Huckabee’s Dog Whistle Politics
Have you noticed a lot of…er…Verticalness in Huckabee’s campaigning lately…?
At Saturday night’s Republican debate, Mike Huckabee used a word he emphasizes quite a bit: “vertical.”
“I think we also ought to recognize that what Senator Obama has done is to touch at the core of something Americans want,” Huckabee said. “They are so tired of everything being horizontal — left, right, liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican. They’re looking for vertical leadership that leads up, not down. He has excited a lot of voters in this country. Let’s pay respect for that. He’s a likable person who has excited people about wanting to vote who have not voted in the past.”
A few hours earlier, Josh Marshall noted that “vertical” is a Huckabee favorite, with the former governor’s website arguing, “I think the country is looking for somebody who is vertical.”
Can anyone explain what the hell that means? Vertical? I guess if you’re main opponent was Fred Thompson you might push the fact that you spend most of your time standing up. But seriously, is there something I’m missing here? Or is this the weirdest campaign I’ve ever heard?
What Marshall was missing was one of the current fundamentalist tropes. He wouldn’t know, because he doesn’t live in that stifling environment…
This probably won’t come as too big a surprise given Huckabee’s faith-based campaigning, but this “vertical” talk seems to have dog-whistle implications.
This is definitely dog-whistle politics — that is, a message delivered in coded terminology and targeted to a particular subcultural group. Conservative evangelicals often talk about the need to prioritize their vertical relationships with God first and foremost before worrying about horizontal relationships among people. It’s the individualized “get right with God” approach of conservative Protestantism.
In contrast, progressive people of faith reject the vertical-horizontal dichotomy as a false one, saying that in interpersonal relationships one’s faith and spiritual teachings are made manifest. Such an outlook is wishy-washy, watered-down liberal theology in the minds of conservative evangelicals. Southern Baptist minister Huckabee knows this, and speaks evangelical-ese with his words. In fact, he’s got it up on his website as well.
I know this is so because I’ve been present a number of times when “vertical” rhetoric — the exact word — has been used in evangelical circles. It’s indeed a way of speaking one hears in many churches, part of the faith vocabulary of the evangelical and fundamentalist subculture.
And from “The God Strategy: How Religion Became A Political Weapon in America”:
That’s the power of narrowcasting. Targeted, under-the-radar messages denote who is part of the club. It’s like a secret handshake, writ large and electoral: politicians who narrowcast religious cues are assigned considerable credibility by voters in the targeted constituency.
Something to keep an eye on.
Andrew Sullivan, who is no Huckabee fan, was quoting Rod Dreher, who admits now that he was bamboozled by Bush and is ready to be bamboozled now by Huckabee…
I don’t get why Andrew calls Huckabee’s rise a sign of "the perils of fundamentalist politics." For one, Huckabee is not a fundamentalist. He’s more of a Rick Warren Evangelical…
No, and No. If he’s not actually a theocrat, he’s certainly willing to give actual theocrats everything they want so long as they get him elected. Jim Burroway, as always, has done some homework on his past, and the folks he likes to hang out with…
We reported earlier on Southern Baptist minister and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s fundraising event at the home of Houston multimillionaire Steven Hotze, a well-known Christian Reconstructionist. Pastor Rick Scarborough, who also maintains Reconstructionist beliefs, was there as well. Since then, we’ve learned that Huckabee’s ties go far deeper than mere acquaintances and financial backers. He has a history of working very closely with some very well-known Reconstructionists over the years. In this report, we will examine two of Huckabee’s closest Reconstructionist colleagues.
Go read the whole thing. There is no mistaking Huckabee for what he is. It’ll be interesting to see if the corporate news media, which is horrified at the prospect of a Huckabee nomination, actually delves into any of this…