Huckabee, the Darkhorse

8 10 2007

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was certainly impressive at PBS GOP Presidential debate hosted by Tavis Smiley several weeks ago. At the debate, he successfully positioned himself as a more of a conservative looking for support among people of color, not alienate them with his message. Plus, unlike McCain, Guiliani, Romney, and Thompson he actually showed up to the forum.

After being as by Smiley at the debate what policies would he enact to ensure a fairer justice system. Realizing that many people of color believe the Justice system is replete with racial disparities and that minorities are severely overprisoned here is what Huckabee said:

Huckabee: Well, first of all, we really don’t have so much a crime problem in this country. We have a drug and alcohol problem. Eighty percent of the people who are in our prisons and jails are there for a drug or alcohol crime. They either were high or drunk when they committed the crime, or they committed the crime to get high or drunk.

And what has made a huge mistake is that we’ve incarcerated so many of the people who really need drug rehab more than they need long-term incarceration.

In our state, we established over 20 drug courts, that gave people an alternative course, rather than just putting them in prison, giving them the opportunity to get what they really needed, which is off the addiction.

We’ve got to quit locking up all the people that we’re mad at and lock up the people that we’re really afraid of, the people who are sexual predators and violent offenders.

But the nonsense of three strikes and you’re out has created a system that is overrun with people, and the cost is choking us.

I would go for more drug courts and for a lot less incarceration of drug-addicted people.

In contrast to the other candidates on stage that night who droned on about either there being no real racial disparities and about lifestyle choices, Huckabee came off as a sensible sober thinking conservative. When asked by Cythnia Tucker about DC voting rights in Congress. Here is what Huckabee said:

Huckabee: Well, I may be a little different on this one. I believe that the people of D.C. should be able to vote for representation.

I think that’s appropriate, for the simple reason of equality and justice. And if we need to amend the Constitution to make that possible, it should happen.

D.C. is not the same city it was when it was first created, and I think it just makes sense to not have a group of people — I don’t care what color they are, I don’t care how they vote — they ought to be able to vote, and their color and their political affiliation ought to have nothing to do with the equality that we should give them.

And when asked about immigration Huckabee said:

… if we’re going to deal with the supply, you touch it at the point of the demand. And until something is done to touch the people who are employing illegal immigrants because of the very reason that they’ve talked about on this stage, to create what amounts to another version of slave labor, then we’re never going to stop the flow.

You’re not going to get illegals to admit that they’re here illegally, because they’re desperate enough to do anything to feed their families.

What we have to do is to start putting the penalty on the people who are most benefiting from them, the employers who are using those laborers in order to keep from having to pay decent wages.

Perhaps, these kind of policy positions may not endear him to the more nativist, and law and order wing of the GOP party, but it will likely resonate more with some independent and voters of color eager to find Republicans who can speak to their issues. Plus, anyone watching Huckabee at that debate could tell, he was the only one up on that stage who relished the opportunity to make his case about what he had to offer people of color. All the other candidates seemed to be indifferent or in some cases hostile to some of questions about race and politics.

But its not just these reasons alone that make him a formidable insurgent prospect. Before a packed house of gun lovers r’ us, otherwise known as the National Rifle Association, Huckabee also waxed poetically about his love for hunting and provided an impassioned, if not inspiring, defense of the Second Amendment. At the same time, however, his background as a former Baptist minister makes him well positioned to courting religious conservatives, as recent polling in Florida and South Carolina has shown.

Obviously, none of this matters much if his campaign only manages to raise $1 million in the last quarter, while Rep. Ron Paul raised $5 million. But if he can overcome the financial hurdles its not beyond his capability to become new insurgent candidate to not just compete, but overtake other GOP contenders. Though this admittedly seems unlikely, Democrats would be wise to keep an eye on this dark horse in case he gets out the stable.

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