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What's Huckabee to him or he to Huckabee?

January 24, 2008 |  6:22 pm

The slow wearing out of Mike Huckabee's welcome among self-described moderates and progressives has left behind a pretty interesting question: How did the stars-and-bars-salutin', Satan's-brother-worshippin', animal-sex-speculatin' former preacher manage, however briefly, to win the hearts of liberals? What drove progressive pundits to gas about his daring stances, teachers and machinists unions to endorse him and editorial boards to praise his "stout heart for working families and the poor"?

It could be his personality; I can attest that Huckabee is every inch the affable, intelligent, engaging fellow he's made out to be. It could be the cockeyed hipsterism of this unlikely guitar hero. But what really turned the heads of the bien-pensant was the low-BMI razorback's staunch anti-capitalism. And nobody's brief encounter was as moving as that of Hendrik Hertzberg, the New Yorker's distressingly productive "Talk of the Town" thinker.

The flirtation had a definite shape and intrigue: an early, in-spite-of-himself recognition that, Hey, you can see why the groupies are all over this guy; a growing passion disguised by only the flimsiest of to-be-sures (which could be stated most succinctly as: "To be sure, the sun will supernova before The New Yorker ever supports a Republican"); and at last disillusionment marked by a funny, catty kiss-off. But while the fling was on, Hertzberg found points of commonality in Huckabee's refusal to issue the "usual denunciations of socialized medicine," his departure from the "economic-royalist wing of the G.O.P." and his apostasy from "the secular church of supply-side fundamentalism."

I love that last bit, as I love all attempts to imply that belief in a free market is some kind of revealed religion, unmoored from any ocular proof. Sure, a member of the irrational capitalist religion might say there's actual evidence for the effectiveness of economics. Maybe by noting that, in the period after lending at interest and common-stock corporations came into regular use, human beings went from not wiping their backsides to landing people on the moon, expanded their population by orders of magnitude, abandoned slavery and serfdom, etc., all in about a third of the time it took the tale of Huckabee's savior to travel the token distance from Jerusalem to Oslo. But hey, that's just theology.

I digress. The bittersweet news is that the left has abandoned Huckabee, and while it's sad to see a romance end, it's probably for the best. Presidents don't make a lot of difference on gay rights or the Confederate flag, but they do have the power to wreck economies. Thankfully, Huckabee's enlightened fans never figured that out.

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