I was recently shifting through old campaign videos on a whim, when I came upon this:
This was in the midst of the Reverend Wright controversy, when Senator Barack Obama was taking heavy criticism for his association with a radical preacher. Fox News was doing what it does best, conservatives all around were happily blasting the presumed Democratic nominee, and the media was delighting in the old game of scandal and mud.
It did not seem that former Governor Mike Huckabee would be any different from other conservatives. A funny, skilled politician he might be – but he was still a politician, just another Republican about to blast Mr. Obama for the party’s gain.
It was most unexpected, then, when Mr. Huckabee said this:
And one other thing I think we’ve gotta remember. As easy as it is for those of us who are white, to look back and say “That’s a terrible statement!”…I grew up in a very segregated south. And I think that you have to cut some slack — and I’m gonna be probably the only Conservative in America who’s gonna say something like this, but I’m just tellin’ you — we’ve gotta cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told “you have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie. You have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant. And you can’t sit out there with everyone else. There’s a separate waiting room in the doctor’s office. Here’s where you sit on the bus…” And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment. And you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.
This was a very, very brave and insightful thing to say – and certainly something I did not expect coming from Mike Huckabee. It is very rare in politics to hear analysis as insightful like this. The man shows an understanding of black America that is rarely never heard coming from a Republican, let alone a white Southern one.
If anything, these words remind one of Mr. Obama’s speech on race, which showed a similarly deep understanding of minority grievances. The resentment and hatred generated by the wounds of race often appear alien, frightening to those who have not experienced such discrimination themselves. Almost always this anger does nothing but cause self-destruction, whilst only making racial problems worse. Yet for all this it is real, and it is there – and if not dealt with or understood it will not go away.
Whether it be concerns over the fairness of America’s justice system – which led to his much-criticized pardons – or statements sympathetic to black resentment (such as the one above), Mr. Huckabee appears to emphasize with this resentment in a way very few Republicans do today. Blacks have reciprocated in kind. In the 1998 Arkansas gubernatorial election, for instance, exit polls indicated that 48% of blacks voted for the Mr. Huckabee (he won the race 58.58% to 41.42%). This is unheard of; almost no modern-day Republican has ever gained such support among blacks.
It is all the more impressive that this occurred in the South, where too often Democrats are the party for black people and Republicans are the party for white people. Republicans usually don’t even attempt to gain black support; they generally use blacks as a foil to drum up white support (to be fair, black politicians do the same thing reversed, in even worse ways).
So kudos to Mike Huckabee, for saying something that completely surprised this blogger. Kudos to him, moreover, for saying something that took political courage; statements like these will probably not endear Huckabee to conservatives who accuse him of being a RINO (Republican In Name Only). But at the very least, this statement has made one individual seriously consider voting for him.