Thursday, October 25, 2007

Meanness Counts

It's difficult to assess what the Family Research Council's "Values Voters Summit" last weekend means for the Fundagelical Right in the 2008 presidential election. The speakers who paraded across the stage in front of approximately 2000 attendees were certainly a who's who of the Hard Right, fundagelical or not. All the Republican presidential candidates appeared. I watched most of it on C-SPAN, despite warnings from my wife and my cardiologist.

What disturbed me most was a certain militaristic sub-text, including the frequency with which speakers (many of whom had never had anything to do with the military) entered and left the stage to loud martial music. The scariest moment was when the Reverend Harry Jackson, Senior Pastor of Hope Christian Church in Bowie, Maryland proudly proclaimed that "We are the Navy Seals of the Christian movement!" My worst fear is that if this country ever suffers a crisis of stability, whether from a terrorist attack, an economic collapse, natural disaster, or whatever, that's exactly what these guys will be--commandos ready to take over. I trust Rev. Jackson was speaking metaphorically, but I hear far too many military metaphors in fundagelical rhetoric. (This is something, by the way, noted in both of the two best books I have yet read on the Fundagelical Right: Michelle Goldberg's Kingdom Coming and Chris Hedges' American Fascists. Goldberg and Hedges are on to what the fundagelicals are really up to--power, and power over us all.)

The straw poll conducted by the conference was even more unreliable than most straw polls, which is saying it was really, really unreliable. Huckabee was a 5 to 1 winner over second place Romney among attendees who actually voted on site. The problem was that you could also vote online, and that vote had been open since August, when the Family Research Council invited people to pay one dollar, join up and vote. FRC membership grew from 5,000 to 8,500 between August and October.

Romney won the online vote with 1,595 votes, thirty more than Huckabee. No one else was even close. Giuliani came in next to last and John McCain was dead last. Complicating things was that about 600 attendees voted online.

The straw poll (or polls) settled nothing. The Fundagelical Right remains as fragmented as ever over whom to support. I don't know how this will all shake out, but I'm going to make one prediction. The candidate who appears the meanest and most likely to win will, in the end, get the most fundagelical support. Despite all the odds against him, that just might be Giuliani, although Romney is making a real go of it with his doubling Gitmo bit.

But what about Mike Huckabee? He's the natural choice. He's a Baptist minister and is the most personable, likable and articulate of all the Republican candidates. And, he's with the Fundagelical Right on all their push-button issues, always has been. Why isn't there a big push for Huckabee?

I think the answer is that he's not mean enough (and may not be mean at all). There is even evidence that he did some compassionate things as governor of Arkansas. I lived and worked in the fundagelical community for sixteen years, and, believe me, meanness counts. You need to know how to smile sweetly, speak often of Jesus and be the meanest SOB on the block to get anywhere in that world. Just look at the hate that spews from the likes of Robertson, Dobson, Lou Sheldon, and Don Wildmon of the American Family Association.

Despite his showing in last weekend's straw poll, don't count Giuliani out as the choice of many fundagelicals. A mayor who fostered a police culture resulting in random shootings of innocent people and ramming a stick up a guy's butt--now there's a real leader. Mike Huckabee doesn't stand a chance.


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