by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Huckabee has always struck me as a right-wing populist-progressive. A deeply religious — and by all accounts decent — man, Huckabee nonetheless has a view of the state that would have jibed almost perfectly with such forgotten titans of the Progressive Era as Richard Ely, Josephus Daniels, and even William Jennings Bryan.
Ely, a mentor to Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt and the founder of the “Wisconsin school” of progressivism, believed that “God works through the state in carrying out His purposes more universally than through any other institution.” It “is religious in its essence,” and “a mighty force in furthering God’s kingdom and establishing righteous relations.”
Daniels, Woodrow Wilson’s secretary of the Navy, was a devout Evangelical who banned alcohol (and condoms) from the service. At Daniels’ insistence, officers were forced to replace wine with coffee in the officers’ mess. They took to calling their replacement beverage “a cup of Josephus,” which was quickly shortened and immortalized to “a cup of Joe.” Daniels ordered that prostitutes be kept five miles from every port, and with the aid of a young assistant secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, oversaw a heavy-handed crackdown on homosexuality at the Naval Training Station in Newport, Rhode Island. Their tactics were so unseemly, Congress rebuked them both in 1919.
Bryan, the dashboard saint of populists for the last century, largely for his assaults on monied elites and his opposition to World War I, had no problem imposing his values on others — at home and abroad. After Prohibition was passed, he proclaimed, “Our nation will be saloonless for evermore and will lead the world in the great crusade which will drive intoxicating liquor from the globe.”
Huckabee isn’t as severe as the progressives of yore, but the same impulses are there. When he was governor of Arkansas — and on a weight-loss kick — he wanted Arkansas schools to track the body-mass index of students. In 2007, he favored a national ban on smoking and argued that we have a Biblical duty to fight global warming. In 1992, he told the Associated Press, “I feel homosexuality is an aberrant, unnatural, and sinful lifestyle, and we now know it can pose a dangerous public-health risk.”