Thursday, May 07, 2015

Mike Huckabee: Man of the people

By Richard Barry

Yesterday I noted that Mike Huckabee is setting himself up as the only likely Republican presidential hopeful ready to aggressively protect entitlements like Medicare  and Social Security, contrary to conservative orthodoxy that looks at anything the government does (with the exception of invading other countries) with suspicion.

Now it's on to criticizing international trade deals, the kind of thing you would expect of labour unions and leftists like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

As reported by The Week:

In an MSNBC interview, 2016 Republican presidential candidate and ordained Baptist minister Mike Huckabee used some salty language to argue against fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

"I’d like to think the U.S. government would stand up for the U.S. workers rather than let them take it in the backside and somehow just have to tough it out," Huckabee said.

A Republican is worried about a trade deal that could adversely impact the wages of American?  Okay.

In one sense this isn't that surprising. There has long been a tension in the Republican Party between big-monied eastern elites and middle American populists. In the strange coalition that makes up the party, eastern elites vote Republican to protect their economic interests, their privilege, and many middle American populists vote Republican as an expression of their own powerlessness.

If you think about it, it's almost surprising it took a Republican presidential candidate so long to start moving in this direction. The government is trying to screw the little guy out of entitlements which he paid for. The government is negatioting a trade deal that could lower wages for the working class. And the government is telling people they have to accept changes in the social fabric of the country that make them nervous, to put it gently.

It's not entirely consistent if you take conservative ideology as a package, but consistency is over-rated in politics if you can find a way to play to people's fears.

It will be very interesting to see how this line plays out in the debates.


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  • If you look at the history of populism in this country and how it manifests in other countries, you see that it is usually socially conservative, nationalistic, and economically liberal. In the US, I think most Americans are modestly conservative on social issues and quite liberal on economic issues. I'm not clear why someone hasn't shown up to exploit this great political opportunity. Although I would note that Sanders does this to some extent. He's very liberal on economic issues, but not nearly so on other issues -- especially foreign affairs. But given that social conservatism is now just shorthand for anti-choice, it doesn't mean a lot.

    By Blogger Frank Moraes, at 5:50 PM  

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