You’ve heard about people here in Utah who can leave the LDS Church but can’t leave it alone? I seem to suffer that same affliction over former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. I understand he’s largely irrelevant in American politics. He’s certainly irrelevant in Utah politics these days. There’s nothing about his influence that should give me pause for even a moment. And yet I find myself totally undone whenever a fawning liberal media gives this guy a spotlight.
About two weeks ago, Huntsman spoke to a small gathering in New York City about his presidential campaign and the politics surrounding it. He took that opportunity to be very candid about his feelings. With his beautiful wife at his side he castigated the Republican Party for its extremism and wondered aloud if he could even get elected again in Utah because the party has moved so far to the right.
Every political party has adherents who feel like Huntsman – that the party left him, he didn’t leave the party. It’s a legitimate point. When progressives took over the Democratic Party in the 1960s, many Democrats left and joined Republicans by 1980 to create the Reagan Revolution. Factions can take over political parties.
But what’s annoying about Huntsman’s sentiment is something we’ve seen historically. The whiner, the self-deported outcast lamenting how he was ill-treated is actually the problem, not his party. Spoiled, rich white guys – guys who live off the sweat of their father’s brow – always have problems in Republican circles. In the ’60s and ’70s it was the Rockefeller wing of the party that was so disgruntled. Few people liked Nelson Rockefeller, and how did he respond? He said what Huntsman is saying today: The Republican Party is filled with ignorant ya-hoos and if they were as refined and educated as a Rockefeller or a Huntsman they’d bow graciously to their wisdom and anoint them King of America.
Huntsman expressed dismay how he was treated by party officials in Florida after he announced he’s considering forming a third party. Really? He’s dismayed by their snubbing? Only an elitist couldn’t see how justified a host might be in disinviting a guest who has just insulted the rest of the party. Huntsman said, “This is what they do in China on party matters, they punish you, if you talk off script.” Off-script for Huntsman is speaking to people who make less than a million dollars a year. And, by the way, if Ambassador Huntsman would have stepped foot outside of his scripted, insulated diplomatic world, he would have realized that in China the punishment from your party isn’t just being disinvited.
These Huntsman-like politicians are unmanly. It’s not that they don’t rightly take counsel from their wives, it’s that they often hide behind their wives. Hence, Huntsman says that he lost basically because Mary Kaye said to him, “If you pander, if you sign any of those damn pledges, I’ll leave you.” In reality, he and those politicians like him lose because they have no spine and then they expect us to think them magnanimous and humble because they admit they have no spine.
These elitist politicians live a life of fantasy. Huntsman tries to console himself in his lack of popularity by comparing himself to Ronald Reagan, saying even Reagan couldn’t get elected in Utah today. Perhaps, but the difference would be that Reagan wouldn’t whine about it. He, like Mitt Romney in his footsteps, would fight back like a man. It’s no surprise Huntsman can’t stand Romney.
The liberal wing of the Republican Party always has been filled with indignant rich kids who used to get beat up on the school playground for being dandies and now, when they get beat up on the political playground for being equally soft, they show the same snobby contempt. Some of them, like Nelson Rockefeller, shoot the conservative grassroots the proverbial finger; other dandies, like Jon Huntsman, let the wife do it.
For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.