Monday, January 18, 2010

Family Values, Not Really

It's all misdirection. Taylor Marsh is understandably aggravated by the (expected) failure of the Democratic Party to hold the Kennedy seat in the United States Senate and annoyed at the Administration's seeming lack of concern at this turn of events. Frustrated, she writes

And I don’t know about anyone else, but I find it immensely entertaining that the right-wing religious conservative Republicans may elect a former Cosmo winner of “America’s Sexiest Man” contest, complete with cropped naked photo from the Reagan year of 1982, in a state that has been dominated for a century by Kennedy clan hunks.

Entertaining it is; surprising, not so much.

Republicans haven't been talking about "family values" for a long time now. Perhaps it was the Democrats turning the jargon on its head, noting that attention to inadequate health care or housing, poverty, or domestic violence qualified as family values- and those are problems most of the GOP doesn't want to be bothered with. Or maybe it was a mere talking point all along.

But maybe the media simply confused "family values" and opposition to abortion rights, failing to recognize that obsession with the latter implies nothing about the former. Case in point: Sarah Palin, stout opponent of choice in abortion and darling of much of the right wing. She may have been a picketer of abortion clinics. She may defend individuals who bomb abortion clinics against being labeled as terrorists. And she famously gave birth to a baby whom she was aware might be born with Down syndrome, though she admits (brags?) she considered an abortion.

All that didn't stop the former Governor from accepting an invitation, where she reportedly would be paid approximately $250,00, at Juravinski Cancer Centre and St. Peter's Hospital in Hamilton, Canada. A part of Canada's national health care system- which Palin had derided- the hospital issued advance directives, which the former V.P. nominee has condemned as "death panels."

And it performs abortions. Fortunately for all, the appearance was canceled by the group extending the invitation, saving Palin from a charge of hypocrisy. (She will instead appear on behalf of a children's charity in the area.)

Or perhaps no such charge would have ensued because, like Republicans of an earlier era, she really is not about family values. Earlier this month, we read

The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America have announced that former Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, will be the keynote speaker at their upcoming convention in Las Vegas on April 6-8th at Caesars Palace.

There is nothing inherently evil or immoral about speaking on behalf of the alcohol industry (maybe) or at a medical facility which provides a wide range of services, including those of a family planning nature. But it does suggest that with Sarah Palin, it's anything for a buck, not unlike the famous woodsmen, Larry, Darryl, and Darryl, on the 1980s Newhart.

So when we contemplate the travels of the former Governor of Alaska, and recognize that principle means little to her, we can understand more easily that the party which previously found electoral gold in identifying with "family values" wouldn't give a second thought to the incongruity of its U.S. Senate candidate once being a pinup model.

It's not about morality, or cultural conservatism, or traditional mores. At most, it's about opposition to a woman's right to choose; and even that is negotiable. We suffered through eight years of the conservative icon, Ronald Reagan; four years of a Republican president succeeding him; and eight years of the most conservative president in many decades, all of them rhetorically anti-abortion. But as Jonathan Chait wrote in The Big Con, "republican leaders have persistently declined to expend political capital on behalf of social conservative causes." Little to restrict abortion rights was done- until, ironically, amendments proposed by Democrats (Stupak in the House, B. Nelson in the Senate) in a Democratic-controlled Congress faithfully supporting a Democratic president.

Surely, the Republican base is, to varying degrees at various times, energized by opposition to gay rights, opposition to abortion rights, opposition to black crime (think Willie Horton) or other cultural issues. However, GOP-leaning think tanks, lobbyists, punditocracy, political officials, and others are little interested in such matters, except during electoral campaigns. That is their right, of course, but failure to understand what is of fundamental importance to the Republican Party can only enable it to exert greater influence over government and further its agenda of corporate supremacy.

No comments:

Shedding Tears Over the Death of Orenthal James Simpson

Orenthal James Simpson has died, and he leaves behind an impressive, in a manner of speaking, record of misbehavior. In 1964, Simpson as a...