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Thank God for Huckabee, Guns, Grits and Glorious Gravy

For Huckabee, however, that battle for what is often referred to by those on the religious right as the “soul of America” has always been religious as well as political.

Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee announced last weekend that he would be ending his popular Fox News talk show to feel out a possible presidential run. Huckabee ran in the Republican primaries in 2008, and it’s common knowledge among most political observers that he still has an eye for the White House. The news, then, wasn’t really all that shocking. Although he won’t make a definitive decision until later in the spring, Huckabee mentioned on his program that the “continued chatter” over his future political ambitions “has put Fox News into a position that just isn’t fair to them.” He continued, “Nor is it possible for me to openly determine political and financial support to justify a race. The honorable thing to do at this point is to end my tenure here at Fox.

The news also felicitously coincides with the release of his new book, God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy. Although the book won’t be out until later in January, according to its publisher, St. Martin’s Press, it promises to be a “lighthearted” though at times “bracingly realistic” romp through the American political, cultural, and economic landscape: “Government bailouts, politician pig-outs, and popular culture provocations from Jay-Z and Beyoncé to Honey Boo-Boo to the Duck Dynasty’s Robertson family. Gun rights, gay marriage, the decline of patriotism, and the mainstream media’s contempt for those who cherish a faith-based life. The trouble with Democrats, the even bigger trouble with Republicans, our national security complex, and how our Constitution is eroding under our noses. Stories of everyday Americans surviving tough times, reflections on our way of life as it once was, as it is, and as it might become . . . these subjects and many more are covered with Mike Huckabee’s signature wit, insight, and honesty.”

In other words, the book appears designed to exploit through any and all means possible reliable political talking points and the so-called culture wars that, unfortunately, have become an almost a permanent feature of our political landscape. As his publisher notes, and as the title of the book makes clear, Huckabee wants to draw attention to “the differences of opinion between the ‘Bubble-villes’ of the big power centers and the ‘Bubba-villes’ where most people live.” The latter, apparently, are united in their love God, guns, grits, and gravy, though in actuality not always in that order.

It’s clear, then – and this really shouldn’t surprise anyone – that Huckabee’s forthcoming book is more in the genre of “campaign-style,” crafted and released in time to appeal to his base and, perhaps more importantly, put him in the public eye at a crucial time in the run up to campaign season. The book is, as the Washington Examiner put it last spring when publication of the book was announced, Huckabee’s “battle cry.”

For Huckabee, however, that battle for what is often referred to by those on the religious right as the “soul of America” has always been religious as well as political. Huckabee, a former Southern Baptist minister, makes no attempt to conceal his sense of divine calling in the political realm. When he announced his departure from Fox News this past weekend, he said, “It’s been the ride of a liftetime, and I have never had so much fun in my life. But I also realize that God hasn’t put me on this earth just to have a good time or to make a good living, but rather has put me on earth to try to make a good life”

That “good life,” apparently, involves seeking the highest elected office in the United States, all in an effort to restore “American ideals,” which include, of course, less government and more God. For, as Huckabee said at the Conservative Political Action Conference last March, “If this nation forgets our God, then God will have every right to forget us. It’s time for government to scale back, not for people of faith to scale back.”

To be honest, the title of the book and its described contents come off little more than bad satire, as if Huckabee and his platform have become at parody of themselves. Part of the problem is the predictability of it all. Case in point: Huckabee has already been satirized, although months before his book’s actual release. Beating Huckabee’s publisher to the punch, New Street Communications published in October 2014 God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy: A Satire.

Written by W. J. Renehan, the book portrays itself as the “candid first-person memoir” of Mike Huckleberry, who is called by God to run for president to rescue America from its “its current death spiral into religious, moral, economic and racial decay.” As “Mike Huckleberry” says right before his “epiphany” that he must run for president in the book, “Still, somewhere along the line the American dream had turned sour. We the people had fallen short of our promise, neglected our duty as God’s chosen people – that shining city on a hill – guiding light to the rest of the world. But we were not too far gone, not by any means. A strong, decisive leader was needed, one with a close relationship to God; a man of principle, who could restore integrity to our great nation.” Huckabee could have penned those lines himself.

And that’s where much of the problem is. The satire is, in many ways, spot on, albeit over the top in places. But the fact that Huckabee and his book could so easily be the subject of satire months before his book’s actual release – and the fact that Huckabee’s publisher still went with the title God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy anyway – doesn’t say much positive about politics in this country. Nor does it speak highly of the religion involved, with its nostalgic pre-packaged call to arms. It would all be extremely humorous if it weren’t taken so seriously by so many and if so much weren’t at stake. That’s, unfortunately, what Huckabee is counting on.