NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Some moderate Republicans are urging the party to jettison social conservatives in order to reclaim the White House and Congress, but former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee believes it would be a mistake — and result in even more losses.
Huckabee took part in a conference call with media members and bloggers Nov. 17 in order to promote his new book, “Do the Right Thing: Inside the Movement That’s Bringing Common Sense Back to America,” which details his presidential run and lays out his vision for conservatism. He won eight states during the Republican primary season and finished second in the delegate count.
“If it had not been for the cultural conservatives, there would have been a true landslide [for Democrat Barack Obama on Election Day],” Huckabee said. “As it was, it was the cultural conservatives that kept John McCain as close in the race as he was”
As happens with any losing party following a presidential election, Republicans are debating how they should change in the next four years before the next presidential election in 2012, or even before the mid-term election in 2010. Former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican, co-wrote a column in The Washington Post Nov. 14 urging Republicans to move toward the center on such issues as abortion, “gay rights” and embryonic stem cell research. The Republican Party “had been taken hostage by ‘social fundamentalists,'” she asserted, and the 2008 election — with Obama claiming a much greater percentage of moderates than did 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry — proved it. Whitman served in the Bush administration as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Unless the Republican Party ends its self-imposed captivity to social fundamentalists, it will spend a long time in the political wilderness,” she and co-writer Robert M. Bostock argued. “On Nov. 4, the American people very clearly rejected the politics of demonization and division. It’s long past time for the GOP to do the same.”
But Huckabee — as well as social conservative leaders who point to marriage amendment victories in three states — disagrees. Although not specifically addressing Whitman’s column, Huckabee said social conservatism is directly related to economic conservatism.
“There’s no such thing as being able to separate the morality of a country with the economic underpinnings of that country,” said Huckabee, who hosts a Saturday night show on FoxNews. “When I was governor [of Arkansas] for 10 and a half years, it became increasingly obvious to me that the cost of government was directly proportionate to the level of breakdown that was taking place in families. High divorce rates [and] single-parent households resulted in an increase in everything from poverty to lack of health care to lack of financial security to the need for college scholarships. You could just go through the whole list.
“So when people say, ‘I don’t want to hear about all this morality stuff…. I want to hear only about cutting taxes and lowering government,’ I’m thinking, look, you can’t cut taxes and reduce the size of government if people are irresponsible.”
Some pro-lifers, Huckabee said, abandoned the Republican Party in recent years because it failed to stand up for pro-life principles. Democrats took control of the House and Senate in 2006 and then padded their majorities this year.
“We didn’t lose elections because we were pro-life,” Huckabee said. “We really started losing elections when we didn’t act like that mattered. And so, the people who really do care about issues — whether it’s marriage, life, Second Amendment — felt like, ‘If this party isn’t going to have a significant different stand than the Democrats, then why not just vote for the Democrats and give them a chance?'”
Ask about his future intentions, Huckabee said it is too early to speculate whether he will run again in 2012.
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.