Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Last week, Tom posted a denunciation of economic inequality and CEO greed from Mike Huckabee, and now David Sirota posts several more Huckabee quotes along the same lines.

Hmmm ... Huckabee regularly denounces the lavish pay of "wealthy CEOS," and he comes in second in the Ames straw poll -- coincidence? Sirota doesn't think so. And he provides some concrete evidence (from a Raw Story report) that this kind of talk has real appeal:

"If you want to know how to fix it, I've got a solution," Huckabee said at the Republican debate. "Either give every American the same kind of healthcare that Congress has or make Congress have the same kind of health care that every American has." As he spoke, the electronic graphs rose dramatically for both moderate and conservative Republicans, from a neutral reading of 50 into the 80's.

I think Sirota's wrong to concern himself with this, however:

As a Democrat who wants to see Democrats win the White House in 2008, I shudder to think about a candidate like Huckabee using this posture to triangulate in a general election. You can, for example, pretty easily imagine him seizing the rhetorical mantle of populism against a candidate like Hillary Clinton -- a candidate who brags about pocketing big cash from lobbyists, who surrounds herself with K Street mercenaries, who takes in more health industry money than any other lawmaker in Congress, and who appears on the cover of Fortune magazine as Big Money's handpicked candidate.

Sirota's wrong about this because Huckabee simply isn't going to win the nomination -- in modern presidential politics, populists (Jesse Jackson, Jerry Brown, Pat Buchanan) never do. They're always outgunned by candidates who are getting the big bucks, and they're always hurt by media coverage that portrays their populism as weird and scary, whether or not it really is. Such candidates do often make it to the top gadfly position in a nomination fight, surprising everyone by rising to #2 or #3 and hanging in longer than expected; when this happens, pundits invariably argue that the success of the gadfly candidate will influence the campaign of the actual nominee, but that never seems to happen. And the gadfly never gets asked to be VP. (Given the pro-greed leanings of Thompson, Romney, and Giuliani, I'd be astonished if Huckabee gets the #2 slot.)

But what would happen if a party actually stopped trying to make certain that Wall Street was always appeased and actually embraced such a candidate, rather than offering the back of its hand? And if that ever happened, wouldn't it be nice if it were the Democratic Party? Sirota makes more sense when he says this:

... as I've stated so many times before, the only way to fight off a general election candidate like Huckabee -- or any other Republican candidate -- is for Democratic candidates to finally embrace populism for themselves, rather than shunning it in an effort to get approval from their Wall Street wing.

I don't know if it's "the only way," but can we try it for once? Can we actually try being the party of the people for a change? It seems to be working fort Mike Huckabee.

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