The rest of the 2016 Republican hopefuls have a lot of catching up to do in order to compete with Mike Huckabee’s obvious head-start on race-baiting and gay-bashing. We’ve barely heard from the other clown-car passengers and already Huckabee has navigated his way through at least three major new cycles in which he says something obnoxious then walks it back, but only after the GOP base scarfs it down like, I don’t know, whatever it eats. Rind? We’ll circle back to this.
It’s been yet another weekend and another Huckabee television appearance that included yet another deliberately awful statement from the former Arkansas governor. This time, Huckabee popped up on CNN’s “State of the Union” for an exclusive chat and, when he was asked about same-sex marriage, he likened it to drinking and using profanity. In other words, it’s an indulgent or obscene lifestyle choice, rather than the way many of us are genetically formed.
I don’t drink alcohol, but gosh — a lot of my friends, maybe most of them, do. You know, I don’t use profanity, but believe me, I’ve got a lot of friends who do. Some people really like classical music and ballet and opera — it’s not my cup of tea.
Even if, gosh!, Huckabee was right in his paleo-moronic reasoning (he’s not), no one’s insisting that Huckabee become gay or to marry another man, in the same way no one’s forcing him to drink or to swear. So, who cares if it’s not his “cup of tea?” Then fine, governor, don’t have sex with another man. Just because it’s not his personal “cup of tea,” it shouldn’t forbid anyone else from being who they are, or from marrying another consenting adult. Not only does Huckabee erroneously believe that being gay is a choice, he also believes it’s a totally frivolous and undisciplined choice not unlike blurting obscenities or getting hammered, which is both an offensive and a reductive metaphor. He continued:
This is not just a political issue. It is a biblical issue. And as a biblical issue — unless I get a new version of the scriptures, it’s really not my place to say, OK, I’m just going to evolve.
We’ll skip the often-repeated primer on Leviticus. What Huckabee said here is an example of a newly resurgent excuse in support of anti-gay discrimination: the government can’t force Christians to not discriminate against the gay community because doing so is a violation of religious freedom. In other words, the First Amendment guarantees the freedom to discriminate against gay people. Religious freedom, they say, ought to allow Christians to ban gays from businesses and churches, or to vindicate bullies who use anti-gay slurs in school. Somehow, and not for the first time in history, by the way, faith is being exploited as a justification for hatred and bigotry.
What’s especially peculiar about this excuse is that if they truly followed the teachings of the Bible, then they’d have no choice but to support the death penalty for gay people (Leviticus 20:13). But I’m fairly certain Mike Huckabee doesn’t support such a policy, especially since he said he has “friends who are gay.” Therefore, fact: Huckabee has already evolved from scripture’s requirement for the execution of gays. Since he’s already evolved, it was clearly dishonest and deceptive when he said it’s an impossible task.
But wait, there’s more:
It’s like asking someone who’s Jewish to start serving bacon-wrapped shrimp in their deli.
Here we go.
We don’t want to do that — I mean, we’re not going to do that. Or like asking a Muslim to serve up something that is offensive to him, or to have dogs in his backyard.
And why won’t that happen? Because not serving bacon-wrapped shrimp doesn’t deny equal protection and basic human rights to an entire community of Americans. Now, if not serving bacon-wrapped shrimp somehow caused George Takei’s marriage to be dissolved, then we’d have to chat with Jewish deli owners about possibly adjusting their menus. Primarily, though, we’d have to figure out a way to unravel the inconceivably bizarre linkage between bacon-wrapped shrimp and same-sex marriage. But since we’re living in the real world, and not Huckabee’s cartoonish alterverse, his metaphorical association of bacon-wrapped shrimp, Jewish delis and telling Christians they can’t gay-bash because of scripture doesn’t make a lick of sense.
Now, if my theory is correct, part one of Huckabee’s usual routine has been successfully accomplished. The GOP base’s nipples should be capable of cutting glass right about now. Up next, it’ll be the predictable and suddenly affable Huckabee walk-back.
Here’s how Mike Huckabee operates. He says something over-the-top crazy or offensive when he thinks no one is paying attention, forgetting that there’s such a thing as The Internet allowing literally everyone to pay attention. Then, in the aftermath, he shifts gears, and worms his way onto shows like The View where has gregariously backpedals while flashing his Jim Nabors smile and Arkansas duhhh-yuk-yuk-yuk charm. But for the GOP base in states like Iowa and South Carolina, the original race-baiting message was received loud and clear.
You might recall this strategy from such stories as Huckabee’s recent slut-shaming of Beyoncé. In his book, God, Guns, Grits and, Gravy, Huckabee accused the Obamas of being rotten parents because they allow Sasha and Malia to listen to Beyoncé. Again, I seriously believe Huckabee confused Beyoncé for more risque African-American recording artists such as Nicki Minaj or Rihanna, because Huckabee’s supporters likely wouldn’t be able to tell the difference anyway, so why the hell not? Afterwards, when he was rightfully chastised for it, he almost immediately walked it back, telling anyone who would invite him on television (to promote his book) that Beyoncé has “a great set of pipes,” is an “unbelievable dancer” and the Obamas are fantastic parents. Meanwhile, damn the torpedoes, his people heard what they needed to hear. African-Americans are rotten parents and their favorite pop-stars are whores. Roger that.
Frankly, it’s a really clever way to say horrendous things. In fact, when he drops out of the presidential race after New Hampshire, he can use his campaign notoriety to sell another book: “Clever Ways to Say Horrendous Things, And Also Gravy! By Mike Huckabee.” Seriously, if the far-right chooses to pick up Huckabee’s strategy — if they begin to use his gosh-golly tone, rather than the usual fire-eating we see all over Fox News and AM talk radio, the normals who occupy the center-right, middle and center-left might have a serious problem on their hands: reasonable-sounding extremists.