Huckabee the Extremist

I'm actually somewhat sympathetic to Garance Franke-Ruta's suggestion that Mike Huckabee might be too far right on social issues to be a winning Presidential candidate, but I think this is a bit much:

I mean, just look at his agenda. Mr. Guitar-Rocker Folksy Nice Guy wants to: eliminate all contraception education in schools; use our tax dollars to fund ideological and ineffective abstinence education programs in those schools; and get rid of condom distribution in schools in favor of Bible distribution programs that have been overturned by the courts. He favors: a federal marriage amendment to the U.S. constitution; a human life amendment; the teaching of creationism to children; and the South Dakota law that banned all abortions and was so extreme the state's own highly traditionalist voters overturned it in a referendum.

... In short, Huckabee, the former Baptist minister and religious TV executive, is the candidate of exhausting and divisive social issues and the ongoing war by what Andrew Sullivan calls Christianists against the mainstream views of the majority of the American people. But, hey! As long as he can tell a good joke and strum a guitar, right?

Um, about "those mainstream views of the majority of the American people" ... Yes, it's true that Huckabee's abortion position and his opposition to sex ed in schools place him decidedly to the right of the public. (Although many Democrats are to the public's left where funding for abstinence education is concerned.) But as for the rest, well, more than half of John Kerry voters shared Huckabee's position on teaching evolution in public schools, and as of 2006 a slight majority supported the federal marriage amendment. I don't know how Americans feel about handing out Gideon Bibles in classrooms, but seventy percent or so reliably support returning prayer to public schools, which I assume was the issue that Huckabee was gesturing at in that comment.

Garance writes that she's "been racking my brain for an explanation as to why the national press has been so willing to accept his aw-shucks Mr. Nice Guy act without scrutiny." I suspect that if his candidacy ever gains significant traction - and particularly if he ever faces off against a Democrat - the media will happily fall in line to cast him as a religious extremist. But it's just possible that the press hasn't emphasized his comments on social issues because unlike figures like Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback, who have set themselves up as knights of the religious right and been portrayed that way in the press, he hasn't emphasized those issues all that much in his campaign; because creationism and sex ed and even gay marriage aren't terribly high on the list of voter priorities these days (and Huckabee's line that "I’m not planning on writing the curriculum for an eighth-grade science book ... I’m asking for the opportunity to be president of the United States" suggests that he wants to keep it that way); and because only abortion, out of the issues Garance lists, is likely to be a defining issue in the next Presidential term, and there Huckabee's position (i.e., favoring the appointment of Scalia-type judges) is indistinguishable from the rest of the GOP field.

In other words, by focusing on Huckabee's record as governor and his differences, rhetorically at least, from the rest of the field on domestic policy, you could argue that the press is actually showing a rare and healthy sense of perspective - treating him as an ordinary politician who happens to be a religious conservative, rather than a budding theocrat bent on making "war" against mainstream America.