What we should have doneI will be the first to admit that my views changed-strongly so-about the nature of this presidential election. For those of us who are cultural conservatives, we now understand that we had an opportunity in this election to elect a candidate that was really our man, and we completely blew the opportunity. This was largely due to the reality that conservatives were divided. Beyond that, however, conservatives could not find a candidate that clearly articulated their values-or so they thought.
Many cultural conservatives now see what they should have done, and have great regrets:
Then, venerable Paul Weyrich—a founder of the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority, and the Council for National Policy (CNP)—raised his hand to speak. Weyrich is a man whose mortality is plain to see. A freak accident several years ago left him with a spinal injury, which ultimately led to both his legs being amputated in 2005. He now gets around in a motorized wheelchair. He is visibly paler and grayer than he was just a few years ago, a fact not lost on many of his friends in the room, some of whom had fought in the political trenches with him since the 1960s.
The room—which had been taken over by argument and side-conversations—became suddenly quiet. Weyrich, a Romney supporter and one of those Farris had chastised for not supporting Huckabee, steered his wheelchair to the front of the room and slowly turned to face his compatriots. In a voice barely above a whisper, he said, "Friends, before all of you and before almighty God, I want to say I was wrong."
In a quiet, brief, but passionate speech, Weyrich essentially confessed that he and the other leaders should have backed Huckabee, a candidate who shared their values more fully than any other candidate in a generation. He agreed with Farris that many conservative leaders had blown it. By chasing other candidates with greater visibility, they failed to see what many of their supporters in the trenches saw clearly: Huckabee was their guy.
There are few men in this country with the credentials in the conservative movement that Paul Weyrich has. When the Catholic Weyrich supported Mitt Romney, many of us could not understand his reasoning-we wondered if the ole boy had lost his marbles considering Romney's shady history. We now know that, like many of us, Weyrich simply refused to consider Mike Huckabee or give him a chance, even though Huckabee was the most clearly pro-life and pro-family candidate in the race. Adam Graham, Warner Todd Huston, John McJunkin, and myself spent virtually our entire Iowa Caucus Roundtable podcast blasting Huckabee for everything from high taxes to scholarships for illegal aliens. We brushed off the fact that the Minutemen endorsed Huckabee-and that group does not endorse immigration softies. We blasted Huckabee as a liberal, said he wasn't really one of us, and that he was a phony (as if Mitt Romney were the real thing). We held out feigned hope that Fred Thompson would light a fire under himself and actually run to win. The truth was that his numbers were poor because he got in the race too late, and all he did was help John McCain (by blasting Huckabee instead of McCain in South Carolina) whether he intended to do so or not-and of course he endorsed McCain just days after his mentor Howard Baker did the same.
Then there was Huckabee, the pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-public prayer, pro-God, anti-atheist, social conservative Southern Governor. We couldn't endorse this man...why? We all called him the Huckster-I remember Frank Cagle and myself both calling him that in a conversation-but Huckabee survived and showed integrity while doing so. With guts and gusto, Mike Huckabee carried on until the end. He wasn't the perfect candidate, but for years we've said the Supreme Court was the place where the future of the country would be decided, and there would be no question of the kind of justices President Huckabee would appoint. We've collectively said we wanted a real pro-lifer in the White House, and a "true believer" in the Second Amendment. Mike Huckabee was all of these things, and we all got behind him (myself included), when the proverbial Sherman's Army was about to enter political Atlanta.
I should have gotten a clue when I talked to a few very good Catholics who told me they were backing Huckabee, and that they thought he was the candidate who best represented our values. I blew it-but we all did. We had a candidate in this race, and that candidate did not fail conservatives-conservatives failed their candidate.