I had a 12 hour drive the other day through the Midwest and so about the only thing on AM radio was conservative talk radio. I can't say that it's my favorite programming but Rush Limbaugh was on so I decided to listen in for a while. The whole time I was listening Rush was attacking Iowa's Republican caucus winner Mike Huckabee and the idea of populism in general. From what I could tell Rush didn't seem to like Huckabee because he wasn't a "true conservative", and if you pay attention you'll hear this a lot from the Republican establishment.
Like I said, I had some free time, so I decided to think about the current crop of Republican candidates and why the establishment seems to view Huckabee with nothing but contempt. First things first, it definitely can't be because he's not conservative enough; I mean this is a field with Giuliani, Romney and McCain. But then I started to think about the philosophy behind conservatism and it hit me. The establishment doesn't like him because he threatens the status quo and will expose the "conservative" ideology for the farce that it is. Stay with me here.
For decades the elitist Wall Street conservatives have dominated the Republican party. They've been able to gain power by convincing social conservatives that their interests are aligned with the interests of the business elite. These elitists have used the social conservatives to further their financial agenda while paying lip service to social issues and fiscal conservatism. Social conservatives have been the machine behind the grassroots movement within the Republican party as they are the ones making phone calls, organizing rallies, stuffing envelopes, etc.
Despite all evidence to the contrary, social conservatives continued to vote Republican because the alternative was to support more socially liberal candidates. Regardless of how bad the fiscal and foreign policies became they continued to support the party. But all that changes with Huckabee - he's one of them. And he's telling them things they've known deep down for some time but just didn't dare express. He's telling them how "free market" and "free trade" policies aren't always the answer. He's telling them that our health care system is a disaster and getting worse.
His populist rhetoric is working and it scares the hell out of the establishment. Because once social conservatives realize they have been bamboozled by the current crop of elitist conservative cronies, they will seize their party leadership and begin to promote policies actually strengthen working class Americans. And where will the elite Wall Street robber barons go then? They are no longer welcome in the Democratic Party - I suppose their only hope would be a Hillary victory. Just watch how this debate shapes up, the elitists will decry populism as a divisive political ploy that pushes class warfare to further a political agenda. But what they won't tell you is that is exactly what they have been doing to social conservatives for decades.
And if all this sounds familiar it's because we're watching the same thing happen here in the Allen County Republican Party. Matt Kelty was an outsider that threatened the entrenched interests within the party. Instead of simply using the average Republican voter he vowed to give them a voice. He brought new people into the party and fought like hell to change the status quo. Now Kelty had his flaws (we all do) and ultimately they were his undoing but his message of change was powerful and it scared some people in his own party.
Now Huckabee is no Kelty as he's a seasoned politician who has been through the ringer a time or two. Some seem to be writing his Iowa victory off as anomaly but I'm not so sure. The populist wave is rising, even within the Republican Party, and those that choose not to ride it will likely be crushed...