The Washington Post headline read: "Huckabee Complicates GOP Contest."
Wrong. What is complicating the GOP contest is the attempt to imagine, craft, articulate, and sell a "conservatism" that does not have respect for the dignity of life as its most fundamental value.
What conservatism is supposed to be conserving, as in preserving and passing on, is classical liberalism and the eternal truths upon which it is grounded. I know this is confusing at a time when the term "liberal" is used as the polar opposite for "conservative." But consider the use of the term in the phrase "liberal arts education." The point is human freedom — not license — and the development of those habits of mind that make a person fit to rule himself and to take his place in a republic of free people. Undergirding this is the idea — as stressed so magnificently in the Declaration of Independence that this freedom belongs to man as an inalienable right, given to him, not by the fiat of government, but by God, that the first right that belongs to man is the right to life, and it is "to secure these rights" [that] "Governments are instituted among Men." The Catholic Church concurs and teaches that no commitment to "human rights" or "civil rights" can be genuine without the right to life being first. One can only be free if first one is alive. One can only pursue happiness if first one is alive.
One who wishes then, to convince the citizens of a republic so ordained as "to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity" that he is qualified to hold the office of chief executive, cannot be indifferent to, or weak, tepid, inconsistent, or mealy-mouthed in his defense of, the lives of that posterity. He cannot hold that it is allowable to experiment upon this posterity while they are very tiny, or destroy them while they are helpless in the wombs of their mothers. Any claim to "conservatism" that does not make the defense of their lives top priority is not conservatism at all.
Oh, it may be some kind of economic pragmatism. It may even be principled in its objections to confiscatory taxation as a detriment to the economic freedom of citizens. But, unless life is first, its commitment to freedom is hollow.
What makes things complicated for the GOP is that there are "economic conservatives" who consider pro-lifers to be an embarrassing annoyance, that is, when they aren't serving as useful idiots. But the fact is that the only true conservatives there are are pro-lifers and, not to put too fine a point on it: without them there is no conservatism.
This is why Huckabee is not the complication. As Deacon Keith Fournier put it in an article on Catholic Online: "The Republican Party is being shaken to the core during this Primary campaign;" he elaborates:
Those who thought they controlled the Grand Old Party have discovered that they do not. The principles which inform the Party of Lincoln are being closely reexamined and reconsidered by voters. The results are bringing deep concern to some, including some who call themselves conservative. …
Without the right to life there are no other rights and the entire structure of human rights is threatened. Without the freedom to be born there are no other freedoms. Freedom is a good of the human person. Almost 50 million persons have not been able to exercise it because their lives were taken in the first home of the whole human race, their mothers womb, under the current practice of 'legal' abortion on demand in America. …
[T]he major problem with some contemporary conservative thought [is that] it does not operate from a foundational philosophy which positions the dignity of every human person as the polestar of every public policy analysis. It then fails to order and prioritize issues based upon a hierarchy of values and importance.
Right on. First, the right to life, and then — because it is the pro-creator and protector and nurturer of that human being whose right to life is inalienable — the good of the family and protection of the institution of marriage. Everything else is negotiable.
Mike Huckabee gets this. That is why a January 29th guest commentator on Catholic Online, Robert Stackpole, STD, after a point by point analysis of Huckabee's positions in light of the bishops' recent document, Faithful Citizenship, called him, "the most Catholic candidate" in the race:
Gov. Mike Huckabee is the only candidate running for the presidency who has fully, clearly and consistently been Pro-Life and Pro-Family throughout his public career. He has always strongly supported both the Right to Life and Traditional Marriage Amendments to the Constitution, which most Catholics know are essential to the protection of these social values. He states on his website:
"There is a lot more that a pro-life President can do than wait for a Supreme Court vacancy, and I will do everything I can to promote a pro-life agenda and pass pro-life legislation. …I will staff all relevant positions with pro-life appointees. I will use the Bully Pulpit to change hearts and minds, to move this country from a culture of death to a culture of life. I have no desire to throw women in jail, I just want to stop throwing babies in the garbage."
Catholics need to be crystal clear on the importance of these matters. For authentic Catholics, the economy is not the most important issue we face. Opposing "intrinsic evils" is even more important. Along with slavery, legalized abortion has been America's most shameful moral crime, an on-going "slaughter of the innocents" in our midst, and a fundamental denial of the inalienable right to "life" that our Declaration of Independence claims it is the main purpose of governments to protect.
With the U.S. Supreme Court probably only one vote shy of the majority needed to overturn legalized abortion in this country, Catholic Americans cannot afford to risk the election of another Johnny-come-lately to the Pro-Life cause. The last time we did that as a nation (George Bush Sr.), we ended up with pro-abortion Judge Souter on the court.
Gov. Huckabee, however, has neither wavered nor equivocated on this issue: as Governor of Arkansas he pushed through the legislature the Arkansas Unborn Child Amendment that required the state to do whatever it could to protect each human life.
On family issues, also, he has been strong and consistent, obtaining an amendment to the Arkansas constitution defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
I understand how having a candidate in this race who so forthrightly says these things would be an unwelcome "complication" in certain quarters. It would be so uncomplicated if no one stood on a national stage and defended life, wouldn't it? — so uncomplicated and such a shame.