First, a note to the Governor: “Before you leave, Governor Huckabee, I’d like to thank you for coming—you’ve been a breath of fresh air, different than all the other guests and a reminder of how great our democratic process is. If you hadn’t shown up, I’d have been inclined to believe the guest list was by invitation only. But you’ve reminded me that often the best guests at the party were the least anticipated.”
I suspect, as you might have guessed, that Governor Huckabee’s time as a Presidential candidate is running short. I could lament the pending loss of this true outsider, the loss of the one candidate that seemed to have a vision for America. But this is not the day for that. Today is a day to note that despite Senator Obama’s tide of talk on hope and optimism it is really Mike Huckabee who is the symbol for hope in the American political process.
At this time last year, the onslaught of party-specific Presidential Forums began and Rudy McRomney was the talk of the nation (at least the part of the nation that cared a year ago). Mike Huckabee was as much an after thought as Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter, Sam Brownback, Tommy Thompson and Jim Gilmore. The stage was full of men seeking a platform to share their ideas and an opportunity to gain a foothold. Only one of these relative unknowns was able to do so—Mike Huckabee. And this fact is good for American democracy.
The nation says it wants change. The nation feels Washington DC is broken. The nation feels like it needs a new direction. The perpetuation of the political paradigm personified by the front-runners is unlikely to alter those perceptions. If the nation feels cynical about the future, billionaires and establishment candidates are not sobering. But Mike Huckabee came along and demonstrated first-hand that an individual with some experience, with a message, and with the ability to communicate that message can gain access to the presidential process.
Moreover, his candidacy reminds us that we are important. As much as he seized the opportunity afforded him, America responded. The nation listened to the political conversations; the nation evaluated his message; the nation gave him a chance; and, in the end, many Americans in Wyoming, Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Michigan and Florida took time out of their personal lives to communicate to the rest of the nation that they believe in this guy. Mike Huckabee’s candidacy should remind us all of the hugely important role each American voter plays in this process. Individually, each of us can make a difference.
It is somewhat interesting to me that despite the overwhelming belief that change is in order, America continues to select candidates who are not much different than the elected officials who preceded them. But I also believe that this is a manifestation of our collective conservatism. We understand that change is in order, but it also needs to be thoughtful and without whimsy. Incremental change is the national tradition, and rightfully so. As much as I enjoy rearranging the furniture in my living room, it’s easy to put back and it affects no one outside my home. But in Presidential politics, four years is a long time to live with a lamp that blocks the view of the television. Thus, despite their appeal, people that are agents of too much change are not likely to fair well in the end.
We are a nation that loves celebrity. Whether in Hollywood or Washington DC, celebrity is the real currency of the powerful. Look at the current field of realistic candidates and each of the four of them has achieved some level of national celebrity and/or is identified by something other than their ideas: Barack Obama, the black candidate and famous for his speech at the 2004 DNC convention; Hillary Clinton, the woman candidate and former First Lady; Mitt Romney, the Mormon candidate and savior of the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics; and John McCain, former POW and former Presidential candidate. Even Rudy Giuliani’s initial success can be traced to his post 9/11 celebrity.
But I do not believe that celebrity is the best identifier of Presidential candidates, and so I look with great joy on the candidacy of Mike Huckabee, because he’s shown us all that when we participate we can increase the pool of viable candidates to include those who eschew the well-worn path of establishment politics and, rather, seek a new road to take this great nation down. Governor Huckabee is the example all future unknowns need to feel like they have a chance. The more people who we have to choose from, the better off we are. These candidates may not win, but they expand the discussion and they invigorate the electorate.
Mike Huckabee’s time as a Presidential candidate may soon be over for the time being, but his candidacy is a testimony to the American democratic system, to our political processes (as convoluted as they sometimes seem) and to our citizens. He has shown us that our election process is an excellent means of selecting candidates.
Thanks again for coming, Governor. We’ll look forward to seeing you again. And next time, maybe we’ll be ready for you.