January 22, 2008
Sensitized students on my campus have been complaining about Mike Huckabee’s recent remarks on the topics of gay marriage and the Christian character of the Constitution. By way of overtures to populist evangelicals whose votes he sorely needed in South Carolina, Huckabee has affirmed his support of a marriage amendment and vaguely suggested that the Constitution out to be amended to meet “God’s standards.”
In the minds of Democrats, the federal government is one big therapist that applauds homosexual lifestyle preferences the same way young parents solicit the progress of offspring during toilet training. For them Huckabee’s intimation of a marriage amendment is truly traumatizing. But clearly, Huckabee is not vocalizing serious opposition to the American social democracy and the programs its left-wing administrators cherish. In conversation with Sean Hannity on FOXNews, the Baptist minister praised the Republicans to the high heavens for their superior record on “truly trying to bring civil rights” reform to the American regime. Huckabee took turns with his counterpart in reminding viewers that Ike had integrated Central High School in Little Rock and that Lyndon Johnson had depended on Republicans to get key civil rights and voting rights bills passed. Later in the broadcast the presidential hopeful affirmed his allegiance to a tradition of changes to the Constitution that merely freed slaves, gave women and blacks the vote, and secured important freedoms in the first and tenth amendments. Huckabee did not need to suppress knowledge that the civil rights movement had ever involved anything so untoward as social engineering since this is knowledge he does not possess.
There is nothing in Huckabee’s intellectual makeup that should bring my left-brained colleagues nightmares. Neither is there any historical evidence that evangelicals represent a serious challenge to the Left. Eager Christians like the ones Huckabee is now courting have been organizing and noisemaking for thirty years without significantly altering the political landscape or undoing left-wing programs. Although Christian groups influence elections and enjoy access to the news media, they do so while remaining obediently within conventional leftist boundaries. More significant than their approval of a marriage amendment is their willingness to keep Christianity updated and in line with changes in our democratic faith, the terms of which are set by the Left in the form of the neoconservatives. Those who know the difference between these evangelicals and the Biblical fundamentalists with whom they are often confused are not surprised when the former deemphasize “family values” in favor of a non-controversial “global rights” agenda. There is nothing traditional or right-wing about evangelical adulation of America and its military as a revolutionary force with a planetary reach.
A related factor is how Republicans who have gained office on the support of family-values Christians have had no trouble negotiating away their demands. Evangelicals tolerated
Reagan’s selection of the previously pro-choice George H.W. Bush as running mate as well as his appointment to the Supreme Court of Sandra Day O”Connor, anything but a stable right-wing judicial force. Cal Thomas has remarked that O”Connor “has been the swing vote that, in virtually every case, has beaten back any and all challenges to the “right” of a woman to abort her child at any stage of pregnancy.” Similarly, evangelicals, for all their efforts, have not wrought significant changes on the views among members of society. In thirty years the American mind has not changed on abortion or other social issues.
The cadence to Huckabee’s hosanna was a fascinating bit of counterfactual (and self-contradictory) history. Although the Republicans had provided LBJ the support needed to make real legislative gains, Dr. King remains the real hero in this narrative. Without King’s Protestant backing and “prophetic voice” the government would not have enacted needed social reforms. Bureaucrats had to be led “dragging and kicking and screaming” to accept their assignment to exorcise the demons of racism and insensitivity from American society. So far this leaves Hillary standing as the candidate with the best understanding of the history under review“excepting, of course, Dr. Paul.