Monday, January 07, 2008

Wall Street Journal: Huckabee Would Make GOP More Like Europe's Christian Democrats

(Hat tip:

From The Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal:
Mike Huckabee's stunning victory in Thursday's Iowa caucuses does more than change the GOP nomination race. With a platform explicitly grounded in his Christian faith and a populist economic message, Mr. Huckabee offers the Republican Party a new political narrative [ED.: Actually, I'm not sure how different Huckabee's message is from the one Pat Buchanan offered - only Huckabee offers his vision with a smile rather than a scowl], light years removed from the limited government principles governing the GOP in the Reagan and post-Reagan era.

This pro-faith, pro-government message may sound strange to American ears--but it is a staple of conservative political parties on the European continent. Mr. Huckabee, in other words, essentially gives Republicans a choice: Does the GOP want to become a Christian Democratic party? To answer that question, Republicans should look carefully at Christian Democracy to see if it is a model worth emulating.

Christian Democracy is a reaction to the classical liberalism and socialism that came of age in late-19th-century Europe. Both of these movements threatened the faithful with their secularism and economic theories. Classical liberal emphasis on unfettered markets evoked fears of untrammeled greed and exploitation of workers; socialism made many fear for the future of private property.

Christian Democrat parties have always distinguished themselves from liberals and socialists, favoring private property and traditional values while supporting government regulation and taxation to ameliorate what they perceive to be capitalism's defects. The German Christian Democratic Union (CDU), for example, is quite explicit about this, claiming it is the "party of the political center."

These parties uphold marriage and the traditional family as the bedrocks of society. They also advocate economic policies typified by the CDU's ideal of a "social market economy," which emphasizes the need for both government-provided welfare and capitalism. Contemporary Christian Democratic parties are also some of the staunchest supporters of rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. They reach this conclusion from the principle of "Christian stewardship," which the Norwegian Christian Democrats say "implies that the resources of the Earth should be taken care of for the best of present and future generations."

Christian Democracy is a different beast than Reagan-era conservatism, which drew upon the traditions of the Founding Fathers--which are extremely suspicious of government power, regulation and redistribution. It is virtually impossible to imagine a Christian Democratic leader inveighing against government intervention in the economy as Ronald Reagan did in his first inaugural address. ("In the present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.")

American conservatism also differs from Christian Democracy in its attitude toward faith. Reagan conservatism is faith-friendly, supporting the free exercise of religion and traditional morality. But it does not define its political principles with reference to its faith; in this view, Christianity is consistent with proper political principles, but is not the primary wellspring of those principles.

While virtually no one on the American right explicitly calls for the adoption of Christian Democracy, others besides Mr. Huckabee admire and advocate similar principles. For example, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum's book, "It Takes a Family," echoed the Christian Democratic emphasis on placing the health of the family ahead of the health of the economy as a political principle.

Perhaps the most prominent contemporary apostle for these views is former White House speechwriter Michael Gerson. In his recent book, "Heroic Conservatism," he argues that a conservatism which fails to embrace the energetic use of government power for good will be both immoral and unsuccessful.

(emphasis and editorial commentary added)

My Comments:
A very interesting and quite even-handed editorial.

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