Carpetbagger tries to rally the troops against the Huckabee surge (link) and who can blame him—Huckabee could well be a disaster as a president, and not entirely because of his Bible-thumping Christianity. But I think Carpetbagger still misses the point in his conclusion:
I’m not quite sure [says Carpetbagger—ed.] why the media has all of a sudden decided to swoon; it probably has something to do with the fact that the most competitive Republican candidates are pretty awful. But let’s not forget that Huckabee isn’t quite the moderate every-man his fans are making him out to be.
Well, I’m pretty sure I know why, and it has nothing to do with “moderation.” The reason is, rather, that that Huckabee is –I was about to say “likeable.” But not quite. Okay, it is true that “likeability” is at the core of the Huckabee persona, but it’s not the real point here. The real point is his capacity to make a powerful emotional connection.
Democrats persistently underrate the importance of emotional connection in a political leader—ironic, when you recall that they had their greatest success with Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose connective power knows no peer. It’s a mistake that leads them candidates with so little connective power—John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore (at least the pre-green Al Gore; the new model may be different). It leads to the (mistaken) belief that the secret of Bill Clinton’s success was his powerful academic record—whereas in truth, the real secret was his capacity to make them forget his academic record, and to meet them as one of their own.
This “connection” stuff can get complicated. In drafting this note, I made four points in order: that Huckabee is likeable; that he is comfortable in his own skin; that he’s not particularly mad at anybody; and that he can connect. I think all of these points are correct. But the way I wrote it, I made it sound as if the fourth point (connection) followed as a consequence of the other three. And this is patently absurd. Hitler, after all, was the greatest connector of the 20th Century, and he was about as likeable as an unspayed adolescent alligator. I’d take Huckabee over Hitler, but this connectivity bit seems oddly fickle in its affections.
A year ago, when Huckabee was nowhere, it amused me to predict that he would be the candidate. Now that he seems to be getting some traction, I’m beginning to have my doubts. But the point has little or nothing to do with likeability. The point would be that Huckabee will not pass muster with the real power in the Republican party—the looters who regard the government as a giant honey pot for their own enrichment. The looters can never carry an election on their own so they have to make deals with other constituencies with more pervasive passions as, for example, the Christian right. But if these “other constituencies” ever start getting the illusion they really control anything, they are in for a cruel awakening.