Op Ed
Nov. 5, 2004

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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 "Godless" secularists.

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 secular democracy.

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 riddance.)

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 Ford Pinto.)

Stephen Pizzo is a writer for AlterNet, www.alternet.org.


              
              
                 

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