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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Concerning Huckabuchanan

A few days ago, New York Magazine published an article by John Heilemann that, as the title “Huckabuchanan” suggested, explored the parallels between Mike Huckabee’s alleged fusion of social conservatism and economic populo-nationalism with that of Pat Buchanan, who briefly frightened establishment conservatives during his two presidential runs in 1992 and (especially) 1996. I thought of it again today after reading George Will’s jeremiad against Huckabee as representing a complete repudiation of conventional conservatism.
After suggesting the parallel between Preacher Mike and Pitchfork Pat, Heilemann doesn’t completely buy it, noting that much of the “economic populism” attributed to Huckabee is exceptionally vague or primarily rhetorical. He doesn’t go on to note the contrasting precision and detail associated with Buchanan’s economic thinking, but it’s worth remembering that Pat basically called for a revival of Henry Clay’s American System in its entirety. Moreover, you can’t really assess Buchanan’s appeal without mentioning his foreign policy views, which echoed a slightly more recent conservative icon, Robert Taft. Huckabee has occasionally made heterodox noises on foreign policy, but nothing that would remind you of Charles Lindbergh.
It says a lot about the insecurity of contemporary conservatives that Huckabee seems to be scaring them as much as Buchanan did. And I also hope that those Democrats who squint sideways at Huckabee, and setting aside his views on social issues, see him as a congenial “populist” spirit, take a much closer look. He’s like Buchanan in all the wrong ways.

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