Mike Huckabee Needs A New Strategy If He Wants To Win Over Millennials
Repeat Republican presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee, who recently announced his campaign for 2016, has one of the more clear-cut strategies out there. It's actually refreshing, for a change. In short, it boils down to three points:
1. He loves Social Security.
2. He loves Jesus.
3. He's a rousing speaker and a talented politician.
Now, anyone can get a few followers with that last point. Barack Obama won the majority of the country over, Millennials and older generations alike, in 2008 with that as part of his skillset.
Even with that, though, Huckabee's going to be fighting an uphill battle with his current strategy if he wants to harness Obama's success with Millennials.
Let's start with his stance on Social Security benefits. Unlike the entire rest of the Republican field, he has made it clear that he will never get in the way of older Americans receiving their Social Security and Medicaid payments.
This is taking a distinctively populist stance, and it's a shrewd move on Huckabee's part. While Huckabee's Republican competitors will be railing on about reducing big government and ending entitlement programs, Huckabee will instead be reaching out—and in many cases likely grabbing—the older, blue collar Americans who depend on these payments.
And for Millennials? It'll totally fall flat. First, it's like trying to win over your great-grandmother by talking about heightened cyber security – it's just not on our agenda.
Second, we've all come to recognize that we're putting money into Social Security with hardly any hopes of getting anything back, unless the system is fixed – which would likely mean tax raises across the board. Huckabee, of course, is not campaigning for that. Instead, he would like to abolish the IRS.
Yes, really. Get rid of it, in favor of what is essentially a flat tax for everyone in the country.
I don't know about you, but I'd love to be paying the same percentage of my income as the millionaires in the gated community – wouldn't you? Huckabee unfortunately isn't alone in this – it's a common idea in the Republican party at the moment.
All right, so the tax thing won't get anywhere with us. What about the Jesus? This is another issue where Huckabee has kind of lost us.
First of all, there just aren't as many religious Millennials, a fact that has been much talked over lately.
For everyone but the most committed atheists, though, Huckabee's fiery brand of religiosity might not be a big problem – if it didn't come into direct conflict with some of the issues that are a lot more important to us.
Abortion is one of those. According to Huckabee, “we've witnessed the slaughter of over 55 million babies in the name of choice.”
A majority of Millennials would like it to be legal in all of most cases, and unsurprisingly, the data shows that the sides are divided down religious lines.
Do women who have had or even considered abortions enjoy being called "baby killers?" Although I've never been in that situation, I'm going to venture a guess that they do not.
He goes even farther with his characterization of the nature of religious freedom in the country. Check out the way he describes the movement for marriage equality:
“We are now threatening the foundation of religious liberty by criminalizing Christianity and demanding that we abandon biblical principles of traditional marriage.”
Let that sink in for a minute. In Huckabee world, legalizing gay marriage means turning Christianity into a criminal act. I can try to follow the logic -- almost -- but then it breaks down when you consider that legalizing gay marriage will no more force you into one than legalizing marijuana forces you to light up a joint on a daily basis or legalizing travel to other countries forces you to go out and explore the world.
After the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, Huckabee's thoughts were that “Jesus wept.”
It's nicer to think that perhaps he wept with joy, but I don't think that's exactly what Huckabee had in mind.
This stuff isn't for us. It's for the great uncle who we don't like to talk about. It's for the people who spend their days watching Fox News.
The thing is that Huckabee knows that. The evangelical Christians and blue collar conservatives are exactly who he's going for.
The core of his strategy is, essentially, resentment – because the rest of the country has started to move in a different direction.
We Millennials? We're not looking for resentment. We're not looking for blame. We're not looking to hear that God hates us or that we're mooching off the government.
If, by some miracle, he ends up getting the Republican nomination and having to court Millennials, Huckabee will have to add a new board to his platform: hope.
Citations: Mike Huckabee Seems to Be Going His Own Way on Social Programs (The New York Times), Mike Huckabee Is Campaigning Like A Liberal Blogger (The Daily Caller), More Reasons Not to Like Huckabee (Power Line), A Feistier Mike Huckabee Than in 2008 (The New York Times), Huckabee a tax is punishment (The Daily Beast), Religion Among the Millennials (Pew Research Center), Survey How Race and Religion Shape Millennial Attitudes on Sexuality and Reproductive Health (Public Religion Research Institute), Your online guide to Mike Huckabee (The Washington Post), Huckabee announces 2016 bid stressing humble roots traditional values (The Washington Post), Mike Huckabee is an evil genius How the GOP candidate perfected the art of right wing resentment (Salon)