What Gays Were To Bush; Mexicans Are To Huckabee

The more time I spend watching and listening to Mike Huckabee, the more I’m reminded of George W. Bush prior to his election in 2000. Huckabee, like Bush, presents himself as an affable character with a penchant for making simplistic connections with average folk. I contend that makes Mike Huckabee the logical successor to George Bush as the embodiment of the candidate voters would be inclined to select because they would enjoy sharing a beer with him.

At the same time, I suspect any presidential candidate is driven to win…and that desire likely leads candidates to adjust their positions on policies in order to be victorious. Many times this can lead a candidate to believe they must straddle the fence on controversial issues in order to maximize voter appeal. In that regard, I believe Mike Huckabee is also more similar to George Bush with each passing day.

Prior to his election, George Bush sold himself as a compassionate conservative…a position he frequently suggested had its origin in his evangelical faith. Mike Huckabee has put forth a comparable persona. Doing so affords a candidate the ability to broach volatile issues in “kinder, gentler” ways…at least superficially. It also has the added benefit of drawing more votes.

There are many other similarities, but I want to focus on one in particular. It involves a strategy I would call telegraphing…a plan to deliver uniquely tailored messages to different constituencies without overtly offending or alienating either. George Bush did this successfully with regards to his position on gays prior to his election and Mike Huckabee appears to be doing the same in relation to illegal immigrants (think Mexicans).

The goal of telegraphing is to sound sufficiently reasonable (moderate) to those voters who are uncomfortable with the targeting of any particular segment of society while also communicating one’s willingness to enact measures that do exactly that (targeting) to those voters who harbor bias for any number of reasons; not the least of which include homophobia and racism…although they are often couched as religious convictions or legalistic justifications.

To the impartial observer, the strategy often appears schizophrenic since rationality can rarely reconcile the divergent statements. At the very least, reasonable individuals are apt to notice some level of dissonance when placing the two statements side by side.

With George Bush, the dissonance was exhibited in numerous ways. On the one hand, the President spoke in support of the dignity of all Americans and against acts of discrimination directed towards gays. At the same time, he made strategic pronouncements in favor of an amendment to the Constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage…spoken in terms that were broad enough to allow moderates to believe he may not oppose the affording of some benefits to same-sex couples while also leaving the far right convinced the President understood the absolute necessity of the amendment and the negligibly vague references to “allowing” for some lesser rights for gays.

The fact that the homosexuality of the Vice President’s daughter, Mary Cheney, was seemingly acceptable provided another avenue for telegraphing. Dick Cheney’s ability to voice some level of disagreement with the President’s occasionally more definitive position helped muddy the waters and allowed observers to draw whatever inferences they favored.

I’ll offer one final observation relative to telegraphing. I believe George Bush’s success with the strategy was enhanced by his belief that these discordant statements should be delivered proximate. The less time allowed between the statements helps to nullify the negative impact of both while still delivering an important message to each constituent group.

I view Mike Huckabee’s current strategy with regard to illegal immigration (Mexicans) much the same. I doubt telegraphing was initially a key element of his campaign. However, my impression is that Huckabee is an able politician…but even more so an astute learner. In short order, this crafty Christian has discovered the merits of message manipulation.

The following videos track the subtle, though significant, Huckabee shift on immigration. Note that in the first video (April 13, 2007) he focuses upon his compassion and understanding for those who are here illegally…suggesting that there should be a process for them to pay some fines and begin their assimilation. He doesn’t indicate his desire to send them all back home before this can begin.

Huckabee On Immigration - April 13, 2007

In this second video, the former governor positions himself as a person of compassion…going so far as to tell voters that if they’re looking for a president with a mean spirit, he’s not going to do it and they should choose another candidate.

Huckabee On Immigration - September 5, 2007

In this third video, Huckabee wants to first make clear that he and most American’s aren’t and shouldn’t be angry at immigrants; instead the problem is the failure of the government to enforce our existing laws. He avoids talk of sending all of the immigrants home while attempting to infer that there should be a simple process to have employers identify illegals and press them to begin the appropriate legal process.

