Huckabee's libertarian Problem
By Isaac MacMillen
Former Arkansas governor and presidential primary contender Mike Huckabee recently attacked Republicans for focusing too exclusively on libertarians and what they stand for—limited government, lower taxes, and increased personal liberty. He states in his new book, Do the Right Thing:
“The real threat to the Republican Party is something we saw a lot of this past election cycle: libertarianism masked as conservatism. And it threatens to not only split the Republican Party, but render it as irrelevant as the Whig Party.”
The way he sees it, social issues must be solved first, then the country can move on to government-size and fiscal issues. However, as Steve Schippert, on the conservative blog Wizbang, points out, some of the “social problems” Gov. Huckabee is concerned about are caused, in part, by big government. He gives an example:
“Has [Mr. Huckabee]…wondered just how much government subsidizing of single parenthood has contributed to the breakdown of families?! It's not the only cause, to be sure. But it is more of a contributor than a cure.”
Here at Americans for Limited Government, we focus mostly on those views that Mr. Huckabee labels as “libertarian,” issues like limited government, lower taxes, property rights—anything that will limit the power of the government to chip away at our personal liberty. So it was with some disappointment that we heard of Mr. Huckabee's assault on those who fight for those issues.
Why should we not focus on them? Other organizations have their own focus. Asking ALG to expand its focus to include social issues is akin to asking the Family Research Council to begin commenting on economic policy, or the Victory Caucus to take a stand on social issues. Each has their own sphere of focus, each is important to the conservative movement, and none should be criticized for not addressing issues outside of their chosen arena.
But our disappointment goes even deeper than that. While Mr. Huckabee has clearly announced his dislike for libertarians, he has also made statements affirming limited-government principles as of late. In Do the Right Thing, Mr. Huckabee states that “[t]here should not be the disconnect between value voters and those who consider themselves the fiscal conservatives;” in his view, “most value voters are fiscal conservatives.” So, what's his problem with libertarians?
Additionally, Mr. Huckabee has been on record as of late saying that one of McCain's biggest mistakes was to not oppose the bailout. Fiscal responsibility is a key component of limited government philosophy—and, as Mr. Huckabee himself pointed out, social conservatives are often also fiscal conservatives.
So, Mr. Huckabee, what's your problem? Obviously, the Republican Party will have a broader focus than the individual parts of the conservative movement. Those who argue to ignore one or more of the parts of the movement are indeed mistaken. But, then again, you were arguing against a straw man, weren't you?
It is misguided at best, hypocritical at worst, to attempt to uphold a political philosophy while attacking its adherents. By criticizing those focused on limited-government issues, Mr. Huckabee risks alienating those social conservatives who hold strongly to fiscal responsibility—in fact, his criticism of some social conservatives who did not support him does not bode well to securing their support in the future, either.
Additionally, his statements were politically unpragmatic. The social wing of the party already finds him likable enough. If he wanted to expand his base, he should have embraced limited government policy—not criticize those who believe passionately in it.
As he launched the book, the former governor stated that conservatives “did not lose elections because of our principles, but because we failed to govern by those principles.” We completely agree.
But, we are compelled to point out that one of the foundational principles of conservatism is a belief in limited government. In the end, Gov. Huckabee's comments do more harm than good to his goal of reuniting the conservative movement and the Republican Party. Libertarians are a part of that movement, and they should not be cast aside lightly any more so than the other parts of the movement.
Isaac MacMillen is a contributing editor of ALG News Bureau.