Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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November 27, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

HUCKABEE AND THE MONEY-CONS....Matt Yglesias notes that Christian conservative darling Mike Huckabee is gaining on Mitt Romney in Iowa:

In retrospect, it all sort of makes you wonder why social conservatives didn't just get behind Huckabee in the first place, rather than blessing Romney's preposterous conversion to religious right values and trying to drag Fred Thompson into the race. Sure, Huckabee's not well-liked by the economic hard-right, but cultural conservatives' objections to Giuliani didn't stop his backers from pushing him on the party.

Part of the answer, of course, is the obvious one: it's hard for an also-ran candidate to gain support no matter what views he does or doesn't have. After all, few people want to waste time, money, or emotional energy on a candidate who doesn't seem to have any chance of winning.

But there's something else going on here too. Christian conservatives are obviously a substantial interest group within the Republican Party, but as Jon Chait pointed out in The Big Con, that's all they are: a substantial interest group. The real bosses of the party are found among the tax jihadists and corporate interest groups who make up its economic wing. Or, as my editor headlined my review of Chait's book, "Forget neocons and theocons. It's the money-cons who really run Bush's Republican Party."

What's more, I think the Christian Right knows this. Like it or not, they know that a socially conservative candidate without money-con backing has no chance of winning the nomination, while the opposite isn't true. At a level that's almost unconscious, then, they preemptively gave up on Huckabee before the race even started. With the Club for Growth and the Wall Street Journal editorial page against him, they knew Huckabee didn't stand a chance.

Huckabee's problem is that in the end, in today's GOP, hating unions is more important than hating gays, and eliminating the estate tax is more important than eliminating abortion. Howard Beale would understand.

Kevin Drum 6:41 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (38)

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Comments

Um, given how the Republicans have behaved for the last eight years (excluding the awful tax cuts), wouldn't you say you've got everything backwards?

Posted by: Mina on November 27, 2007 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

Well, it is true that the Republican Party hates government -- which is why they shouldn't be running it.

Posted by: Mina on November 27, 2007 at 6:50 PM | PERMALINK

I'm actually thinking that being pro-torture / pro-war is the most important thing.

I don't see what the money-cons got from W -- a lousy stock market huge deficits and a ruined economy and dollar. The rich did much better under Clinton

Posted by: Gore/Edwards 08 on November 27, 2007 at 6:55 PM | PERMALINK

The theocons got some judges, but only because those judges were also economic conservatives and thus acceptable to business interests too. The neocons got a screwed-up war that's soured the country on overseas adventures for a long time. Neither of these groups really came out ahead.

Money-cons, though, are patient. They have always been the core of the party and they still are. That means endless tax cuts, free trade pacts, global warming denialism, media consolidation, gutting the NLRB, cutting funds for regulatory enforcement, insurance industry giveaways in the Medicare prescription bill, an energy bill that was an almost embarrassing pander to corporate interests, tariffs for favored industries, "comprehensive" immigration reform despite the fact that social conservatives hated it, and on and on and on.

Various groups wax and wane in power, but make no mistake about which group, over time, holds the whip hand in the GOP.

Posted by: Kevin Drum on November 27, 2007 at 7:03 PM | PERMALINK

I've been rooting for Huckabee, because (a) he's light years more likeable than the other Repub candidates (a low bar, I know) and (b) a strong showing by him would expose the natural fissures in the Republican party.

Posted by: Novemberist on November 27, 2007 at 7:14 PM | PERMALINK

Haven't read the "Big Con" book, but something tells me that very few people vote on the "death of the estate tax". Although elites in the republican party might hold this as dogma, I find it hard to believe any sizeable voting bloc is organized around it. So why do these elites have dispproportionate amount of power? (besides the fact they have $$)

Posted by: Jor on November 27, 2007 at 7:19 PM | PERMALINK

I figure that, when the dust clears, Huckabee will be the Republican candidate because it will boil down to whom will be able to beat the Democratic candidate. And, since there are a lot of Christian moderate Republicans out there who followed Bush over the cliff, they're looking for someone palatable to vote for. Huckabee's background as a minister will carry him a long way, and will once again, establish the Republican Party as the party of "moral values," at least if our media has anything to do with it...