Huckabee On Charlie Rose - November 1, 2007

In this fourth video, Huckabee is addressing the remarks he made the prior evening at the YouTube debate. Note his recognition that immigration is an issue that angers and impassions voters. He seems to still be struggling to abandon his compassionate stance though one gets the sense he’s increasingly frustrated at his inability to redirect the dialogue. He’s more defensive than in his prior discussions.

He closes by alluding to his position being apt to make his staff cringe and to possibly cost him the election. I suspect he and his staff sense his rising poll numbers and they’re struggling to reconcile themselves to an unpopular position on immigration.

Huckabee Following The YouTube Debate - November 29, 2007

In this final video, which follows on the heels of his victory in Iowa, the former Baptist minister starts off with a comment that suggests he’d be happy to avoid the subject. He then moves to quickly defend his position to send illegals home with two defensive arguments. One, he argues we need to have a speedier path to legal immigration…lessening the wait illegals may have in returning to the U.S. Secondly, he posits that the dignity of illegals is dependent upon their compliance with the law…arguing they will feel better if they do it right.

In essence, Huckabee is well on his way to successfully straddling the fence…and doing so while preserving the bulk of his all-important compassionate credentials.

Huckabee During New Hampshire Debate - January 5, 2008

Hence, Mike Huckabee has completed his telegraphing of an immigration policy that satisfies the far right. In so doing, he improves his chances of ingratiating himself to the base of the GOP while removing a formidable obstacle to his acceptability.

Note that this new Huckabee plan avoids any meaningful discussion of a temporary-worker program. In doing so, Huckabee is catering to those who he initially characterized as mean-spirited and likely racist. By and large, this message by omission is now palatable to the voter demographic that views the influx of Mexicans as a threat to the political status quo. Therefore, he can now entice those voters who believe that a rapidly expanding Hispanic population would be apt to undermine the ability of the GOP to promote its preferred ideology.

Simultaneously, his previously unabated compassion for the plight of 12-15 million illegals and their “innocent” children has morphed into a dissertation on the fundamental attributes that will afford these individuals the dignity that comes with obtaining their citizenship…by returning home and getting in line to obtain legal status. In presenting his message in this manner, he succeeds in distracting from the harsh reality of his new position by focusing upon the idealization and elevation of the American dream…a vastly popular and innocuous concept.

Say what you will about the foibles of the George Bush presidency but one should never underestimate his political acumen. Granted, history may frown upon his accomplishments, or lack thereof, while in office…but it may also note his success in achieving his goal of serving as the president for two terms in an evenly split, though wholly divided, nation.

In less than a year, we will know if Mike Huckabee succeeded in adopting much of George Bush’s political template. I shudder to think he just might pull it off. If he does, the critical question will instantly be whether the nation can survive more of the same. I have my doubts.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

8 Responses to “What Gays Were To Bush; Mexicans Are To Huckabee”

  1. Liberal Jarhead Says:

    Huckabee is one of the scariest politicians we’ve seen in a while. Zealots are dangerous; anyone who puts ideology ahead of humanity is liable to do terrible things if they get the power. As governor and in this campaign, this man has already voiced and carried out policies discriminating against members of one minority, LGBT people; if he will do it to them, he’ll do it to other people, and Hispanic people are not safe. Beyond the immigration issue, the fundamentalist subculture he represents holds a strong anti-Catholic bias, and the great majority of people from Mexico and the rest of Latin America are Catholics.

  2. Lisa Says:

    LJ-The hispanic vote was already bought and paid for by the democratic party.
    And I am a bit confused I thought all Catholics are supposed to right wing neocons who are against illegal immigration.
    So are you actually saying Catholics aren’t right wing nut jobs?

  3. Jersey McJones Says:

    Lisa, what planet do you live on? Until the GOP racist/xenophobe base started in with abusing aliens, hispanics voted GOP around 40/60, if I recall. And Catholics were most all staunchly liberal and Democratic until the Religious Right sleay hypocrite machine started in about abortion and gays, yet still many of them remain Dems. Did anyone ever tell you otherwise, or did you just enter Earth from an alternate universe yesterday?


