Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

A Responsibility to Care: Mike Huckabee Talks about Children, Poverty, and the Hardcore "Infiltration" of the Republican Party

Magazine article Sojourners Magazine

A Responsibility to Care: Mike Huckabee Talks about Children, Poverty, and the Hardcore "Infiltration" of the Republican Party

Article excerpt

When thousands of people displaced by Hurricane Katrina were headed to Arkansas, then-Gov. Mike Huckabee instructed state officials and volunteers to welcome the visitors the way they would want to be welcomed if they were in similar circumstances. This Golden Rule approach--and his willingness to support government programs to address social needs--didn't win Gov. Huckabee friends among conservative Republicans, but he emphasized principle over party, telling a "values voter" gathering last year, "I do not spell G-O-D ... G-O-P. Our party may be important, but our principles are even more important than anybody's political party."

Gov. Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, is currently a political commentator for Fox News. Sojourners editor-in-chief Jim Wallis spoke with Huckabee by telephone this summer.

Jim Wallis: What will it take to pet poverty on the national political agenda, and do you think that's possible?

Mike Huckabee: It's not only possible, it's necessary. It's a tragedy that in a country of extraordinary wealth, significant numbers of people every day go to bed hungry. Some people are oblivious to that reality in this country; it's almost as if they think, "If we don't see people, then they don't exist." That, to me, is one of the great tragedies--that many people who end up in the bubble of politics see only what is allowed into that bubble by the people who handle them. It's one of the reasons I got involved--the frustration that many people in positions of authority were unaware of the very world that they were supposedly trying to lead.

Wallis: What are some of the key changes we have to make as a society to address the problem?

Huekabee: I'm convinced that part of the reason that poverty is proliferating is that we've created a social structure that's broken down. For example, statistically we know that there is a 700 percent greater likelihood of poverty for a child who grows up in a dysfunctional or broken household. While I know it's not necessarily politically correct. and I'm not suggesting that we force people to live in monogamous marriages when they don't want to, the fact is that if you have strong family structures, you lessen the likelihood of poverty. I think as Christians we've been afraid to say it. but the truth is, it's not about being Christian, it's about being realistic.

Wallis: In 9 million American families, at least one adult is working full time in at least one job, and yet they're raising their kids in poverty. How do we make work work for these families?

Huckabee: I talked about this on the campaign before anybody was talking about the economy, at least from the Republican side. I got royally chastised fin saying that the economy wasn't really doing that well. when everybody clue was talking about how great it was. Maybe its great for the guys in the corner office, but the guy up there lifting the heavy stuff and down on the factory floor he is not experiencing this wonderful economy that you're talking about.

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I'm particularly concerned for children. They tire the true victims of this society their makes it very difficult for their parents to get above the rung on the ladder where they are. A good example is that even if they're in our Food Stamp program. an inner-city kid doesn't have access to fresh fruits, vegetables, produce--things that would make him healthier. The shopping options are dramatically different in the tuner city than they are in the suburbs. The prices are significantly higher. Chances are he's going to eat junk, processed foods. Even with food stamps, he still can only access the things that he can get to.

Wallis: You've talked about public responsibility alongside personal responsibility to overcome poverty. What's a proper role for government?

Huckabee: One of the things I'm frustrated about is that Republicans have been infiltrated by hardcore libertarians. …

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