Garance Franke-Ruta chastises the media for going soft on Mike Huckabee’s extreme social conservatism. Ross Douthat counters that many of Huckabee’s views aren’t so extreme, unless your definition of “extremism” encompasses narrow to large majorities of the American people. I’m open to the argument that Huckabee might be too socially conservative to win a general election — or too economically liberal to win the Republican nomination — and am personally skeptical about his candidacy for a variety of reasons. But the exchange reminded me of something Huckabee has going for him that many outspoken social conservatives have lacked.
Frequently, the positions taken by the religious right poll better than the religious right itself. That’s because prominent religious rightsters are often seen as intolerant, given to extreme or offensive public pronouncements, hostile or alien to mainstream culture, and enmeshed in a religious subculture that many Americans don’t relate to. Huckabee, a gifted speaker with a generous personality who usually chooses his words carefully, doesn’t play to type. It is possible the American people would accept a platform championed by a candidate like Huckabee even though they would reject if it were associated with, say, Pat Robertson.