The best part of Kim Davis's release from jail on Tuesday was how, well, campy it all seemed.
Is Mike Huckabee a "Flashdance" fan? Somehow it doesn't seem to jibe with his whole deal. But there he was, right next to Davis, holding her hand, grooving on the rapturous reception. And why not? Huckabee had worked hard to get to that prime position. Had it not been for a crafty aide, he might have had to share the stage with Ted Cruz, his rival for the Republican presidential nomination. Luckily, the aide physically blocked Cruz from reaching Davis in time to join the fun.
This was all very shabby, of course, but it was also strangely riveting to witness. As I've written before, the cause that Kim Davis is fighting for is a doomed one. Her deputies have pledged to defy her if she continues to insist that they refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples. Nearly every single demographic group is becoming more comfortable with gay marriage, including young evangelicals. In their desperation to claim a piece of Davis's fleeting celebrity, Huckabee and Cruz looked like nothing so much as the Japanese soldiers who refused to surrender after World War II had ended.
This might lead you to ask why the two men are attaching themselves so fervently to such an alienating ideology. The first answer is, clearly, that both of them are dyed-in-the-wool Christian conservative homophobes who don't believe in equal rights for LGBT people. Fair enough. But Huckabee and Cruz are supposedly running for president as well, which means that they're ostensibly trying to appeal to a somewhat broader section of the electorate than the dwindling numbers who are cheering on Kim Davis.
Here's the thing, though: Neither man is actually running for president—not seriously, anyway.
Huckabee has long since stopped trying to become president; we're talking about a man who declined to run in 2012 so that he could keep hosting a weekend show on Fox News. He's the perfect symbol of the way in which the Republican primary has come to resemble a giant sack with a dollar sign painted on it. It doesn't matter to Huckabee if he loses; what matters is that he keeps his name in the conversation so that he can maintain his extracurricular business activities. If you're not actually concerned with how you will be perceived outside of the narrow slice of people who fund your life, you can cast yourself as the champion of that narrow slice. It's tough to remember, but Huckabee used to present an image as a bit of a kinder Republican. He's long since dispensed with that. There's more money to be made pandering to the edges of the evangelical fringe.
Cruz actually has a day job, so he's not as thirsty for cash. But he's still targeting the same fanatical followers as Huckabee. Since he first stepped on the national stage, Cruz has made a career out of cheerfully destroying the Republican party from within. His fellow GOP senators loathe him to no end, but he's already decided that they're a constituency he doesn't need to worry about. The run for the presidency is just his way of cementing his place at the top of the far-right food chain. When that's your goal, you're going to be on the first plane to Kentucky.
Luckily, none of this will matter too much in the long run. The Japanese soldiers eventually had to concede that they'd lost the war, and Huckabee, Cruz and even Kim Davis herself face the exact same fate.