  4. Lisa Says:

    What do you mean abusing Aliens? Do you mean giving them the jobs that they risked their lives for to come here or giving them just enough to keep them hanging so they have to depend on them.
    Please do tell JMJ.

  5. Liberal Jarhead Says:

    As you said, JMJ, the Hispanic vote has traditionally been pretty conservative, though not fundamentalist or neocon, which is where the “nutjob” factor would come in. I live in a state with one of the largest Hispanic populations per capita, New Mexico, and have seen the trends over the years. Our current governor, Bill Richardson, is a Democrat, but a moderate to conservative one in a lot of ways, and his predecessor was a two-term Republican, Gary Johnson. If the Hispanic vote was “bought and paid for by Dems”, Johnson couldn’t have been elected or reelected.

    As well as being deeply immoral, the current Republican strategy of race-bashing against Hispanics is going to prove to be a huge strategic blunder. Rule # 1 when scapegoating and bashing a minority to appeal to a disempowered class you’re not really supporting - in this case struggling working class and middle class voters - is to pick a minority too small to fight back and too different from the rest of the population for people to easily empathize with. Their gay-bashing campaign is an example. In the case of the Hispanics, they’ve attacked the fastest growing demographic in the country. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in twenty more years, there were more Hispanics than Republicans in America.

  6. Lisa Says:

    LJ-Sorry but I don’t buy your statement

    “If the Hispanic vote was “bought and paid for by Dems”, Johnson couldn’t have been elected or reelected.”

    Because of the changing demographics isn’t that how Bill Richardson has won a second term.?
    I need to see an example of the republicans race bashing against hispanics.Legal ones. Let’s keep this in prospective. Or is that what the democrats say so they look like they are all compassionate and all.

  7. Liberal Jarhead Says:

    No, Bill Richardson won a second term because John Dendahl, the Republican candidate, is widely known as one of the biggest idiots in the state and ran an incompetent, foaming-at-the-mouth-everybody-hates-me campaign. Dendahl was the kind of politician that made his fellow Republicans cringe by doing things like accusing everyone to the left of him of being Communists.

    The Republicans let him have the candidacy because he was the only one dumb enough to want it. The Republicans didn’t put up a more attractive candidate because they expected to lose no matter who ran, not because Richardson is Hispanic, but because he was the incumbent and seen by both parties as the most powerful politician in state history; his nickname, one at least, was “the 800-pound gorilla.”

    Even in 2002, the Republicans didn’t see their chances against Richardson as good - it was considered a given from the time Gary Johnson won his second term in 1988, and term limits meant there would be no incumbent in 2002, that if Richardson chose to run the office was his, because of his resume and his political skills and connections. The Republican candidate that time was also Hispanic, but was not very good - he was a relative newby with neither a lot of brains nor much charisma; he was a contractor with a yappy-little-dog personality who got nicknamed “the attack roofer.”

    The Republicans have basically sat out the last two gubernatorial elections here, waiting for Richardson to go away, and saving their better personnel, like Steve Pearce or Heather Wilson, currently representing the state’s 1st and 3rd Districts in the House in Washington, from having a loss in 2002 or 2006 on their records. This next time, in 2010, is likely to be lot more wide open. Wilson has already announced that she’s going to try to replace Pete Domenici in the Senate when he retires, so she’s out, but the Republican party here, although the minority, is a large minority and has a lot of Hispanic faces in its ranks, though they’re losing more all the time as the Republican immigrant-bashing goes on and on.

    As for your seeking an example of Republican race-bashing against Hispanics, look at Tom Tancredo of Colorado for the most lunatic extreme - Duncan Hunter of California is out there too. Among pundits rather than office-seekers, look at Lou Dobbs - he’s even caught the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center, who track hate groups and hate speech, for such lies as announcing that Hispanic immigrants are spreading leprosy in the U.S.

  8. Lisa Says:

    They only refer to illegal immigrants LJ not hispanics in general. Why do you purposely mention them like they are one in the same.
    If we had as many illegal Italians coming here in the same record numbers and getting services to accomadte them then American citizens would feel the same about it. But because they happen to be hispanic illegals we are automatically supposed to be more tolerant.
    Again not buying it.

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