“The fox knows many things. The hedgehog knows just one thing.” That’s a saying that says a lot about American politics. For years the Republican party has soared and scored on the back of the hedgehog, singing the song of One True Thing. Limited government, it was for awhile. Then pro-life, followed by defense of marriage. After that came reinstatement of the Christian church at the center of the state.
The best of the hedgehogs, of course, was Ronald Reagan, who ran always against the evil empire, and dismembered the old Soviet Union. His successor, the first George Bush, behaved too much like a fox, a throwback in this respect to Richard Nixon, even raising taxes, and that brought an end to him as president. Bush was a fox, a very able fox trying to look like a hedgehog, and it took an open, unalloyed fox to out him. That, of course, was Bill Clinton with his startling versatility, echoed today by Barack Obama. Of course, the fantastic foxiness of some Democrats has not always been to their advantage. Knowing many things can make them seem scattered, lacking concentration.
Pressured by the campaign, Obama, I suspect, will try to corral a range of ideas under the rubric, if not this time of hope, then of progress through continuity. He’ll go back to former Secretary of State George Shultz, a fox in the hedgehog-house of Reagan, and the Shultz philosophy of “steady-as-she-goes.” But Republicans? That’s the tug-of-war we see unfolding before our eyes.
Some are banking on religion, complete with a day of fasting and prayer hosted by Gov. Rick Perry in Houston on August 6 — truly a penitential place to be at that time of year. There’s a reason for this display of piety in Reliant Stadium. One poll showed that 39 percent of evangelical voters would not go for a Mormon whose creed they believe to be false and certainly not Christian. So a campaign based on fundamentalism seems a reliable way to eliminate two Mormon candidates–Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman, both with formidable records in business and/or diplomacy, not to mention gubernatorial experience.
But reportedly some evangelicals resent the use of their faith for politics and besides that, what if the economy is the big, desperate issue next year? And what if the old slogans from years ago don’t work on that tormented front? Could it be that Republicans might forsake their 25 years of allegiance to the hedgehog and turn instead to one of the foxes? Not Newt Gingrich, of course, another closet fox who probably lost the Republican cloth-coat vote at Tiffany’s. Rather, I mean Romney or Huntsman, totally undisguised, not even willing, either of them, to sign the Pro-Life Leadership Presidential Pledge? It could happen, and if it does, that would not be good news for Barack Obama.