Sunday, December 16, 2007

Political Transformation in Iowa

Former Bush speechwriter, Michael Gerson, comments on the recent endorsement of Mike Huckabee by Jim Gilchrist. Gilchrist is founder of the Minuteman Project, an activist anti-immigrant organization that many have called a hate group or, at the very least, a xenophobic organization that espouses intolerance and relies upon the exploitation of American fears and insecurities.

While many would spur, or at least blush from, Gilchrist’s endorsement, the Huckabee campaign has fully embraced it. The candidate who speaks of bringing together, the candidate with reasonable and humane stances on immigration as Governor, again shuns his principles for political expediency by further kowtowing to the Republican base that will ultimately derail his message and his entire campaign. Gerson writes:
I am predisposed to like Mike Huckabee for his commitment to economic mobility, his firm but nonjudgmental social conservatism and his Christian concern for the poor. But Huckabee's embrace of Gilchrist and his recent shifts on immigration policy undermine the core of his appeal: authenticity. From the G-rated, family-values candidate, this is the kind of politics that should be covered with brown paper, kept under the counter and hidden from children.

Gilchrist is not just another voice on immigration. He is one of the most divisive figures in the most divisive debate in American politics. In 2006, responding to pro-immigration demonstrations, he told the Orange County Register, "I'm not going to promote insurrection, but if it happens, it will be on the conscience of the members of Congress who are doing this. I will not promote violence in resolving this, but I will not stop others who might pursue that." Note the oily formulation -- not promoting, but also not criticizing, the resort to political violence. "I'm willing to see my country go into battle if necessary," he added, "for our sovereignty and to be governed by rule of law."

Gilchrist has called for the impeachment of President Bush over the issue of border enforcement. He has made noises about running for president as a third-party candidate because of his disdain for Republicans. This is an odd choice of company for a candidate who promotes a conservatism without anger.

…Huckabee has accompanied his choice of new friends with an immigration plan that would require 12 million illegal immigrants to return home before applying for permanent status -- a completely unrealistic approach borrowed from anti-immigration activists. Huckabee's campaign regards this evolution as immunization against Mitt Romney's immigration attack ads -- and it may work in the short run. But a political shift this transparent raises questions about the quality and seriousness of Huckabee's campaign.

Huckabee's main appeal has been his homespun decency. But his behavior on immigration has been a kind of politics-as-usual so blatant it is actually unusual. Huckabee is managing to compromise his most distinctive virtue at the very moment the attention of the public is focused on his candidacy. In politics, a candidate can bend over backward so far that his spine snaps.
I can’t help but think that the blatant pandering of Huckabee, Romney and Giuliani to the Republican base will ultimately leave the door wide open for a John McCain resurgence.

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