Posted by: pol on November 27, 2007 at 7:31 PM | PERMALINK

No, the rich have done better under Bush. They are paying much lower taxes, and executive compensation is through the roof. The well-connected are getting contracts that guarantee billions in profits.

Posted by: Joe Buck on November 27, 2007 at 7:45 PM | PERMALINK

Huckabee is the best of the no-very-pretty pack of Republican candidates. His social views are reactionary, but I think that the president's influence on such matters is overstated. He also claims to "support" the Iraq war, but I don't know if it's real or just the party line.

Mirabile dictu! He's actually something of an economic populist.

Can he win? I don't do predictions. Have we ever had an Arkansas governor who started out behind win the presidency?

Posted by: alex on November 27, 2007 at 7:51 PM | PERMALINK

I've long thought Huckabee made the most sense to nominate.

He's got the social issues down. But he's also a governor. And he's not tainted by the Iraq War.

Yeah, he's more of an economic populist than the money-cons would like, but if they can't cut a deal with Huck, HRC is clearly open to working with them. And Obama probably would be accomodating too.

I see Romney and Giuliani as being huge pinatas for Democrats and late night comendians.

Huckabee will win Iowa.

Ron Paul will get solid double digits in NH.

If the media starts focusing on Huck and Paul, the GOP establishment has a problem. They want Paul marginalized as much as possible. The way to marginalize Paul is to end the primaries quickly.

Who's their "go to" guy? Romney? Giuliani? Or Huck?

Giuliani needs Huckabee to keep Romney from sealing the deal in the early states. Huckabee needs Paul to scare the money-cons into thinking he's reasonable.

Posted by: Carl Nyberg on November 27, 2007 at 8:09 PM | PERMALINK

All the Christians are economic populists. That's the deal -- they are most often than not the old laborer wing of the Democratic party that left over abortion and the increasingly anti-military actions of Democratic party in the late-19070s and 1980s. Bush ran as an economic populist -- he didn't turn out to be one, but that's part of the story, the working man got robbed again: promises were made in regard to "compassion" and "morals" and "cultural of life" all by the GOP leadership that wanted nothing more than to consolidate power and undo FDR's economic reforms.

Posted by: Inaudible Nonsense on November 27, 2007 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

It's the money-cons who really run Bush's Republican Party. What's more, I think the Christian Right knows this.

They know it in the same way Charlie Brown knows Lucy is going to pull up the football before he can kick it. Nevertheless, they will fall for the same trick each and every election. Seriously, think of who you're dealing with. These are the same people who have been played as the gullible fools by corrupt, immoral, wealthy powers that be for over two thousand years and counting.

That's the whole genius of this religion. To paraphrase George Carlin, once you can get people to believe there's an invisible man in the sky who keeps tabs on who has been naughty and nice (no, not Santa) you can get those people to believe almost anything else you want to, e.g. America is a free country, your vote counts, Republicans are the party of god, etc. etc.

Posted by: Augustus on November 27, 2007 at 8:49 PM | PERMALINK

PS Think of the genius of the Catholic confessionals. The Church convinced the masses to self-report their own crimes directly to the people who ran and controlled everything. That's better than Total Information Awareness or tapping everyone's phones; you don't have to expend the time, money and manpower to watch everyone at all times - the people come directly to you to report only the bad things they've done. Just amazing.

Posted by: Augustus on November 27, 2007 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

Historically, governors almost always peak late and more often than not win the nomination, while Senators are the frontrunners up until the last minute.

Why anyone would think that Huckabee, or Bill Richardson for that matter, can't win, is beyond me, unless they are ignoring history. The history that had Bill Clinton at 1% until the fall of 1991.

Governors ALWAYS start out as longshots unless they have a famous last name. And they almost always do better than expected, often winning the entire thing. Just the very fact that someone is a governor, assuming they weren't a joke in office, should make a candidate automatically first tier.

Posted by: Adam Herman on November 27, 2007 at 9:11 PM | PERMALINK

"Well, it is true that the Republican Party hates government -- which is why they shouldn't be running it."

But they can be extremely valuable providing oversight.

Loving government can be just as bad. Past Democratic Presidents had a bad habit of ignoring inefficiency and cost overruns because they couldn't bring themselves to be tough on something they loved.

