Why We’re Doing This
How much does image matter? Whether you like it or not, image is often the first step in establishing who a person truly is to that person’s would-be supporters. Initially, it was a photograph of Jon Huntsman that drew us in. He was in a restaurant in New Hampshire, wearing a jean jacket, his wife Mary Kaye listening closely to the owner while Huntsman shook the owner’s hand. But there was something about his expression: calm, friendly, inviting, attentive. The accompanying article to this photo painted Huntsman as a kind of book-smart leader, experienced but a little eccentric. For better or worse, the word “maverick” sprang to mind. (Some pundits have used the word “cowboy.”) We knew about Huntsman from the odd news story about Utah and from his introductory speech for Sarah Palin at the 2008 Republican National Convention. Was this really the same guy? This guy seemed like a star. Where had this guy been all our lives? Oh — working. Raising seven children.
This is a good feeling. It doesn’t feel like Obama in 2008, as so many people have been saying, or expecting us to say. Obama didn’t have experience, and our feeling back then was, almost embarrassingly, that we just weren’t inspired. It seemed like nearly everyone around us was. What were we missing? “Hope” and “change” sounded like an ad campaign, inappropriate for the time. In one-on-one debates with Sen. Clinton, so often Obama would respond to questions after the senator with some variant of “What she said.” The orator Obama was a different man than the debater Obama. It was admirable, the message of hope, but it was the message of someone who was naive, who didn’t seem aware of the enormity of what he would face in office. He warned us things would be tough, but it’s clear that he was unaware how tough.
We were just as disenchanted by McCain, and for similar reasons: he had strayed too far from his 2000 message, and Gov. Palin didn’t have enough experience to justify her vice presidential nomination.
Huntsman announcing his candidacy felt like McCain in 2000, when most of us at H4P weren’t even old enough to vote. It feels right, and it feels honest. Sifting through dozens of interviews, speeches, profiles, and analysis, we already trust this person. Are we being naive now? Are politicians really all that different from one another? The answer is no, and it is foolish for people to believe that things will ever really change in Washington. Huntsman seems to know they won’t, and that’s part of the reason we’re supporting him. It’s about the people you surround yourself with and the decisions you collectively make.
What we want out of this is for more hard-working, trustworthy, and experienced people to be elected to the highest offices of the Republican Party. We believe that Huntsman embodies these qualities. We believe that if he is nominated, he will inspire his fellow politicians on both sides of the aisle to be more respectful, more collaborative and more productive. This election is not an issue of moderate vs. conservative, but rather of inflammatory vs. civil and words vs. action. We want someone who knows how to reduce the deficit, create jobs, and improve our tarnished image overseas, and we want someone who is going to be honest and straightforward with us, and diplomatic yet firm with everyone else. We want someone who is going to listen to his opponents and know how to make informed decisions. We don’t want someone who is too inexperienced to know what’s right and what’s wrong.
We are downright alarmed by some of the statements that the other Republican candidates have made. Jon Huntsman, quite simply, is on another level.