The values ploy
by Stephen Pizzo
I was listening
to Mike Barnacle this morning ranting on MSNBC about how the Dems
need to get with this whole "values" thing or they will
be a minority party forever. He said that Dems have to stop making
fun "of people who say they dunked their heads in a river and
discovered Jesus," and who want to defend traditional concepts
like marriage. Otherwise, Barnacle said, the Dems will continue losing
to the party that recognizes and honors those beliefs.
America is divided, not just on the war and economic policy, but also
on this whole "values" business. Barnacle may be right
from a tactical standpoint. Certainly that's how the Republicans play
the issue. Do you believe for a second that Karl Rove would want to
spend a weekend locked up alone with the typical evangelical Christian
couple? Maybe, but only if the couple were the last two swing voters
in a tight race. Otherwise the prospect of two days of scintillating
faith-based conversation with those two would appeal to Rove about
as much as Novocaine-free root canal.
The GOP's relationship with the religious right is a rock hard practical/tactical
alliance that in reality has little to do with sharing common values.
(Pro-family? Pro-marriage? Would anyone like to do a study on how
many GOP politicians are divorced or have gotten caught cheating on
their spouse? I will bet the difference between the Values Party and
the Dems would be indistinguishable.)
Besides the dishonesty beneath the values business, there are very
real reasons to worry about this clearly successful tactic. When a
nation's leaders pander to fundamentalists they eventually must either
deliver on their demagoguery or face their wrath. Politicians who
may have thought they rode an elephant to power quickly discover they
are really on the back of a hungry tiger a tiger they must
now either have to feed or be eaten.
So they parcel out morsels to keep their pet in line. Civil liberties
are usually the first to go, followed closely by science. Control
of the judiciary then becomes a necessary as people go to court to
regain their civil liberties and scientists fight for their right
to continue shedding light further down mankind's evolutionary path.
We don't need to imagine fictional outcomes. History is filled with
real ones. Galileo just wanted people to know that they had the solar
system all wrong. The earth revolved around the sun, not vice versa.
Of course he was entirely correct and Church-captive authorities suspected
so. Nevertheless, he found himself in deep doo-doo. Here it begins
with things like stem cell research, but will certainly not stop there.
Women are common targets of politicians seeking to appease their values
constituents. Look to the Islamic world for contemporary examples.
Here in the West values-based policies materialize in less visually
jarring forms. It begins with women losing control over their own
reproductive systems and proceeds from there to policies that restate
a woman's key role in society as that of mother hen. Jobs, professional
careers and other un-hen-like pursuits may be allowed, but only after
she has completed raising her brood. Laws requiring equal pay are
cast in the values political dialog as incitement for young women
to shirk home and hearth for the decidedly un-hen-like world of men.
On Nov. 2, more than half of American voters voted for the Values
Party. Those who make their livings analyzing why people vote
the way the do say the GOP's emphasis on values like gay marriage,
abortion, prayer in schools and the sort, gave them the electoral
edge over secular Democrats.
So, I agree and disagree with Mike Barnacle. Yes, the Values Party
won because they pandered to America's fundamentalists. But I disagree
that Democrats need to jump aboard the values express. He is right
that none of us (myself included) should gratuitously make fun of
born agains and their kind. But, having said that, please notice that
it is they of late who are currently ridiculing and making fun of
But Democrats should not become value-whores like the
GOP. That would only accelerate the Talibanizaton of America. At least
one party needs to continue to fight for free speech, free thought,
enlightened education, science and most of all the one
thing that makes all that possible a free, open and progressive
Who will carry that banner for us now? Not the current crop of traditional
machine Democrat hacks, that's for sure. (Bye, bye Daschle...and good
If ever there was moment justifying a wholesale purge of the Democratic
Party leadership, it's what happened on Nov. 2nd. Start with that
little scumbag Terry McAuliffe, but don't stop there. Get rid of Bob
Schrum once and for all. Carville, Bagala shut up. Just shut
up. You have nothing useful to offer to the discussion after this.
And don't give me that crap about me organizing a "circular firing
squad," either. You guys are so yesterday.
We either need a reformed Democratic Party or a moderate third party
made up of refugees sick and tired of the mediocrity and mendacity
of the other two parties. (Calm down Ralph, I'm not referring to you.
For you I prescribe a long vacation a road trip in a vintage
Stephen Pizzo is a writer for AlterNet, www.alternet.org.