Jon Huntsman isn’t mad as hell, and it’s not getting him anywhere.
In a Republican field whose primary emotional output has been glower, hysteria, and paranoia, the composed and articulate former governor of Utah barely registers—except with Democrats watching the debates, which is to say, with nobody who actually counts.
Huntsman seems to be Democratic voters’ “acceptable Republican” for this year’s primaries, and it’s hard to see why. Aside from more respect for the diplomatic process and a willingness to flirt with environmental heterodoxy by not drawing a cape over his face and making a hissing noise at the word “science,” Huntsman offers enough conservative bona fides that no bipartisan love should exist here.
While governor, he repeatedly voted to restrict abortion. He passed a flat tax—which disproportionately punishes the middle class—while slashing dividend, capital gains, and corporate taxes. His constant kowtowing to Israel is on par with that of the other Christian Zionists who share the debate stage with him. And for all the respect he gets as the “diplomat” candidate, his attitude toward Iran is one blind to the encirclement of US-friendly powers arrayed around it, while we threaten it with another Iraq job by saying: Produce the evidence of the nukes you’re not actually creating or prove that you are not creating the nukes we say you are; if not, the ground invasion starts at 12:01 AM. If the logic of that previous statement seems indecipherable, you are probably not part of the GOP's target foreign-policy demographic: someone who can be scared shitless by the logically impossible.
Similarly, Democrats issue him plaudits for being the “environmental” Republican. He was for Cap and Trade before he was against it—although he’s not really against it. It’s just not a good time for it “right now...” or something... because... the economy. Or something. Naturally. There’s always one time it’s never good to do anything difficult, and the name of that time is always “now.” Besides, environmental overhaul and investing in alternative energies, industries and infrastructure could cost jobs in the short run and only create many more over the course of generations while reducing environmental wastage. So, you know, fuck that.
Similarly, his belief in evolution offers one of those “gee whiz” moments for Democrats, but supporting the theory means nothing in terms of substantive change. You can pay lip service to evolution, and it still won’t rewrite the Texas Board of Education’s American history books, which include maps of America redrawn like Candyland accompanied by fanciful stories about how Milton Friedman appeared to Moses in a burning bush, telling him to guide the Mayflower to a City on a Hill, so John Winthrop could found Reagonia.
Vaporous appeal to Democrats gets Huntsman nothing, because it disappears under scrutiny and only alienates GOP voters. He’s already got enough strikes against him as a Mormon (goodbye, Southern voters), a diplomat (nobody cares who George Kennan is; “REAL MEN SHOOT BUT VERIFY”) and a career politician who’s been an eggheaded functionary for four presidents—including, damningly, Obama; just imagine how that plays in parts of the country with high cotton yields. Plus, apparently he can speak Chinese, (or maybe not) so he’s basically the Model UN kid whose charts you threw out the bus window in 10th grade.
Overall, Huntsman is sucking wind nationally and in Iowa, garnering 4 precent in a recent PPP poll. And it would be easy to chalk that up to his conservative heresies if the current pack leader for the Tea Party and values voters wasn’t an odious piglet who nursed so hard at any money sent to him for being a government man that he could create a one-percenter-style credit line at Tiffany’s so he could buy baubles for his mistress-turned-wife.
No, Huntsman’s biggest problem is that he’s not a complete gaping asshole, whereas watching Newt Gingrich is like watching a Belladonna/Dana DeArmond science fiction porn movie about a world where all chairs are replaced by construction cones. Newton Leroy Gingrich is the inevitable consequence of a Tea Party conception of America beset by ever increasing apocalypses.
Like Ron Paul, Huntsman is almost all semi-substance and zero style. He can hold the military timetables for Iran’s deracination in his fists, but the Sturm und Drang won’t register. He can insist on defending all existential threats to Israel, but he conveys a lack of urgency. He can sell out even an extremely market-friendly environmental half-step like Cap and Trade, but he never suggests that the cops start beating every longhair between Santa Barbara and Humboldt counties.
Huntsman fails to grasp that you can’t just advocate for turning America into a choking plutocratic dystopia perpetually at war against everything; you have to also do that while kicking the shit out of anyone who starts quoting history books—especially that smug elitist, radical socialist Barack “Hussein” Obama, the American existential triple-threat. Newt gets this, and Huntsman doesn’t.
Huntsman’s still trying to debate on policy points and correct measures, but he’s attempting to win a contest that has little to do with the GOP nomination. Newt’s tapped into what’s driven the GOP movement since 2009: the Tea Party’s ferment of rage, paranoia and eliminationism. Newt only claims to be in the debate business: what pays the bills right now is the humiliation and punishment business.
Previously – I’m Not Mad at Ron Paul, Just Disappointed