Sunday, September 16, 2007

Response to Lon

A kind reader of my last post responded thus, and I thought it was very interesting and wanted to discuss it a bit, so here it is:

Lon said...

Buck, just checking in to see how you're doing. We were being treated by the same Dr office in CA.

Little troubled by your politics, though. Are you suggesting that conservatives should take a lesson from liberals by setting a low moral/ethical threshold in order to avoid being hypocritical? Low standards, no problems? Conservatives at least punish their own. A failure to live up to a standard is preferable to lacking the standard. For example, few Christians would claim to have lived up to their standards all the time.

Anyway, good that we're both still kicking.


September 16, 2007 12:23 PM


Hi there Lon,

Good to hear you're still kicking too!

I'm not at all suggesting that conservatives should set a low moral/ethical threshold in order to avoid being hypocritical, and I think it's a bit much to suggest that liberals set a low moral/ethical standard, as the phrasing of the question seems to imply. I'm suggesting that they shouldn't continue to loudly claim that they are, above others, MORE moral and ethical and go so far as to condemn others for not holding to such standards, when they cannot hold to them any better than any other large group, such as a political party.

Any large group is only as moral and ethical as the individuals that make up that group, and the individuals in the GOP are no better, nor worse, than the individuals in any other party, large organization, or even America as a whole. They need to stop pretending and loudly proclaiming or even implying that they are morally and ethically superior to others because every time one of the individuals that makes up their group gets caught, it draws attention to the fact that they certainly aren't morally and ethically superior to others, and they are easily branded hypocrites in the process. They're being hoisted by their own petards every time one of the individuals in the group gets caught with his pants down or his hand in the cookie jar, especially those individuals near the top of the hierarchical ladder.

I'm also suggesting that they need not continue to pretend to BE the gatekeepers and defining body of what IS moral and ethical because - they're not. Society as a whole is the defining body of what is moral and ethical. Always has been, always will be, even if some on the extreme right end of the morality scale/spectrum disagree.

"Conservatives at least punish their own." For many of the transgressions, they shouldn't be "punishing" anyone - but now they have to because they opened their big mouths and said that those who don't conform to what they think is morally or ethically right, regardless of the law, SHOULD be punished. In other words, they made their bed, now they're lying in it. Meanwhile, those transgressions that are against the law are punished unilaterally (unless you're Scooter Libby), no matter what party the individual belongs to, so it's a moot point to say that the GOP punishes their own. Again, the big difference is that one party wears each of these transgressions on it's chest in big, bold letters like Superman with his big "S", while the other parties do not.

By the Taliban's standards, those same American ultra-right-wing moral conservatives are liberal pansies, but we don't label them such just because another group that is far to their right thinks so. For much the same reason, I don't think America's moral-conservatives nor the party that embraces them and claims to hold the same standards are badly branding the left or liberals in the way that they clearly intended, so much as they are badly branding themselves with their little morality witch-hunt rhetoric; a rhetoric, by the way, that's passed for political discourse since they cajoled the Christian fundamentalists into the party.

And I really think that's what this comes down to; this morally charged rhetoric started as talking points to entice a largely non-voting block of Christians, and it just got out of control of the GOP over time. The biggest blocks that would be easiest to move were those under the moral advisement of the biggest fundamentalist preachers, like Robertson and Falwell, who didn't just hand over their flocks or point them in the direction the GOP wanted when it came to voting - they tried to take control of the GOP themselves, and the GOP largely allowed it to happen.

There are now many prominent members of the GOP making sounds and moves that amount to "I didn't leave my party - it left me." They want to get out of this hypocritical morality trap and back to their business roots: fiscal conservatism.

And really, above it all - Americans on the whole really are a very morally liberal and morally liberated people, and more so every day. That's not to say they lack standards or good ethics or good moral convictions, which is just moral-conservative spin on the situation. They just don't share the standards of the moral-conservatives, just as the moral-conservatives don't share the standards of the Taliban. If you want, you can say they both "lack standards" (of others), but it's not really a bad thing when put into perspective.

Sure, there are groups of ultra-right-wing-moral-conservatives out there, and they ARE very loud compared to the silent majority of people who enjoy sex, gambling, dancing, off-color humor, and all the rest of the "atrocious behavior" that the moral conservatives spend all their energy railing against. But that silent majority votes too, and they're not much interested in voting for people who would wag their fingers at them or, if they could legislate it, put them in jail for their "atrocious behavior".

If the GOP wants to preach, let them be preachers - get a frock and a pulpit and thump that Bible all they want. However, if they want to work in a temp job FOR the people, ALL the people, they need to stop wagging their fingers at THE PEOPLE, climb down off their high horse, and show that they CAN represent THE PEOPLE because they ARE representative of THE PEOPLE, not just representatives of the morality police.

Those are my thoughts, and thanks for writing. Of course, your mileage may vary, and I welcome your thoughts.

All the best,


Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Future of the GOP?

Republican Senator Larry Craig just resigned amid yet another scandal in the American political landscape. Who’s surprised? Anyone? I mean, as often as it happens, there’s no way to really be surprised that there’s another scandal, nor are we surprised that he was compelled to resign. We’re not really surprised at the denials, “blame the media” finger-pointing, family standing strong by his side, nor even what it was all about; another GOP big-wig caught soliciting gay sex in a public bathroom. Nope, no real surprises here – just another day of American politics as usual. We’re getting used to it all, I think.

