by Dalton Karwacki
Students and community members should be active in the democratic process and challenge politicians in order to hold them to a higher standard, according to former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
The former governor of Arkansas, who finished second in the race for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2008, spoke at Rider on Wednesday. There were two purposes of the event, which was sponsored by the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics: to engage in a discussion of politics and to promote Huckabee’s new book, Do the Right Thing: Inside the Movement That’s Bringing Common Sense Back to America.
“Focus on and demand to know what the innovations will be that will change the country, and don’t allow it to become just rhetorical devices of saying ‘We’re going to bring change or reform,’ [and] ask ‘in what way are you going to reform?’” Huckabee said. “Challenge us, and if we can’t be specific, vote for someone else.”
The speech was greeted by protests, particularly directed at Huckabee’s stances on abortion, gay marriage and the idea of evolution — all of which Huckabee is against. Dr. Matthew Goldie, an assistant professor with the Department of English, led the protest. He explained that another reason for the protest was simply that Huckabee was a poor choice to encourage political discussion.
“We do question whether there was not someone more effective at encouraging an intelligent discussion on campus,” Goldie said.
Dean of Students Anthony Campbell responded to the protests concerning the choice of Huckabee.
“I think universities have an obligation to provide students with all sides and opinions and to promote discussion and debate,” he said. “Orderly protesting is part of the discussion. People have the right to express their opinions. It is hosted by the Rebovich Institute for New Jersey Politics, which does not support any political point of view — its intention is to promote discussion of ideas.”
In his speech, Huckabee discussed many topics. He started with his general political views, particularly the procedure of running for president.
“The process of running for president, unfortunately, in many cases, is too much about the process and not about the policies,” he said.
Huckabee stressed that his favorite part of his unsuccessful campaign was the people he met along the way.
He addressed the fact that during the Republican primary, he was the only candidate who acknowledged the trouble with the economy. He also made sure that the audience knew that he placed blame for the crisis on the Republican Party just as much as the Democratic. Huckabee then moved on to a discussion about the health care system of the United States.
“It’s based on the premise that, we’re not really dealing with a health care system, we’re dealing with a disease care system,” he said. “We don’t prevent disease, we wait until it’s in catastrophic condition, and then we try to repair it, after it’s incredibly expensive.”
Huckabee also discussed the education system. He gave the statistic that one-third of American students do not graduate from high school. He purported that this is not because students are “dumb,” but because they “aren’t challenged.” He called the consistent cutting of music and art program budgets “the dumbest thing that we have done in the education system in America.”
He also asserted that the current system punishes the most productive individuals by taxing them more heavily. He discussed the benefits of his Fair Tax plan, which would tax industry less and provide a flat tax rate to all individuals.
After his speech, Huckabee fielded several questions about various topics, both those covered in his speech and those not. One question was even about Huckabee’s musical influences. The former governor is the bassist in a rock ’n’ roll band called Capitol Offense. After the question and answer period, Huckabee moved upstairs to sign copies of his book for anyone who purchased one.
The reaction to Huckabee’s speech, and indeed, even his presence at Rider, was mixed. Junior John Finter said that the speech was an “interesting, very conservative-type speech. [Huckabee was] an interesting character. I enjoyed his presentation; it had a little bit of humor so it wasn’t that dry all the time.”
The speech was widely attended, so much so that several hundred people were situated in the Cavalla Room watching the speech through a live feed.
However, that does not mean Huckabee’s presence was welcomed with fully opened arms.
“I don’t like his views toward women,” said Marilyn Quinn, associate professor and librarian. “I am also very much against someone who said God wanted him to be president. Any religion has no part in our government. I know he has said the Bible is what he bases his policies on, and I think that is running into troubled waters.”