On Wednesday night, the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics hosted Republican former Gov. Mike Huckabee. Inviting Huckabee seemed like a bold move for Rider, mostly a liberal campus. However, the school hosted several liberals last semester, like Valerie Biden, Dr. David Walton of Partners in Health and former U.S. representative Harold Ford Jr., whose visits were protested by conservatives on campus who felt that the school wasn’t being bipartisan when choosing speakers. It is easy to see that there is a large group of conservatives not only on this campus, but in the community as well. The Bart Luedeke Center (BLC) Theater was packed mainly by members of the community and the overflow of mainly students headed to the Cavalla Room to hear the former governor of Arkansas speak. For most lectures on campus, there is no need to come early to an event, and showing up 10 minutes before it begins is usually enough time to snag a seat. However, this wasn’t the case on Wednesday because Huckabee is such a big name, especially since he ran for president last year, but lost to Sen. John McCain in the primary.
Huckabee started his speech with stories of his humble beginnings and a dream to make an impact on the world. One of his stories was about how his campaign was run by frugal people who saved as much as they could and wasted no money on fancy hotels, food or travel. This was somewhat hard to believe, especially since Huckabee arrived at the BLC in a Lincoln stretch limo. As he got into more important political ideas, though, he offered a lot of facts, but not a lot of solutions. His facts were mostly true — he mentioned the high cost of health care, calling it “disease care” because it only treats those who are already sick, and that schools should be required to teach music and art, among other things. However, he never really offered firm solutions to these problems. In his speech, he even challenged people to question politicians, and if they don’t answer, to vote for someone else. If the federal government were to mandate that all schools should teach music and art, then that would interfere with his ideas about less government control. Even though his speech was not terribly partisan, he is known for some outrageous beliefs.
After Huckabee finished his speech, he received mostly easy questions from the audience — no one attacked his views despite the protesters outside the BLC. Last semester, Unity Days keynote speaker Donna Brazile, a liberal CNN political analyst, spoke in the BLC theater and also received easy questions after her speech was finished. However, Brazile wasn’t very controversial — Huckabee is a much bigger name in the world of politics and should have been met with harder questions.
Although there were protests for both speakers, there was one main difference. The Republicans who protested Brazile felt that Rider wasn’t recognizing the conservative point of view. However, those who protested Huckabee were actually protesting Huckabee’s political viewpoints. Also, unlike Huckabee, Brazile took the time to talk to those who felt that the speech was unfair.
Although the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics is making a firm move toward being bipartisan, inviting extremists is not the right move for this school. As far as Republicans go, Huckabee is very far right, and there were many other choices that the Institute could have gone with who would have offered a more moderate view.
The weekly editorial expresses the majority opinion of The Rider News editorial board and is written by the opinion editor, Nadine Tester.