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Compare & Contrast: Family Values & The 2008 Election

August 15th, 2008 | by Daniel DiRito |

The GOP has, for years, claimed to be the party of family values. Unfortunately, that title is more like a badge worn on one’s lapel than an innate commitment to morality. Even worse, this carefully chosen description is primarily tailored to encompass those issues the GOP feels will garner votes. This seeming manipulation is no accident. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that the GOP practices selective morality…the kind that makes a revelation of hypocrisy all the more significant.

Consider the facts. John McCain wants us to believe he shares the values of the evangelical voters he seeks to court. Unfortunately, his own history suggests something else…yet that hasn’t stopped McCain from moving to claim he’s always been aligned with Christian values. Well, if one believes that Ralph Reed represents family values, perhaps John McCain is entitled to wear his new badge.

In the first of the two following videos, Dems Rapid Response sheds some much needed light on the kind of values the GOP has actually come to represent under the leadership of men like George Bush. Yes, they consistently rail against abortion and same-sex marriage…while condoning deceit, deception, and dishonesty…the kind that robs hard-working Americans of opportunities and insures that the political elite will maintain their hold upon wealth and power.

The truth of the matter is that Ralph Reed, once a burgeoning star in the GOP (who diligently mouthed the party’s moral mumbo jumbo), was exposed as the corrupt cash chasing charlatan he’s always been. In fact, his rapid ascendency was formulaic…and his speedy demise deservedly mimicked that of many of his crooked Christian cohorts.

The fact that John McCain is happy to attach his fundraising efforts to Reed is a testament to the priorities he and his party share. The hypocrisy is revealed in their simultaneous attempts to connect Barack Obama’s secular sensibilities with all things un-American…and therefore paint them as lacking moral justification.

In the second video, Matthew 25, a Christian political action committee, offers some much needed contrast…and begins the difficult work of dislodging the faithful from many of the fraudulent fabrications about Barack Obama that are being fostered by legions of GOP loyalists.

Sadly, we’ve become a nation that finds much of its worth in the denigration of others…and the blinding bravado of dogmatic intransigence. If it isn’t the gays or those who favor a woman’s right to choose or the hotel chain that offers adult movies to patrons or the network that allows Janet Jackson to expose her breast, it’s the French and those other nations that have chosen secularism and the full separation of church and state.

In our haste to equate morality with the institutionalization of theology, we’ve often impinged upon the promise of equality and forsaken the foundational fundamentals of our freedom…and the opportunities it should foster. In fact, many of us have succumbed to the notion that simply being American is akin to being moral…and we’ve increasingly acted without introspection…assuming we can do no wrong.

Truth be told, values aren’t limited to those issues that can be easily sexualized or sensationalized. The family that suffers in silence under the burden of a usurious mortgage or as a result of a failed economy or due to unexpected medical expenses they can’t afford warrants consideration. Unfortunately, we’re talking about the kind of morality that calls us to act; not simply to feign outrage.

It’s easy to vilify the unknown gay man who wants to marry his partner or the stereotyped women who may have chosen to have an abortion. They are nameless, faceless individuals we can categorize while never having to recognize their humanity. The neighbor family struggling to pay its bills and feed its family is too close…too real…too apt to require our morality to be more than lip service.

Instead, we prefer the safety of pious platitudes. We want our elections be about salacious snippets and snarky sound bites…as it keeps us from having to look at our candidates, our country, ourselves, and our collective actions beyond the cardboard caricatures we construct.

America is at a crossroads…whether we choose to admit it or not. We run the risk of becoming irrelevant under the weight of our own rationalizations. Morality cannot be a slogan or a slur. It can’t be predicated upon a golden rule that grants gold a godly status. Our ability to buy and sell the world…while staking a claim to all things Christian…is a contradiction that cannot be sustained. Family values cannot exclude those families we choose to ignore.

Morality cannot be measured without a commitment to compare and contrast. The following videos can be an important first step in that direction.

DemRapidResponse - Tainted

Matthew 25 - Families

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

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  1. One Response to “Compare & Contrast: Family Values & The 2008 Election”

  2. By Liberal Jarhead on Aug 16, 2008 | Reply

    This seems to be part of a larger phenomenon - our culture is losing track of the difference between pretense and reality, between talk and behavior. So, as you note here, right-wingers can get credit for living up to a given code of values by talking about it without having to actually do it (things like actually being faithful to their spouses) and by extending that code into bigotry and then verbally attacking anyone qualifies as a target, rather than by expressing any positive or inclusive values.

    It’s the same thing we see when we watch chicken hawks strut and preen and preach grimly about war when they worked their asses off to stay out of Vietnam in their own youths (Bush, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Feith, Limbaugh, O’Reilly… McCain didn’t do that, to give credit where it’s due) or are avoiding military service now if they’re of an appropriate age, like Rich Lowry.

    Same thing that’s going on when we hear these same folks giving condescending sermons about self-sufficiency and not mooching off the taxpayers, while they push through huge tax breaks and loopholes for themselves and the corporations in which their wealth is held while they stick it to the middle class and working class ever harder.

    As Glenn Greenwald points out in Great American Hypocrites, it seems to be a tradition that got off the ground with John Wayne, who dodged the draft in World War II, and Ronald Reagan, who went into uniform but stayed in sunny southern California making films for the military throughout the war (while Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda, Robert Mitchum, Clark Gable, etc. volunteered for combat); both of these guys then spent the rest of their lives presenting themselves as ultra-patriotic and ready to send others to fight at the drop of a cowboy hat.

    They also somehow conned people into believing that it was patriotic to be divisive, judgmental, and bigoted, behaviors that go against the values our country has aspired to (though often fallen short) and that weaken us rather than make us stronger as a nation.

    For that matter, we’ve seen the same things mirrored by some on the left when they’ve demonized opponents by reducing them to simple-minded caricatures and then bashing those distortions, or reduced complex issues to simplistic demands for what they want when they want it without regard to whether it’s practical, possible, or fair.

    It’s a kind of laziness, I think. It’s always easier to feel better about oneself by putting others down than by actually doing the work to become better. It’s easier to accept appearances than to ask questions and think.

    And laziness is ultimately the root of evil, as M. Scott Peck eloquently pointed out in People of the Lie.

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