“The American people don’t care. Don’t focus on it,” Cain advised Gingrich. “The people want to hear about solutions. Focusing on something in his past personal life – it does not do justice to the American people, folks. It is an injustice to drag anybody’s past personal life out. The people just don’t care.” Herman Cain commenting about an ABC interview with the second wife of Newt Gingrich.
A group among the electorate is referred to as “values voters.” Supposedly these voters focus resolutely on moral values in making their choices. This myth is exploding in the 2012 South Carolina primary. Newt Gingrich has recently been described as wanting “an open marriage” with his second wife. The open marriage concept generally means that people can engage in extramarital activities without these being regarded as instances of infidelity. This raises the question why would people who purport to staunchly support the sanctity of marriage not care about a candidate’s request to engage in an open marriage. Why would they not care about the character of a candidate who has been married three times?
A plausible answer is that values voters are hypocrites. They use their alleged piety as a platform to attack people and candidates they do not like for various reasons. Usually, the values voters are antagonistic to the more liberal candidates especially where racial matters are concerned. According to Cain, “Focusing on something in his past personal life” does not do justice to the American people. Yet these same voters were rabid in regard to President Clinton. In typical fashion, Mr. Gingrich deflected concerns about his conduct by attributing impertinence to reporters and moderators who raise the matter of his shoddy behavior. Self-righteousness may be an effective tactic, but it is not a credible response. It should be remembered in this context that Mr. Gingrich was persecuting Clinton while he himself was engaged in a long-running extramarital affair. Once again hypocrisy is the coin of the realm with the so-called values voters.
Values voters and the candidates who court them want it both ways. They seek to use the personal lives of their opponents to defeat or damage these opponents, but when their personal lives are the topic, they assert “It is an injustice to drag anybody’s past personal life out.” Both the politicians who practice the politics of personal attack and the values voters, who cheer them on, often assert they are focused on issues of character. If values voters are relentlessly enthusiastic for hypocrisy, then one may question the credibility of their values. If they believe character is an issue when it can be turned against their opponents but an injustice when it is raised against them, one must suspect their character may be seriously flawed.
Another consideration is that values voters and the candidates seeking their approval are both quick and persistent to assert what they see as proper sexual behavior on the part of others. They seek to make laws that impose their proprieties on the entire citizenry, and they want to deprive people of liberties they currently enjoy in their most intimate endeavors. Consequently, reactionary candidates and the voters they appeal to have no legitimate basis to call for tolerance. They espouse and enact intolerance. As in the other context, hypocrisy is not a worthy basis to seek or give votes. Nonetheless, both the candidates and the voters will persist in their hypocrisy and their arrogance. When they are questioned in any way, they respond with self-righteousness. They see themselves as the arbiters of what is right and wrong even if what they profess does not align with what they practice. When these people become indignant, it seems they protest too much. Their arrogance is also the indispensable complement of their persistent hypocrisy. It reaches beyond the sexual realm and allows them to castigate anyone who dares question their judgments on issues ranging from economic inequality, to social justice, to race relations.
As an example of the economic inequality facet of this arrogance, Mitt Romney responded to a question about how he would help the 99% since he is a member of the 1% by asserting that such a question divides America. Clearly he regards raising the topic of economic inequality as bad form that borders on the treasonous. In his words, “America is right and you are wrong.”
Both Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich regularly use code words and catch phrases to arouse white voters against what they allege to be favoritism toward blacks. From calling President Obama the “best food stamp president” to asserting that Mitt Romney is simply “a paler shade of what we already have,” Santorum and Gingrich routinely inject color and by implication race into their speeches. If Mitt Romney was sincere in his concern for American unity, he would challenge his rivals on their race-based dog whistling.
In regards to social justice, the values voters and the reactionaries almost deny the relevance of these issues. With half of the populace in or near poverty, millions living on the edge of hunger and without health insurance, the values voters and their candidates extol “free market” solutions that create and sustain these glaring social problems. Most probably agree with Mitt Romney that the “foreclosure process should be allowed to play out.” That is people should be allowed to lose their homes so investors can seize an opportunity to make more money. In one debate, the audience cheered the idea that an uninsured man should be left to die and in another they cheered for a nation-leading number of executions. Whatever these statements and responses indicate, they do not show sensitivity to the level of justice in contemporary American society.
Values voters exemplify the crisis in American politics. People are betraying the principles and purposes of the Republic in the name of some alternative worldviews. For some the alternative is rapacious capitalism, for others it is militant religious orthodoxy, and for others it is bigotry, each of these ideologies share the common feature of being inimical to the Republic most of us swore loyalty as children. The Founders and the Framers bequeathed to us a polity, not a theocracy, not a get rich quick scheme, not a white supremacist homeland. We have been imperfect heirs to this trust, but insofar as we have kept faith with the patriots who have fought and died for the Republic we have honored and benefited all Americans. Now we are again challenged to recall the mystic chords of memory and give testimony to our true loyalties. We must supplant values voters as principled voters and choose candidates who appeal not to our prejudices, our greed, or our sectarianism, but to our honor, our hopes, and the better angels of our natures.
Let us answer the question whether this nation or any other nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure in the affirmative. Let us talk, speak, write, and blog so that appeals to fear, bigotry, and anger are exposed for the lies they are. Let us inform and inspire others to think critically when attack ads fill the airwaves. Let us advocate that people change the channel or turn off the TV when billionaires and corporations try to treat this election as a merchandising campaign in which they sell us a pack of lies. Let us demonstrate that government of all the people, by all the people, for all the people shall not perish from this earth.
Tags: bigotry, elections, hypocrisy, principles, purposes, Republic, voting