Thursday, May 19, 2011


Discussing various Republican sex scandals today (Arnold Schwarzenegger, John Ensign, and so on), Gail Collins writes:

What is it with Republicans lately? Is there something about being a leader of the family-values party that makes you want to go out and commit adultery?

Responding to the column, Steve Benen writes:

... Collins' larger point is a good one: not only do the Republican scandals seem worse in their scope and severity, but we’re talking about "the family-values party." Indeed, except for Giuliani and maybe Schwarzenegger, all of the recent Republicans caught with their pants down have been sleazy and hypocritical.

It's generally wise to avoid double standards, but what about when a party invites one? For decades, Republican candidates at every level have emphasized the GOP’s moral superiority on "family values."

But here's the thing: I lurk at right-wing sites a lot, and I never see right-wingers use the phrase "family values" anymore. Liberals use it all the time in reference to right-wingers (and their hypocrisy), but right-wingers stopped using it a long time ago. Oh, sure, they still talk about "the family" all the time, but that's almost exclusively in the context of their opposition to allowing gay people's families to have full societal approval. These days they may talk about "Christian values" or "Judeo-Christian values" or "traditional values," but rarely if ever "family values." That was so last century.

And "the culture." They love talking about "the culture."

The point of all these terms is that we want to destroy "the culture." We don't have "traditional values." These are much, much more flexible concepts -- you see, we support decadence (gay marriage!) and assaults on Western traditions (sharia law!). And if one of them cheats, well, we're still the people who want you to gay-marry under sharia (however the hell that's supposed to work). Even their cheaters don't want that.

I'm not saying any of the contemporary right-wing rhetoric is in any way coherent. But "family values" was an easy criterion for a lot of liberals to meet and a lot of them to fail, and they knew it, and they knew the public knew it. It was a simple concept to grasp. The notion of "the culture" is much less simple. Now, right-wingers can persuade you that even after their transgressions Mark Sanford and David Vitter and the rest have a traditional notion of "the culture." Barack Obama? Even though he's in a happy, loving, traditional marriage with two terrific kids? Er, we don't know....

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