The Real Void in the GOP
If you believe the polls, Democrats are reasonably pleased with the field of presidential hopefuls vying for their 2008 vote. Republicans, on the other hand, are dissatisfied, hoping someone better comes along. So far that "someone better" has been described in terms of the perfect family-values conservative, with no hint of ambiguity or past policy shifts on abortion or gay rights.
But Seth Michaels at the AFL-CIO blog points out that there's another critical dimension where the GOP candidates fail to match up with rank-and-file Republican voters: economic issues that matter to working people.
Recall the poll conducted earlier this year by the Pew Center for People and the Press, which showed, among other things, that 58% of Republicans agreed that "government should take care of people who can't care for themselves." Nearly seven out of ten Republicans favored raising the minimum wage. 63% of Republicans say major corporations are too powerful, and half believe corporations fail to strike the right balance between profit and the public interest. 65% of Republicans insist that stricter laws and regulations are needed to protect the environment. More than half agree that labor unions are necessary to protect working people. Another poll found that half of Republicans think universal health care coverage should be a guaranteed right of every American.
Michaels suggests that former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, fresh off a second-place finish in the Iowa Straw Poll, could further distinguish himself from the GOP pack by speaking out on these issues. He notes that the candidate called for his party to "quit being a wholly-owned subsidiary of Wall Street and corporations" and acted to raise the state's minimum wage and authorize a health care program for poor children in Arkansas. As Michaels discusses, Huckabee still leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to working families issues, but at least he has the potential to pull the Republican economic discussion away from the right wing fringe, where it has been mired for far too long. That in turn, could make bread-and-butter economic issues more salient for Republican voters, leading more Americans to agree that the election should be "about" something like the crying need for a better health care system, as opposed to, say, whether people ought to be allowed to burn the flag.
So one cheer for Mike Huckabee, and the potential to shift our national political debate in a more productive direction. Watch this space on the DMI blog for Elizabeth Hartline Green's take on Huckabee's stance on education issues. We'll see if he earns another cheer.