Huckabee Attacks Republican “Elitists” For Not Backing Tea Party

Mike Huckabee is the latest Republican to tack up the banner against the so-called "elites."

Former Arkansas Governor and 2008 Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee is blaming GOP “elitists” for not more fervently backing Tea Party candidates like Christine O’Donnell:

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee today broadened the assault on the Republican Party establishment — and former Bush adviser Karl Rove in particular — levied recently by Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh, blasting the “elitism” and “country club attitude exhibited by Rove and others who dismissed Delaware Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell.

“I was very disappointed in some, particularly Karl and others, who were so dismissive of Christine O’Donnell,” Huckabee told Aaron Klein on the latter’s WABC radio show Sunday.

“Unfortunately, there is an elitism within the Republican establishment,” Huckabee told Klein. “And it’s one of the reasons the Republicans have not been able to solidify not only the tea party movement but solidify conservatives across America.”

“It’s about, again, to be blunt, the kind of country club attitude that we’re not sure there are certain people we really want as members of the club and we’re not going to vote them in. And we don’t mind showing up to events to put up signs and making phone calls and going door to door making those pesky little trips that we don’t like to do, but we really don’t want them dining with us in the main dining room,” he said.

Of course, Huckabee also found a way to bring himself and his own ill-fated run for the Presidency into the conversation:

“I’ve been on the receiving end of some of that when I ran for president. A lot of the establishment types were very contemptuous toward me and treated me like some backwater,” Huckabee said. “And that’s one of the things that happens when you didn’t go to the right school and you’re not a regular [attendee] at the proper cocktail parties on the D.C. social circuit.”

Huckabee is obviously trying to hitch is own star to the populist, anti “elitist” meme that seems to be taking hold among Republicans as the party moves closer to apparent victory next week, and the Tea Party moves from being a grassroots movement to the grassroots base of the GOP.  He’s rather late to the game, actually, because this populism has been a standard part of Sarah Palin’s stump speeches for a year now, and even Rush Limbaugh (who probably comes closer to being an elitist among the three) has recently been attacking Karl Rove of all people for his perceived criticism of the Tea Party movement and his assessment last month that Republicans had given away a winnable seat by nominating O’Donnell.

As Paul Mirengoff notes over at Power Line, though, the criticism of O’Donnell in 2010 and Huckabee in 2008 has little to do with “elitism”:

The problem that some in the Republican establishment (and some of outside it) have with O’Donnell begins with the fact that she has very little chance of being elected, and her nomination seems destined to cost the Republicans a pick-up in the Senate in a year when majority status is a possibility. The problem extends to concerns about O’Donnell’s flakiness and seeming inability responsibly to handle her own financial affairs, among other things.

As to Huckabee’s 2008 presidential run, reservations did not center on his social status and educational background. Rather, they focused on his time as governor, during which he was hardly a paragon of small government, low tax conservatism or of sound judgment. During the campaign, moreover, Huckabee displayed disturbing Carteresque tendencies when it came to foreign policy.

As Paul notes, this isn’t serious criticism by Huckabee, it’s his effort to make himself relevant in a Republican Party that he hasn’t really played much of an active role in since the 2008 campaign ended, preferring instead to cultivate his role as the host of a Saturday night show on Fox News Channel. The evangelical and socially conservative voters that flocked to him in 2008 are going to have many other choices in 2012, and if Sarah Palin does indeed decide to run it’s hard to see how Huckabee manages to stay in the top tier of candidates for very long.

More broadly, though, it’s quite obvious that Republicans have decided that this attack on so-called elitism works. You can hear it all the time anymore, from talk radio to the stump speechs, and even, as James Joyner noted this morning, in Op-Ed pieces by conservative intellectuals like Charles Murray. It’s an ironic attack considering the fact that the people making the “elitism” charge are themselves elitist in some sense or another (a fact which is also true when Democrats level the elitism charge, by the way), but they obviously think that it’s going to work for them.

As substance though, it’s totally meaningless. Attacking someone who, say, points out the flaws of a Christine O’Donnell or Sharron Angle as an “elitist” doesn’t really answer the charges themselves, it merely tries to deflect them by attacking the person making them. It’s a pure ad hominem attack, and it’s cheap and stupid. Of course, cheap and stupid seems to be the key to political success this year, so it’s not surprising that politicians are walking down that road.

FILED UNDER: 2010 Election, The Presidency, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. john personna says:

    We had articles on anti-intellectual themes in conservatism here a year ago, didn’t we?

  2. James Joyner says:

    @John Personna:

    We had articles on anti-intellectual themes in conservatism here a year ago, didn’t we?

