The Corner

More Carrots for Huck

From a reader:

Jonah,

I recall a good number of “how Rudy can reach out to social

conservatives” columns on NRO and elsewhere. Why aren’t there any

“how Huck can connect with fiscal conservatives” columns being

written? Well, the obvious answer is that Jon Chait is right, and the

GOP leadership and conservative chattering classes are using social

conservatives. Consequently, they would be ok with Rudy, but ill at

ease with Huck. But, if (as I think you’ve argued) Chait is wrong,

then the NRO folks ought to start with the carrots.

This sounds sort of good at first, but ultimately I don’t buy it. One point I would make is that the timing is different. Huckabee was a nobody in the race for most of the last year and social conservatives had other candidates they were more comfortable with for a bunch of reasons. This surge comes awfully late in the game and most people have committed themselves one way or another and it’s asking a lot of declared supporters one candidate to start writing passionate appeals to another on how he can win. Indeed, it is not the job of Huckabee opponents to write articles on how he can reach out to fiscal conservatives. It’s the job of Huckabee supporters who are otherwise dismayed by his sketchy views on economics (or whatever) to coax him toward more traditionally conservative — and therefore more unifying — position. Most of the articles this reader has in mind were written by Giuliani supporters or by fence-sitters who wanted to move him to the right.

I also think there’s a real stolen base here. It is hardly as if National Review was a hotbed of Giuliani support. Some support him, others don’t. The magazine has endorsed Romney, not Giuliani, largely because Romney is much more socially conservative than Giuliani. So dragging Chait into this strikes me as an attempt to bully Huckabee opponents into being nicer to him. The Chait thesis, after all, is that economic conservatives are using social conservatives, but Giuliani’s support is strongest among the foreign policy crowd.

More importantly, I have to say I find the argument from many pro-Huck readers that opposing Huckabee is tantamount to rejecting social conservatism and evangelicals generally to be very thin gruel and little more than a rightwing version of thin-skinned identity politics (“If you don’t like my candidate, you don’t like me and everything I stand for!”). Maybe some of us are wrong about Huckabee, but being wrong about Huckabee is not synonymous with being liberal on social issues or with being hostile to religious conservatives. Not by a long shot.

Update: From a reader:

Subject: Huckabee reaching out to the Club for Greed?

There’s also the fact that Huckabee has been explicitly running against business conservatives, and Guiliani has not…

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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