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In the primaries, being a "true believer" like that (or just being perceived as one) can be a great asset because it means that those most committed to the party and most likely to vote in primaries are also likely to be his biggest supporters. In the general election, though, they may be his only supporters. You can't appeal to moderate conservatives, economic conservatives, and independents with a strong Christian Nationalist background and agenda. That candidate just ends up looking nutty; a perfect case in point is Mike Huckabee's record and comments on gays and gay marriage.
Consider these comments made by Huckabee in a recent interview:
Ten years ago, it would have been unimaginable to have gay marriage even in liberal Massachusetts. Now it’s there.
I don’t think the issue’s about being against gay marriage. It’s about being for traditional marriage and articulating the reason that’s important. You have to have a basic family structure. There’s never been a civilization that has rewritten what marriage and family means and survived. So there is a sense in which, you know, it’s one thing to say if people want to live a different way, that’s their business. But when you want to redefine what family means or what marriage means, then that’s an issue that should require some serious and significant debate in the public square. And if you look at states that have had it on the ballot—I know in our state it was a 70-percent-against issue. Most states are similar to that.
Source: GQ [emphasis added]
So, rewriting what marriage and family mean leads to the end of civilization, and legalizing gay marriage will therefore lead to the end of Western Civilization? That's a pretty dramatic statement. I wonder if Mike Huckabee can name just one civilization which has ended entirely or even largely due to their rewriting the nature of marriage and family? That's a question which many critics would like to ask Huckabee and it's a question the interviewer should have asked — with such a dramatic claim, Huckabee should have been able to provide several examples to support his case, never mind one.
I've got a second and perhaps more illuminating question: can Mike Huckabee provide any examples of any societies which have redefined the nature of marriage or family? There are many, of course, but I am very curious if Huckabee can identify any of those shifts in time. If he can, then that means he knows of marriage and family being redefined without civilization ending; if he can't, then he is completely ignorant of how marriage and family have changed in nature over the course of human history — and this means he shouldn't be commenting on the matter at all.
I'll offer a couple of examples of changes that have occurred in the nature of marriage and family over time: polygamy has given way to monogamy, wives as property without rights have given way to wives as equal partners, and marriage for the sake of property and survival has given way to marriage for love and personal fulfillment. Quite a few more equally significant changes could be listed and discussed, but those three are enough. All of them certainly led to, or were part of, substantial changes in society as a whole — and very good changes, too, many will agree. Civilization certainly didn't end either as a result of or even in connection to those developments.
So what reason is there to think that the same would occur if gay marriage were legalized? What's significant here is that all the changes were, as far as I know, opposed by religiously orthodox, conservative, and traditionalist forces — just as those forces are opposing gay marriage. The pattern is both consistent and predictable.
But if the younger generation keeps going the way it’s going, it could be 50 percent in ten years.
I just wonder what you’d say to the gay couple who says, “Well, we want to live this way, and my partner can’t come visit me in a nursing home.”
He can with a power of attorney. That’s the fallacy, that this requires some new definition of marriage. It’s simply not the case.
So why can’t you call it a civil union?
Because it really is a precursor toward marriage. Once the government says this relationship is in essence similar to or equal to a marriage—we’re not going to call it that, but that’s what it is—and you grant it the same basic rights as marriage, then you’ve effectively done it.
If anyone wonders whether Huckabee's position on gay marriage is motivated more by concern for the semi-historical form of marriage we currently have or a deep-seated anti-gay animus, just consider how he reacted to AIDS in the 1990s:
In 1992, Huckabee wrote, "If the federal government is truly serious about doing something with the AIDS virus, we need to take steps that would isolate the carriers of this plague."
"It is difficult to understand the public policy towards AIDS. It is the first time in the history of civilization in which the carriers of a genuine plague have not been isolated from the general population, and in which this deadly disease for which there is no cure is being treated as a civil rights issue instead of the true health crisis it represents."
So, Mike Huckabee believed that people with AIDS should be quarantined and that too much money was being spent on researching the disease. Wait, what? Even if we accepted as plausible his excuse that people suffering from a "plague" should be isolated from the rest of the population because the dangers are so serious, how can that be squared with the idea that it's so unimportant that it doesn't need so much money to research it?
If the threat is big enough for quarantine, it's big enough for significant research; if it's not worth so much government attention on research, it's certainly not enough of a threat to warrant large-scale quarantining of victims. I get the impression that Huackbee would have preferred to see AIDS patients die isolated, alone, and quickly.
Generally speaking, do you think it’s fair for people to take a candidate’s theological convictions into consideration at the polling place?
As long as everyone gets the same scrutiny. That’s what I don’t think is fair: I’ve been given an unusual level of scrutiny. No candidate gets quizzed to the depth that I do about faith.
Mike Huckabee has a point, but he's wrong on every count here. It may sound fair to give the same scrutiny to every candidate's theological convictions, but it's not necessarily fair. A candidate who never mentions religion, never implies that their religion is a positive force in their decision-making, and never panders to religion shouldn't be subjected to extensive scrutiny on their theological beliefs. To put it simply: if they don't make an issue out of it, then others shouldn't.
If another candidate in the same race does do all the above, however, then why should their theological convictions not be subjected to close scrutiny? It's not fair to treat two candidates the same if they are behaving in starkly different ways — and it's not even very honest of Huckabee to be decrying scrutiny of his religion when he appears to be using the question of religion to attack Mitt Romney in Iowa.
Huckabee's television commercials, where he tells voters "Faith doesn't just influence me, it really defines me," proclaim him a "Christian leader." Imagine if such a commercial were run in a race where his main rival were a Jew or an atheist — the subtext of "who's the Christian in this race" would be an obvious attempt at religious bigotry. The same is true when the rival is a Mormon because he knows most conservative Christians regard Mormonism as a heresy.
Huckabee is doing much more than the other Republicans to emphasize his religion. He wants to tell voters that his being a "Christian leader" is very important, but when specific questions come along about his Christian beliefs he dodges them by insisting that he's not trying to run a "theological school." None of the other candidates are getting enough scrutiny based on the degree to which they are trying to use religion, but it's fair for Huckabee to get more scrutiny on the basis of his extensive use of religion.