    It’s been an ongoing theme since the Joe The Plumber days.

    @Doug: What strikes me is that, as Mirengoff suggests, the “Elitists are out to get me” rhetoric of Palin and O’Donnell obscures what it is that the elites don’t like about them. I don’t give a fig that they didn’t go to Yale. Why would I, a graduate of lowly Jacksonville State, hold that against them? The problem is that they’re flakes and nincompoops, not that they’re low status.

  3. ponce says:

    Palin/Huckabee 2012.

    Oh, please.

  4. Galrahn says:

    Mike Huckabee was the Republican elite establishment in Arkansas. Noteworthy Mike Bebee won with a good deal of Repubican votes – because the Republican establishment in that state was part of why folks began looking for alternatives.

    The tea party is many things, but in politics it is first and foremost an alternative to status quo. In many ways, that alone will be enough given the current state of politics in both established political parties.

  5. Steve says:

    Mr. Mataconis,

    Although I am reasonably well educated (BS Comp. Sci., Masters in Accounting), I agree with Mr. Huckabee. I don’t know if the education credentials put me in or out of “the elite.” I believe that the so-called “elite,” such as yourself, do not believe in smaller government. You may favor Republican candidates but have a political philosophy that is indistinguishable from that of the Democrats. We “tea party” voters prefer candidates who understand that the tax and regulatory policies emanating from Washington for the last 20 years have been counter productive – regardless of the party in power.

  6. Steve,

    With all due respect you don’t know what I believe but you assume that because I criticize Huckabee for his remarks, or because I don’t think people like Christine O’Donnell belong the United States Senate because of a lack of qualification, that I am the political enemy.

    That’s just false, and it’s phony, and it’s part of the victim hood mentality that Palin and O’Donnell have both become very good at

  7. Rick Ballou says:

    what is it with this guy? we had a tea party man here in Florida running and Mr. H. took the GOP man instead/

  8. Franklin says:

    Simply put: the Tea Party is all about small government and Mike Huckabee isn’t.

  9. An Interested Party says:

    “Simply put: the Tea Party is all about small government and Mike Huckabee isn’t.”

    But which Republicans, once they are actually in power, particularly on the national level, are about small government?

  10. george says:

    No one believes in small gov’t, they just want different parts of the gov’t small. Huckabee wants a large military – and unless he’s talking about privatising the army, that means larger gov’t.

  11. mannning says:

    Maybe they believe in “Right-Sized” government for the true functions required, which is a sort of limited government relative to today. There is nothing wrong with reducing duplication, bloated organizations, and anachronistic agencies and their budgets, while strengthening other areas because of real need. I cite again the LSU inventory of government organizations,
    agencies, bureaus, commissions, committees, and the like, which is now at about 1,170, and destined to be over 1,300 or 1,400 once Obamacare and other Obama legislation gets going in earnest. We need a thorough overhaul of all of these organizations, and their budgets, directives, personnel levels and policies.

  12. john personna says:

    There’s a recent poll on who the Tea Party are here:

    Not sure if it’s been covered at OTB. The summary people are giving is that there are “significant overlaps” between the old Religious Right, the Republicans, and the TP.

    The TP is essentially a slice of them. And sure, they like to talk in general about spending cuts, but don’t ask them to name the $trillions we need to cut. No one else can either, but no one else pretends to be serious about it ….

  13. I believe that the so-called “elite,” such as yourself, do not believe in smaller government.

    I believe O’Donnel doesn’t believe in small government either. Part of the problem with this discussion is that it’s constantly framed as a false dilemma between precisely two choices, when there’s really four or five different factions involved.

  14. reid says:

    As jp says, if the TP candidates are so serious about cutting spending and the size of government, then let’s hear what they would do. I bet the answer would be very unpopular and/or ridiculous. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re just mouthing slogans without giving it much thought. I think voters, especially TPers, deserve to know, though.

  15. Stan says:

    Steve, apparently you’re a real American, not one of those fancy elitists, and you want to reduce the deficit. If you don’t increase taxes AND if you don’t make really drastic cuts in the budgets for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the military, the debt keeps on going up and up and up. What do you recommend?

  16. Franklin says:

    Huckabee wants a large military – and unless he’s talking about privatising the army, that means larger gov’t.

    If I recall correctly (and no I’m not going to look it up), Huckabee’s also a bit of a caring conservative who believe is a strong social safety net. Again, larger gov’t.

    mannning’s basically right. Out of 1300+ (federal?) organizations, it sure seems like there could be some consolidation and real savings to be had (even before actually reducing services). Who wants to be in charge?