Huckabee Changes His Tune
People are crazy and times are strange
I’m locked in tight, I’m out of range
I used to care, but things have changed
–Bob Dylan (2000)
Unless something unexpected happens, the upcoming election will pit a real estate and casino mogul, Donald Trump, against a former First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton. Yet they are deeply unpopular figures. According to FiveThirtyEight, “Clinton and Trump are both more strongly disliked than any nominee at this point in the past 10 presidential cycles.” It’s almost as if It’s A Wonderful Life’s Mr. Potter were running against Cruella De Vil of 101 Dalmatians.
Although Trump is the presumptive GOP nominee, there are many Republicans, including yours truly, who cannot at this time imagine casting a vote for him in November. As I told Kathryn Jean Lopez of National Review, “A once great political movement that gave us Russell Kirk, William F. Buckley Jr., and Ronald Reagan—with all their gifts of insight, wit, and statesmanship—is now led by a conspiracy-mongering, demagogic, narcissistic loudmouth, championed by assorted boot-licking sycophants.”
There are, of course, a growing number of Republican voices who want us to believe that Trump’s indiscretions are not evidence of a passion for verbal crime but rather just isolated verbal crimes of passion. Perhaps this is why five days after Governor Mike Huckabee declared his support for Trump and claimed that the #NeverTrump movement was “hapless” and “more about providing high dollar work for the political consultants than stopping …. Clinton,” he let pass without comment Trump’s vile tweet aimed at Huckabee’s fellow Baptist minister, Russell Moore: “…. Moore is truly a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!”
Governor Huckabee’s silence on Trump’s Moore-tweet initially seems like a bit of a mystery, since over the years he has been without peer in his fleet-footed defense of anyone who he thought was bullying or misrepresenting the views of his fellow Christians. He came to the defense of Duck Dynasty when Cracker Barrel announced it no longer would be selling the television show’s products. He has offered his support to the Duggar Family, Kim Davis, and even the Pope, and in the latter case issuing a series of Twitter missives in the direction of President Obama’s White House. Yet when Trump went after the Pope earlier this year, calling the Holy Father a pawn of the Mexican government, Governor Huckabee joined in with the attack.
To add more to the mystery, you may recall that not too long ago he was quite critical of President Obama and the First Lady for allowing their daughters to listen to the music of the African-American artist, Beyoncé: “My point was, even in speaking about the Obamas—and I said about them in the book [God, Guns, Grit, and Gravy], they’re great parents. But it was President Obama, in an interview with Glamour, who said that some of the lyrics he won’t listen to with his daughters, because it embarrasses him.” He went on to say, “If it embarrasses you, then why would you possibly think it’s wholesome for your children to put it into their heads?”
But apparently there is now a different standard for the old, rich white man who is on the Republican ticket for the most powerful and influential office on the planet. When it comes to Trump’s “song and dance,” its propagation, and how it may shape the souls of the nation’s citizens, including its children, the curmudgeon moral scold once troubled by President Obama’s filial embarrassment has been transformed into the giddy boy-band groupie transfixed by the act’s badness: “Donald Trump broke the code, owned the media, and inspired the masses.” This comes from the pen of the same hand that published these words just eighteen months ago: “Most people exhibiting crude behavior or language aren’t doing anything illegal, but they’re contributing to a culture that is abrasive, rude, obnoxious, and just plain mean.”
So Governor Huckabee, who once prided himself for being in the world but not of it, has given way to a new Governor Huckabee, one who is of the world but not in it.
What accounts for his apparent change of heart? Your guess is as good as mine. But if he is not forthcoming with an answer, perhaps we can ask his daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has worked as a political consultant for the Trump campaign since February. (One of those “high dollar work… political consultants,” perhaps?) Although I have no idea how she could reconcile her father’s selective moral outrage, I am sure her digital music playlist has no Beyoncé songs on it.
Francis J. Beckwith is Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies, Baylor University, and 2016-17 Visiting Professor of Conservative of Thought & Policy, University of Colorado, Boulder. His most recent book is Taking Rites Seriously: Law, Politics, and the Reasonableness of Faith.