Posted by: Adam Herman on November 27, 2007 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

Past Democratic Presidents had a bad habit of ignoring inefficiency and cost overruns because they couldn't bring themselves to be tough on something they loved.

And the Bush/Cheney administration has a habit of ignoring inefficiency and cost overruns because they can't bring themselves to be tough on something they love: their cronies who are raking in huge profits.

Posted by: bob on November 27, 2007 at 9:28 PM | PERMALINK

> What's more, I think the Christian Right knows
> this. Like it or not, they know that a socially
> conservative candidate without money-con backing
> has no chance of winning the nomination, while the
> opposite isn't true.

As I said over at Matt's, this only holds true so long as the moneycons get out in front of the process with a candidate that satisfies the key constituencies' hot button. If they don't, and the self-proclaimed Christian Right candidate takes the lead in a "natural" campaign then the managers of the Republican Party could truly lose control to that person.

Of course they know this. Which indicates to me they have no desire to win in 2008.

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer on November 27, 2007 at 9:40 PM | PERMALINK

If someone has found a political party that isn't run by people with money, could you post the name of that party here?

Don't get me wrong, I have money, so it doesn't bother me, particularly.

Posted by: y81 on November 27, 2007 at 9:41 PM | PERMALINK

"The rich have done better under Bush."

That's true, but at a certain point (now, maybe), the white oligarchs who run the multinationals are going to look at the Cheneyburton crowd as diminishing their long-range returns. There's only so much profit to be gained from resource-grabbing wars, social jihadism, religious zealotry, and scientific blinkerism.

These corps are going to want to cash in on the money spent to "save" a post-Kyoto planet, and the estate-tax thing isn't going to cut it in that department. Plus, all those dead Iraqis -- not to mention the terror recruits they leave in their wake -- are not exactly the consumers of the future. Obviously, a boat-steadying centrist who gives lip-service to the environment, health care, and due process without changing much of substance is going to be more reassuring to both business interests and the middle class that still aspires to stumble ints way into Forbes magazine -- but might still read the New Yorker or Rolling Stone on occasion.

So, fuck Huckabee. This is the future, people. Unfortunately, it's almost a best-case scenario.

Posted by: Kenji on November 27, 2007 at 9:44 PM | PERMALINK

... in today's GOP, hating unions is more important than hating gays, and eliminating the estate tax is more important than eliminating abortion.

I was about to start caterwauling yet again about how it has always, always, ALWAYS been thus in the GOP, at least since anyone alive who can remember anything can remember. The Republican agenda is about transferring wealth upward. Period.

Then I saw Kevin's comment, so I didn't.

Oh, wait ...

Posted by: bleh on November 27, 2007 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

Or to put it the other way around, 40 years ago social conservatives would likely have been Democrats. The social conservative line is inherently interventionist with a deep vein of anti-market sentiment.

The only way you could hold these two sides together was by portraying Democrats as a hybrid of Eugene Debs and Ru Paul. Which is why some folks hold so tightly to a stereotype of what a "liberal" believes.

Posted by: c on November 27, 2007 at 9:54 PM | PERMALINK

I guess that when the Republicans got all the Racist southern Democrats, they got the southern Evangelicals along with them.

So - can the evangelicals determine whether Rudy or Mitt becomes the nominee? With Ron Paul unlikely to ever get over 20% of the vote, McCain a literal political zombie, Huckabee unable to get the MoneyCons, and Fred Thompson tanking badly, that's the choice remaining.

Posted by: Rick B on November 27, 2007 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

This is about the best, most bitterly spot-on post I've ever read from you Kevin. Perhaps, like a fine wine you've reached your sell-by time. Orson Wells would understand... ;-)

Posted by: David W. on November 27, 2007 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, I agree, David. When the next round is over, Kevin can look back on this post and know he was totally on top of what was happening.

Of course, we live in a world where Karl Rove is now actively floating the line that Dems forced Bush into war. So I'm not quite sure how highly prized a working grasp of reality might be in the near future.

Posted by: Kenji on November 27, 2007 at 11:04 PM | PERMALINK

Another clueless post. I mean, really clueless. Huck has shown quite a willingness to be "business-friendly", so much so that he should run as a Democrat. It isn't hard to imagine certain interests backing him knowing that he's just pulling the wool over the eyes of people like Kevin Drum who are unaware of his real record.

