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Will Huckabee's campaign encourage evangelicals to vote for a Democrat?

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Huckabee's supporters glimpse in him the archetype of the "new evangelical" – a truer representative of the "compassionate conservatism" that Bush preached but never practiced. In fact, Huckabee's seemingly novel mix of moral conservatism and economic populism owes more to the 19th century than the 21st.

During the Second Great Awakening, revivalists such as Charles Finney led a national movement to transform the young republic on an expansive set of issues. Some of them – abolition and women's rights, for instance – would today be called "progressive"; others – such as temperance or religious education – come closer to what we think of as "conservative."

Those who accuse Huckabee of falling prey to "liberal values" betray an ignorance of evangelical history. By transcending the false division between "moral values" and "social justice," Huckabee actually represents a return to a more broad-based and less ideological brand of evangelical politics, one that pframredates the modern split between liberals and fundamentalists that became so pronounced during the later 20th century.

Perhaps the reason that Huckabee has struck fear in the hearts of so many Republicans and old-guard fundamentalists is less ideological than pragmatic. The evangelical groundswell that plucked Huckabee from obscurity during the Iowa caucuses demonstrated the viability of a Republican candidate who represents Evangelicals but who also believes that the state has a positive and necessary role to play in the lives of citizens, especially those whom Jesus called "the least of these."

A reenergized evangelical base sounds like good news for the GOP, especially given recent talk of creeping demoralization and disillusionment in the party.

In fact, the opposite is true.

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