Mike Huckabee is a predictably extreme conservative on a host of social issues. But on a number of economic issues, he is something of a populist.
That combination makes him a much more serious contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination than much of the media—and even some of his fellow candidates in the race he entered Tuesday—might imagine. This does not mean that the former governor of Arkansas and failed 2008 Republican presidential prospect will be the 2016 nominee of his party. In all likelihood, he’ll fail again. But he might take some other Republicans down with him.
The great balancing act of the Republican Party in recent decades has been to get socially conservative people who are not all that wealthy to abandon their economic self-interest and vote for candidates who openly advocate for trade policies that eliminate jobs, oppose efforts to address wage stagnation and have no real problem with an ever-expanding pattern of income inequality.
Working-class and middle-income Americans who passionately oppose abortion rights and marriage equality but who might want to keep their jobs and Social Security usually find themselves in a bind. As Republicans, they can choose from plenty of candidates who promise to prevent loving couples from getting married. But those same candidates are likely to put a lot of jobs and all of Social Security at risk.
There’s just not a lot of opportunity for working-class evangelicals to vote their values and to vote their wallets.
Except, perhaps, with Huckabee.
No, Huckabee is not some Republican Franklin Delano Roosevelt or Bernie Sanders. He doesn’t even qualify as a moderate on most economic issues. But within the Republican Party as it has been reconstructed by House Ways and Means Committee chair Paul Ryan and his minions—as a battering ram for austerity policies and the unapologetic redistribution of wealth upward—Huckabee is an outlier, in that he at least tries to distance himself from the overt politics of plutocracy.