Wednesday, September 9, 2015

On Mike Huckabee's Use of Abraham Lincoln

Several GOP presidential candidates have stepped-up to defend Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Leading the charge on this front is Mike Huckabee.  When Davis was released from prison yesterday Huckabee was there to celebrate with the law-breaking clerk as she came onto the stage to the blaring sound of Survivor's 1982 hit "Eye of the Tiger."  Yes, you read that correctly.  The theme song from the movie Rocky III.  Watch it here.  (The word on the street is that Survivor was not happy with Huckabee's choice of music).

Huckabee is using Davis to give his presidential campaign a boost.  (Apparently his campaign workers kept Ted Cruz away from the rally so the Texas senator could not take any of the credit for Davis's release). 

Davis has become an icon for the Christian Right.  The GOP candidates with strong connections to the evangelical community cannot stay away from this story.  Davis just might become the "Joe the Plumber" of this election cycle. Stay tuned.  I am guessing there will be a question about her during the next GOP debate.

But I digress.

What I really want to write about is the way Huckabee has drawn upon American history in his defense of Davis's illegal actions.  He compares Davis's resistance to the Obergfell v. Hodges decision on same-sex marriage with Abraham Lincoln's supposed resistance to the Dred Scott vs. Sandford decision (1857) on slavery.

Unfortunately, this historical analogy does not work.  Kevin Levin, proprietor of the excellent blog Civil War Memory, debunks Huckabee's shoddy use of the past.  Here is a taste:


Huckabee argues that Kim Davis is following in the footsteps of Lincoln, who he believes defied the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Dred Scott.
It should come as no surprise that at no point has Huckabee offered textual evidence or reference to a specific moment in Lincoln’s public career to support his claim:
“Look, you would have hated Lincoln, because he disregarded the Dred Scott 1857 decision that said black people aren’t fully human,” Huckabee said when host Joe Scarborough questioned him about his support of Davis. “[Lincoln] disregarded [Dred Scott] because he knew it was not operative, that it was not logical.”
“You obey if it’s right,” the former Arkansas governor said on “This Week.” “So, I go back to my question, is slavery the law of the land because Dred Scott said so? Was that a correct decision? Should the courts have been irrevocably followed on that? Should Lincoln have been put in jail? Because he ignored it. That’s the fundamental question.”
The level of ignorance at work here is staggering. It doesn’t take much to locate Lincoln’s very public view of the Dred Scott case as well as his understanding of the judicial review. You can find it in a speech he gave in his hometown of Springfield, Illinois on June 26, 1857.
And now as to the Dred Scott decision. That decision declares two propositions-first, that a negro cannot sue in the U.S. Courts; and secondly, that Congress cannot prohibit slavery in the Territories. It was made by a divided court-dividing differently on the different points. Judge Douglas does not discuss the merits of the decision; and, in that respect, I shall follow his example, believing I could no more improve on McLean and Curtis, than he could on Taney.
He denounces all who question the correctness of that decision, as offering violent resistance to it. But who resists it? Who has, in spite of the decision, declared Dred Scott free, and resisted the authority of his master over him?
Judicial decisions have two uses-first, to absolutely determine the case decided, and secondly, to indicate to the public how other similar cases will be decided when they arise. For the latter use, they are called “precedents” and “authorities.”
We believe, as much as Judge Douglas, (perhaps more) in obedience to, and respect for the judicial department of government. We think its decisions on Constitutional questions, when fully settled, should control, not only the particular cases decided, but the general policy of the country, subject to be disturbed only by amendments of the Constitution as provided in that instrument itself. More than this would be revolution. But we think the Dred Scott decision is erroneous. We know the court that made it, has often over-ruled its own decisions, and we shall do what we can to have it to over-rule this. We offer no resistance to it.
Read Levin's entire post here.