It's worth keeping front and center the basic point that Mike Huckabee's policy platform, if enacted, would be a disaster for working class Americans. His views about the viability of replacing the income tax with a retail sales tax betray both an indifference to the distributive implications of tax policy, and also a frightening ignorance of economic policy similar to the ignorance of foreign policy exposed by his comments on the NIE last week. That said, Frank Rich's take on the appeal of a kindler, gentler form of conservatism seems right:
Attacked by Mr. Romney for supporting an Arkansas program aiding the children of illegal immigrants, he replied, “In all due respect, we’re a better country than to punish children for what their parents did.” [...] As governor, he decried a bill denying health services to illegal immigrants as “race-baiting” even though its legislator sponsor was a fellow Baptist preacher. [...] Unlike Rudy-Romney, Mr. Huckabee showed up for the PBS presidential debate held at the historically black Morgan State University in September. [...] The real reason for Mr. Huckabee’s ascendance may be that his message is simply more uplifting — and, in the ethical rather than theological sense, more Christian — than that of rivals whose main calling cards of fear, torture and nativism have become more strident with every debate.
Yes indeed. A lot of us non-Christian liberals have been wondering for some time when if ever the elements of Christian ethics that don't relate to sex were going to rear their heads in the Christian political mobilization. In an era where regular churchgoers are the main electoral prop of the party of aggressive war and institutionalized torture, we're still a long way from that moment. But Huckabee's rhetoric on a few key points seems to nod in the direction of the possibility of something better. It'd take someone else -- someone better-informed , with a better grasp of policy and without the record of setting serial rapists free -- to actually deliver on that promise, but I think there's no denying that it's promising.