Friday, December 14, 2007

Nostalgic pessimistic waxing

All of the Republican commentariat keeps combing the field, looking for the next Reagan, but Peggy Noonan wonders if the Gipper would cut it in today's Republican Party:

The Republican race looks--at the moment--to be determined primarily by one thing, the question of religious faith. In my lifetime faith has been a significant issue in presidential politics, but not the sole determinative one. Is that changing? If it is, it is not progress.

I wonder if our old friend Ronald Reagan could rise in this party, this environment. Not a regular churchgoer, said he experienced God riding his horse at the ranch, divorced, relaxed about the faiths of his friends and aides, or about its absence. He was a believing Christian, but he spent his adulthood in relativist Hollywood, and had a father who belonged to what some saw, and even see, as the Catholic cult. I'm just not sure he'd be pure enough to make it in this party. I'm not sure he'd be considered good enough.

As a man of faith, one might suppose that I would commend the rise of religion in politics, but there are a number of problems I could highlight. Ideally, at least for presidential candidates, faith provides a system for action. For instance, while I am glad that Bush also believes in the saving power of Jesus Christ, I am far more worried that he routinely and remorselessly violated the commands of his supposed Savior. I would prefer that a man be right with God before he take such a commanding post, but only because getting the first things right tends to reinforce right action. Since Bush's Christianity hasn't helped him govern in a manner consistent with Christian teaching, his faith is useless, at least to the electorate. James 2:17 springs to mind: "So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead."

Mike Huckabee is rising in the polls, and the Huckster is, without a doubt, this field's Bush candidate. The Evangelicals are all about Mike, since he's one of them. I would caution them to back away from the sola fide kool-aid and reexamine recent history. Bush came into office as a "compassionate conservatism". Those who had studied his record closely were skeptical of his conservative credentials--rightly so it turns out. Conservatives of all faiths would be unwise to support Mike Huckabee, who is a slightly more coherent George Bush number three. Ronald Reagan he ain't.

(And before Troutsky jumps in, I know Reagan wasn't all that conservative either. The point, I think, is that charlatans like Huck don't even bother using the rhetoric of Reagan, so support of him is inexcusable.)

It's increasingly clear that Huck is not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination. As Ilana Mercer points out in today's column:

Here's Huckabee's Heads-Up-for-Illegal-Aliens Plan, articulated at the Univision "panderfest":

When people come to this country, they shouldn't fear. They shouldn't live in hiding. They ought to have their heads up, because the one thing about being an American is, we believe every person ought to have his or her head up and proud, and nobody should have to be in hiding because they're illegal when our government ought to make it so that people can reasonably come here in a legal fashion. [Emphasis added.]

Let's unpack Huckabee's hucksterism: Illegal aliens in the U.S. are hanging their heads when they ought to be holding them high. The reason for these imaginary drooping crests is illegality brought on by harsh immigration policies. The way to raise heads high is to make illegality a thing of the past.

This makes him a slightly more religious, and perhaps less crazy, John McCain. But there's more. Mercer doesn't even discuss--this week--his affinity for a nationwide smoking ban or his fiscal history which put him to the left of Bill Clinton. Instead:

Huckabee's antidote for the bumper crops of ignoramuses being produced in public schools follows the progressive Pleasure Principle: Please the little darlings; pleasure them, Huck prated at the Republican presidential debate in Iowa, for they are "bored to death." We must "make sure we build the curriculum around their interests." [Emphasis added.]

Hackneyed Huckabee is unaware that child-centered schooling has been in place for decades. Progressive pedagogues and parents have been gratifying children's demands for fun and frivolity for a very long time now.

Mercer might have pointed out that the federal government has no business with education at all. It is--supposed to be--a state issue. I don't recall Reagan discussing the benefits of the Federal Department of Education--maybe because I was three when he left office--but I have been told that it was later a plank of the Republican Party platform that the Department should be abolished.

The current Republican Party doesn't deserve even Reagan; were the latter to reemerge, he would no be marginalized as unelectable. Much like Ron Paul, who, not only has a record of staunch conservatism, but, last I checked, passed the litmus test on the God issue as well.

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