Less than a week after former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee threatened to leave the Republican Party over its allegedly soft approach to dealing with gay marriage, Huckabee called out Republicans again over the weekend on his Fox News Channel show Huckabee, asserting that many in the GOP need to "grow a spine" by defending the traditional definition of marriage.
Huckabee is right that many in the Republican Party, especially younger members like myself, no longer believe that the government should be enacting laws that define marriage as a union between one man and one woman only. What Huckabee and many other social conservatives like him do not understand is that the reason a growing number of conservatives are rejecting the typical social conservative agenda has little to do with political correctness or fear that society may reject them. It's not about politics; it's all about liberty.
The Republican Party has consistently described itself as the party of "liberty," "freedom," and "limited government," but many Republicans also, in complete contradiction, have supported the notion that the government should be defining what marriage, perhaps the most personal and intimate institution in society, ought to look like. How can a party espouse freedom on the one hand and absolute control on the other?
Unlike other laws that prevent widely agreed-upon immoral behaviors, such as theft and violence, laws that limit homosexual relationships do not aim to limit harm to third parties. If two people decide they want to privately enter into an agreement with one another, the government should stay out of the way and let people pursue happiness through freedom and without intrusion. The government should exist to promote liberty, not hinder it.
Huckabee, in addressing appeals to liberty, insists that freedom can only exist in a moral society.
"They say, 'I don't want to hear about social issues. All I want to hear is about liberty and low taxes.' Well, that's just delicious. Let me tell you something," said Huckabee, according to The Des Moines Register, in an August address. "…Liberty cannot function unless there are people who are willing to live with integrity."
Huckabee is right. Without morality, liberty is simply a permission slip to create unimaginable harm to others. The issue isn't whether morality is important in society or not; the real question is whether the government ought to be the one determining precisely what "morality" means and looks like.
This is why social conservatism is oxymoronic. Pure conservatism, what men like John Adams would have called "liberalism," seeks to maintain those inalienable and fundamental liberties established through the U.S. Constitution—liberties that protect the individual American's freedom to pursue happiness in any way he or she chooses. Social conservatism, however, seeks to establish a moral standard through the power of the government. It necessitates forcing others to adhere to certain moral principles in complete violation of individual freedom. It is impossible then for a person to be truly conservative and also willing to force moral standards on others.
Huckabee disagrees. He has consistently argued that individuals should have the liberty to live without government interference, but he picks and chooses which issues allow for liberty and which issues do not.
For instance, Huckabee opposes government-mandated health insurance required by the Affordable Care Act, and he believes the First Amendment guarantees the right to Hobby Lobby and others to avoid paying for contraceptives and abortion. He stands against both policies precisely because they violate individual liberty, and they most certainly do. But it's illogical and appears disingenuous to declare the government has no right to infringe on personal freedom in one instance and then insist the government should establish standards of sexual morality and marriage in the next.
It's this hypocrisy which has led many Republicans to develop a position on marriage that values liberty above all else. For instance, Rep. David Jolly (R-Fla.), who claims that same-sex marriage is immoral, came out in support of legalizing gay marriage in July, arguing along with several other Republican congressmen that freedom should trump personal religious and philosophical beliefs. They aren't alone. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center poll, 61 percent of self-identified "young Republicans" say they now support same-sex marriage as well.
While Huckabee sees these transitions in the Republican Party as a sign of kowtowing to the forces of social liberalism, a new generation of GOP leaders firmly believes that Republicans ought to truly embrace the principles of freedom and personal liberty that they so eagerly pronounce at every opportunity.
If Huckabee takes issue with that, perhaps he should follow through with his threat and leave the GOP.