Mike Huckabee’s Vertical Politics
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?
After some “research” (i.e., waiting for readers to email him information) he came across a video of Huckabee explaining this very thing on “Meet the Press” (which some wag has juxtaposed with a similar oratory from “The Simpsons”):
Here’s the transcript from the show (which, incidentally, took place nearly a year ago):
[T]here has been a huge cultural shift in this country, Tim. And I think that’s why many Americans are seeking leadership that has a positive and optimistic spirit, that wants to take this nation—what I call vertical politics rather than horizontal.
I just completed a book in which I talk about the difference between horizontal politics, where everything is left or right, everything is liberal or conservative, everything is Democrat or Republican. I think the American people are hungry for vertical politics, where we have leaders who lift us up rather than those who tear us down.
While one can wonder how this translates into public policy, the rhetoric is hardly impenetrable. Surely, not for a highly intelligent journalist with an Ivy League humanities PhD. But Marshall continues:
The more I look at this I don’t think there’s any question this is a clever dog whistle call out to Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals that his politics are God’s politics.
Karl @ Protein Wisdom points out that,
Huckabee is a candidate who put the phrase “CHRISTIAN LEADER” in capital letters in his campaign ad as he talks about how his faith “defines me.” It does not seem as though Huckabee is trying to reach fundamentalist Christians under the radar with dog whistles or subliminal crosses. His appeals are quite blatant, yet a segment of the Left has some need to look for some secret plan.
Further, he notes that Barack Obama uses very similar oratory. Mark Kleiman agrees on both counts and gives a thoughtful overview of the history of religious rhetoric in American politics. He closes,
If you worship any of the versions of the Sky-God from Uranus onward, “up” means, among other things, toward Heaven. But the root metaphor is even more universal than that; “higher better” is among Lakoff’s “embodied metaphors,” built into the way our bodies confront the world. When Ezra Klein says that Obama’s rhetoric is designed to “elevate” the listener — or for that matter when a property appraiser inquires into a parcel’s “best and highest use” or an organization chart puts the CEO at the top of the page — they’re not reciting secret code-words; they’re just employing a universally comprehensible image.
If there’s anything more dangerous than treating your opponents as boobs, it’s imagining them as engaged in dark rituals.
As the MTP exchange demonstrates, Huckabee has been using this metaphor throughout his presidential run; it wouldn’t surprise me if he employed it during his gubernatorial campaigns. It’s flown under the radar, frankly, because most of us haven’t been paying him much attention.
UPDATE: Joe Carter emails to note that there’s a whole “Vertical Politics” page on Huckabee’s website. Much of it, frankly, is odd, focusing on an interactive “Vertical Day” outreach. But this paragraph encapsulates the idea:
Everywhere I go on the campaign trail, I meet voters with a real thirst for a healthy discussion of the issues. Ultimately, people don’t care whether an issue comes from the left or the right. What they want to talk about are ideas that lift America up and make us better. It’s what I call “Vertical Politics” and it is why we felt it was so important to set a “Vertical Day” aside to focus on the issues.
This is classic Third Way politics, Ã la Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.