[Note: WM may edit or delete this comment without notice as they've done in the past.]

Posted by: The annoying LonewackoDotCom on November 27, 2007 at 11:06 PM | PERMALINK

Annoying:

Is that bracketed note your own, or did WM add that without your permission?

Also, the biggest problem for Huckabee is getting out of the primary. I imagine the Romney and Guiliani campaigns have the 'helped pardon a serial murderer' ads already written.

Posted by: gussie on November 27, 2007 at 11:20 PM | PERMALINK

I think the "Religious Right" is starting to sober up quite a bit. I've seen a progression of utterances from some fundies that I know:

*I hope he (GWB) wins in a landslide! - 2004
*Well, we aren't going to worry about global warming because we probably aren't going to be here next year anyway! (due to the Rapture) - 2006
*What?! You mean those monthly numbers in my retirement packet aren't set in stone and depends on the value of those investments when I retire! - 2007

When it comes down to basic bread and butter issues, the "social conservative agenda" tends to go to the back burner for these people.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on November 27, 2007 at 11:49 PM | PERMALINK

But Kevin - the all powerful Club for Rich People (self named Club for Growth) love the Mitt and is trashing the Huck for raising the Arkansas tax burden. We *(those Angrybears) pulled from the Tax Foundation data (you've used these somewhat honest conservatives as well) to show Mass. and Ark. have had similar patterns of tax burdens from 1996 to 2006. Le Club for Rich People has never been burdened with the need for honesty, I guess.

Posted by: pgl on November 28, 2007 at 12:59 AM | PERMALINK

... in today's GOP, hating unions is more important than hating gays, and eliminating the estate tax is more important than eliminating abortion...

And as long as you guys confuse what's good for the union barons with what's good for working people the Repubs will have an opportunity to come back after this time of troubles... and don't you think it's good for the country that some of the fire has gone out of the anti-abortion zealots?

Posted by: mr insensitive on November 28, 2007 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

I think the Republic strong suit is national security.

Which is why I think the candidate will be Rudy Giuliani, for all his flaws.

Huckabee will simply serve to finish off Romney.

And why I think the religious right will come out on election day, to help him beat Hilary Clinton.

The variation of that is the mobilisation of the majority of Americans, who will only take interest in the election campaign in the last 8 weeks of September-October 2008, who will vote against Barak Obama because his middle name is Hussein and he is a moslem (I've lost count of the people who have told me that, in all seriousness, since he attended a moslem primary school he must be a moslem).

These are the same voters in Ohio who voted against John Kerry because he only served 4 months of his tour in Vietnam, (as one voter said 'that doesn't sound like long'), and because he 'wasn't a real war hero'.

God help us all.

Posted by: Valuethinker on November 28, 2007 at 8:47 AM | PERMALINK

Which is why I think the candidate will be Rudy Giuliani, for all his flaws.

Huckabee will simply serve to finish off Romney.

And why I think the religious right will come out on election day, to help him beat Hilary Clinton.

-------
I've got a hunch that Huckabee will get the nomination and will face Hillary in the general. Hillary will win, but it might be close. HRC will have to be careful about coming across as too screechy. The "money-cons" are going to punt knowing the Iraqi mess that's awaiting the next president.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on November 28, 2007 at 10:08 AM | PERMALINK

Huckabee has no chance whatsoever. He supports the "Fairtax" which is economic lunacy as well as being Taliban-like re abortion. The moment he gets real scrutiny, he's done. It's gonna be Rudy.

Posted by: Matt on November 28, 2007 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

Refusing to fund the next GOP top tier income tax cut with a bottom tier payroll tax increase means you're a hostage to old-style Democratic interest groups!!!

Posted by: moron on November 28, 2007 at 11:50 AM | PERMALINK

Matt, I just checked out Huckabee's website and looked at his tax policies. Eeek, that's almost as nutty as Ron Paul's ideas. Despite that, I'd say he's still got a chance to win the nomination if Rudy implodes, but will lose easily to Hillary in the general-no matter how screechy she wants to be. The FairTax™ is yet again just more snake oil to hide tax cuts for the rich.

Posted by: Doc at the Radar Station on November 28, 2007 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

"So why do these elites have dispproportionate amount of power? (besides the fact they have $$)"

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?

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