Saturday, December 15, 2007

Homeschoolers For [TBD]

Interesting lead-in from Drudge today: "HUCKABEE DRAWS SUPPORT OF HOME-SCHOOL FAMILIES..." — with one of his dead-end links back to the Report. It's frustrating when Drudge does that, but hardly insurmountable to someone with any sort of Googling skills. I believe the article he meant to link was this one from the Des Moines Register.

I think the article overstates the support Huckabee is getting from homeschoolers as being somehow indicative of how homeschoolers as a national group may vote in the primaries. As I've mentioned before, homeschoolers as a group are about the least organized bunch of people I know, and I just can't get excited about the fact that Huckabee has seemingly overwhelming support from evangelical homeschoolers in Iowa. If the Constitution included a clause stating that homeschoolers must be able to organize more than an occasional field trip to a local museum once a month, we would fail the constitutional test. We're nice people, but our group mentality doesn't extend too far outside our immediate families. This is part of the reason why we don't appreciate public school. A very small part, but there you have it.

But back to Huck. A large part of the evangelical fervor over Rev. Huck is an endorsement coming from no less a personage than Michael Farris, one of the founders of the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). As an evangelical Christian himself, Mr. Farris carries a lot of editorial weight with those who hold similar beliefs. This is fine, and I certainly don't begrudge these fine people their choice of candidate. I just don't happen to agree with them, and I particularly don't agree with Mr. Farris' evaluation of Huckabee the Candidate.

Let me first say that Huckabee may very well be as sincerely Christian as he claims to be. Certainly he's put in the study (even if his claim to a "theological degree" may be somewhat overstated) and has the license to preach, so to speak. Clearly his political positions reflect a certain evangelical flavor and coloring, to the point of being downright alarming to non-evangelicals across the country. I have no doubt that he truly believes himself to be the only logical choice for Christians in this coming election.

Except that he's not. Not for this Christian, at any rate.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the recent revelations about Huckabee's time as Governor of Arkansas are hardly worthy of an unqualified statement of support from most conservative points of view. His tax record alone gives serious pause, as do the most recent allegations that significant political supporters (read: financiers) were given high level positions in his administration.

Michael Farris tries to make the case that support for Huckabee will somehow protect homeschoolers from Democrat Candidate-Presumed Hillary Clinton. Even if it were true that Huckabee's position on homeschooling were the best of any candidate in the field (I've not heard about this issue from any other candidate), I'm still not convinced that Huckabee has what it takes to defeat Clinton in the general election. In fact, whoever the nominee is in 2008, they will likely turn the attack machinery of the DNC fully on the Republican and I believe Huckabee would be shredded in short order. Even if he somehow survives the attacks, modern politics is all about perception, and any perceived weakness in his campaign at a general level would guarantee a Democrat win in November.

Further to Farris' point, homeschool isn't truly a national issue anyway. Political control of education is felt far more at the state level than the national level. If you've paid any attention to this blog lately, you'll know how I feel about the national record in education policy. The NEA — not the Bush administration — runs education policy in this country, and the effects have been devastating. For homeschoolers, however, the greater fight for control over their right to educate their children at home remains with state and local boards of public instruction. Federal policy is about money and who gets it. They could care less whether we're teaching our kids at home; they have bigger fish to fry. At a state level, however, where federal money is converted into wasteful local education budgets, homeschoolers are a continual sore-spot. We thrive against all the commonly accepted educational formulae. Our kids excel in many academic arenas, and it couldn't gall professional educators more.

It is not Hillary that homeschoolers fear in 2008. It is any state or local education official who continues to harangue homeschoolers for being outlaws that we fear most. Huckabee, whatever his other virtues may be, will not have any control over that fight, nor will any future President of the United States.

I suspect that a large portion of the support Huckabee is garnering from Iowa homeschoolers is loyalty from a large contingent of evangelicals who have similar beliefs to his. They're just certain that the rest of the country is "out to get him." This circling of the wagons is not a surprising reaction to what we have learned about Huckabee. Still, it worries me that they end up supporting the man for the wrong reasons, and aren't taking a harder look at someone who ought to be appear to be "too good to be true."

If you want to draw an allegory with Mitt Romney and LDS support, go ahead. As I've mentioned before, I'm not firmly on the Romney bandwagon at this point. I'm not on anyone's bandwagon yet simply because I'm waiting for all these insipid non-debates to dry up before I try to form an opinion. I mean, really, has any single debate of this season changed your opinion of any candidate for the better? Me, neither.

So don't get too excited about your support from homeschoolers, Mike. They're good people, their hearts are in the right place, and they even make terrific campaign volunteers. But unless they can miraculously organize a national coalition of evangelical homeschoolers to act as a lobby, their message will be limited in scope.

Kinda like mine.

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