Tl:dr version at the bottom of this post, or over on the five-sentence review page.
What do you want from a presidential candidate? Do you want someone who at least pretends to bipartisanship and leading an indivisible America? Or do you assume that if someone is making that pretense then it’s only because they’re a wizened cynic and they’ll be partisan as hell anyway? Do you wish candidates would stop even pretending that they’re going to make nice to the other side before the general election? Mike Huckabee might be something of a cautionary tale, if you’re leaning in that direction.
Here’s what Mike Huckabee offers you as a presidential candidate in his book God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy:
He will certainly relate to you, but only if you can prove that you have performed all of the following activities:
- Fired a gun
- Fished with a cane pole
- Cooked with propane
- Changed a tire
- Ordered fried green tomatoes for an appetizer
- Put pepper sauce on your black-eyed peas
If you have, then congratulations! You are a proud member of “Bubbaville,” where the ‘real Americans’ live. Bubba-ville’s location is unspecified to the uninitiated, although he name-checks Montgomery, Alabama, and Jackson, Tennessee, as places where people with good sense come from (18). Anyway, rest assured, it’s probably in Mike Huckabee’s version of ‘the South.’
Now that Huckabee has successfully related to you or not, what will he do for you?
He’ll definitely campaign for second-amendment rights. He’ll also campaign for ‘traditional marriage’ on not only Biblical grounds but also on the grounds that, “biologically,” heterosexual sex just makes more good sense. One of the things that he’ll do in conjunction with this is to organize on behalf of free speech, and specifically free speech in support of traditional marriage. Hey, when he decided to organize ‘Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day’ in support of its founder’s traditional marriage stance, he didn’t publicize that at all—except through his nationally syndicated radio program and several TV appearances as well as extensive social media outreach—and thousands of people still came! Look how much grassroots support Huckabee has!
He’s definitely a conservative, although he’s also really different from other Washington people—there’s only one address he’d like to live in DC, he says, with an emoji, which is how you know he’s probably running for president.
He’s for small government, limited taxation, environmentally-friendly policies but not because global warming is a real thing, anything but Common Core, lifting campaign finance laws, and he’s definitely against TSA and IRS overreach. As a matter of fact—and this is definitely funny—his chapter title for talking about these latter things is “Bend Over and Take it Like a Prisoner!” Prison rape! Hilarious and 100% a thing I would like to see presidential candidates making jokes about instead of proposing solutions to.
Actually, that brings me to another thing. Something that Huckabee is definitely going to do for you is to fight against the rise of ‘Reality TV’. Out with the Survivor and The Bachelor and whatnot because these are bad role models for our kids—but in with Duck Dynasty, since it shows good, wholesome American—Southern!—values. You might wonder why this is something a presidential candidate sees fit to weigh in on at such length, but let’s remember that Huckabee is fighting for your values here. It’s a shame Phil Robertson—Duck Patriarch—just endorsed Ted Cruz. Ted Cruz didn’t once mention them in his book.
Speaking of entertainment—one of the other major things Huckabee comments on is this “Culture of Crude”, chapter three. Swearing is definitely a problem: it’s such a shame that comedians, and especially female ones, think it’s okay to swear so much. After all, “There was a certain dignity about a lady conducting herself publicly in a way that let you know she felt deserving of respectful treatment” (38) in the bygone days of Huckabee’s South. Because women swearing is definitely a sign that you should not respect them as people. And while we’re talking about respect, let’s talk about the way our culture is so sexualized. It’s such a shame that pop stars have to lean on sexually explicit material to get noticed! I mean, Miley Cyrus’ 2013 MTV Awards performance, for example: Huckabee takes two pages to talk about Miley Cyrus’ “barely clad, barely legal-age body” in her
“disgustingly pornographic performance that showed just about everything she had—except talent—and focused national attention on a new term, “twerking,” which describes a vulgar movement better saved for a stripper pole than prime-time television. Her awkward choreography and intentionally nasty gyrations…involved her use of a giant foam finger as a prop to simulate pleasuring herself” (34-35).
Thanks, Huckabee, for re-watching it enough times to give us that description. I’m glad there are some politicians out there who don’t turn to sexually charged language to grab a reader’s attention!
All in all, Huckabee wants to make sure that your values—your Bubbaville values—are represented. “This book will be very encouraging to people who live in Bubba-ville” (3), he says, with nothing that sounds patronizing or pomposity at all.
My goal in this project is to look at these books as books, without getting into my personal political beliefs. But there’s something that has to be said when you start out with this aim: some books are just genuinely bad.
Huckabee has a gift for witticism, a scathingly funny turn of phrase, even at his most crude. However, this book contributes nothing to the world nor to the American political landscape. There is no new information offered, no research, no policy suggestions, no insightful analysis, not even a memoir. Just a rant. It’s divisive, and dismissive of anyone who doesn’t agree. It flattens diversity and complexity. It longs for a nostalgic world that I would bet money has never existed. It’s hypocritical. It’s offensive.
Maybe Huckabee does see himself as a prophet of the ‘real’ America, of the ‘true’ South. On the other hand, it’s been said of Huckabee a lot that his primary purpose in this race is to wrangle a new TV show, a new radio show, or a new book deal. With that in mind, the logic of this book makes sense. The reality TV world and the literature world are both about finding niche markets and speaking to them, at least on some levels.
The presidency, I would hope, is not.