat is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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