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Hope, Ark., a town of just over 10,000 people, is known for its prize-winning watermelon. This town near the Louisiana and Texas borders is also known to ardent political junkies as the birthplace of former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Former Arkansas governor and Republican presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee also hails from Hope, and the similarities don’t end there.
Both men were governor of Arkansas for more than 10 years, and Huckabee, as Clinton did during his first presidential bid, has seemed to make a last-minute surge during the primary season. Both men even play an instrument. Bill Clinton jammed on his saxophone on Arsenio Hall’s show in 1992; Huckabee plays bass guitar for his band, the Capitol Offenses, and has even opened for Willie Nelson.
Most importantly, however, both men are extremely likable. Huckabee is as funny as Clinton is empathetic, and has a way of connecting with voters that no one else on either side of the aisle—save maybe Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.)—can claim to possess. This goes a long way toward moderating his image as a social conservative crusader. His likeability somehow makes it less scary to many voters when he compares abortion to the Holocaust or says of the genocide in Darfur, “I think we have some role to play in it, but I guess what disturbs me even more, we have not even addressed the genocide that’s going on and the infanticide in our own country with the slaughter of millions of unborn children.”
Certainly Huckabee faces many hurdles. He personally intervened to let a convicted murderer and rapist, Wayne DuMond, out of jail, only for DuMond to commit rape and murder again. He has also been heavily criticized by groups like the Club for Growth for an extreme number of tax increases as governor. Finally, he has nearly no foreign policy experience, and his vague statements on Iraq coupled with his ignorance regarding the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Iran’s nuclear program only bolster this criticism.
Despite these shortcomings, I believe Huckabee will win the Republican nomination, if only because he is like Charlie Bucket in Roald Dahl’s book, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory:” There is nothing particularly spectacular about him, but the rest of the children vying for the grand prize are too insufferable to ever be chosen.
To begin with, Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo, Sam Brownback and other ideologues on the fringe of the GOP are each excessive in their own ways, whether overzealous in hopes of a smaller government, more stringent immigration laws, or the criminalization of abortion. They are the Augustus Gloops of this election: Just as Gloop was eliminated from the contest first because of his excess, these candidates will drop out early (or already have) because of a similar flaw.
Next is former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, who, as the son of a former Michigan governor grew up with a silver spoon in his mouth, much like Dahl’s Veruca Salt. Romney is definitely the most blue-blooded and aristocratic of all candidates, and has shown a penchant for flip-flopping as the political wind changes, just as the greedy Veruca constantly changed her mind about what she wanted.
The loud, brash, and hypercompetitive former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani most resembles Violet Beauregaurde. Consistently exaggerating his record when talking about “cleaning up New York City” and obsessively mentioning 9/11 in nearly every speech, his pride mirrors Violet’s, who embellished her own accomplishments in the hopes of intimidating the other children.
Meanwhile, former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) doesn’t seem to want to be President, nor is he working too hard on the campaign trail. Many who know him say he is talented but not particularly hard-working or ambitious. After all, he left the Senate for “Law & Order.” Similarly, Mike Teavee, the little genius in Dahl’s book, certainly had some skills to share with Willy Wonka, but he didn’t even like chocolate, wasn’t excited to visit the factory, and certainly wouldn’t have wanted to take it over. Thompson’s similar lack of enthusiasm will likely do him in.
So that leaves Charlie Bucket. With nearly all the alternatives so revolting, disconcerting, or unfeasible, Willy Wonka and the American voting public will turn to anyone they can like. Huckabee is far from perfect, and there is certainly nothing special about Charlie—but look at the others! Just like Bill Clinton in 1992, Huckabee is likely to become the consensus candidate just because there isn’t vehement opposition to him. Those who are worried about his candidacy, namely economic interest groups like Americans for Tax Reform and the Club for Growth, may not carry much sway with the average Iowa Caucus-goer.
So this little-known, foreign policy-challenged governor—best known for losing 110 pounds while in office—may be our next president. He may believe gay marriage undermines civilization, but at least we won’t pop a blood vessel just listening to him.
Jarret A. Zafran ’09 is a social studies concentrator in Leverett House. His column appears on alternate Mondays.
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