There are plenty of web sites out there that list the many, MANY scandals that involve everything from overblown greed to sexual improprieties (or perceived ones) that involve pedophilia, homosexuality, infidelity, and so forth, so there’s really no need to try to list all the names and sordid facts surrounding them here. Some of these affronts, however, really come down to simple hypocrisy.

That said, I think it’s worth noting that, while both major parties have their problems with this stuff, only one of them preaches that THEY are THE party that IS morally responsible and conservative and good. And that’s why only ONE party is REALLY taking the heat for it these days – they are proving, every time one of their members gets caught, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that THEY were lying about it all, and they ARE, without a doubt, hypocrites.

I mean, if you make it a public, political point to say or infer things like, “anyone that does X is evil, immoral, anti-American, going to Hell, and I support flogging them in public, if only with words and rhetoric” and then you, yourself, get caught doing X, you’re totally screwed. If you align with media hacks on TV and radio and print that spout this sort of divisive, propagandist rhetoric on your behalf, and you don’t denounce them for it, then you get caught doing X, you’re JUST as screwed.

Now, most of the fuss over today’s hot political scandal will probably be over in a few days, brought up from time to time only by the political wonks who want to make more hay out of it, usually when they or someone in their party is under fire for something similar, or when they’re trying to get elected by showing how bad the other party is. The American people though, as a whole, will largely shrug it off pretty quickly and turn their fickle attentions to the next Brittney Spears train wreck.

For a short time though, it CAN make some of us think about a bigger picture; the political landscape on the whole, and here’s what it got me thinking…

Once upon a time, the big-brains of the GOP’s back room strategy tactical unit (known as ‘Think Tanks’) came up with a brilliant plan: Court America’s most influential religious leaders and reap the benefits of their largely untapped resources in the form of money and votes. They have ‘flocks’ of people (often referred to as ‘sheep’, both by the religious leaders and even themselves) who will, in large numbers, do pretty much anything those religious leaders suggest. If they could get these leaders to hitch their wagons to the GOP, why, the ‘sheep’ would be sure to follow.

With that, the party all but abandoned its roots of fiscal conservatism and made a hard right, driving deep into the heart of moral conservatism, as defined by the religious leaders they had decided to exploit for the sake of the money and power to be gained through the tactic.

And, no doubt about it, it worked. With the newly politicized crusade the GOP adopted of Conservative Christian push-buttons like “Moral Majority”, “Family Values”, “Gay Agenda”, “Sanctity of Life”, “Creationism” and so forth, they successfully tapped that ‘’flock” of voters and managed to take the House, the Senate, the White House and, eventually, the Supreme Court.

But then, having been elected, those politicians did little to actually deliver to that newly found voting base and, over time, the “flock” has slowly been waking up to that fact, realizing they’ve been duped by little more than a campaign of rhetoric, think-tank designed to tug at their overly-emotional heart-strings. Adding to the fact that once in power, the GOP didn’t exactly go balls to the wall to deliver on their pretend Ultra-Christianized campaign rhetoric, the number of scandals that show all too many of them to simply be total hypocrites when it comes to these “values” they mouthed while they gazed solemnly up toward the heavens is simply staggering.

Anyway, where things got really tangled up, I believe, is that the reality of the situation is one that the “flock” didn’t really understand throughout it all, and may not really understand even now; these ultra-conservative Christian views of morality simply aren’t what most Americans subscribe to. As has been said, “The Moral Majority is neither.” They thought because their candidates won that THEY had won; that THEIR views were the dominant views of Americans; That THEY were now THE GOP; That THEIR values and agendas would take over America completely because of it.

The reality is that they’re simply one of perhaps ten major blocks of voters that make up the GOP. As such, they have maybe a 10% ACTUAL voice in that party, and MUCH less than that in the overall political landscape that is American politics.

Now, I believe the GOP always knew this, and never intended to make good on following through with any of the rhetoric they pushed to get the votes of the “flock” added to their base Republican fiscal conservative block in order to gain a majority in the 3 branches of government. At best, they would give the “flock” yet more rhetoric as needed and throw them a tiny bone once in a while, just to keep them voting for Republicans.

What they apparently didn’t properly calculate is that courting that 10% influence in the way that they did with the rhetoric they mouthed in the process would shape 100% of the public perception of WHO the GOP is – a perception they could never EVER hope to live up to. It is this perception that subsequently defined them as a party of corruption, greed and hypocrisy because every infraction, no matter how small, is immediately and inextricably juxtaposed against their very own words and supposed ultra-moralistic ideals; words and ideals they chose to thrust as loudly as possible into the public square as the ones that they OWN; the ones that DEFINE them. It doesn’t matter that it was all just a ploy to get money and votes; that they didn’t really mean it – they made their bed, and now they are lying in it.

The biggest voice in the party is STILL the corporations that depend on sales, which depends entirely on abandoning the Commandment “Thou shalt not covet…” For those of you without a playbook, “Covet” means “want” or “desire”, as in, your neighbor’s nice car, nice house, electronic gadgets, everything for sale on every commercial, etc. “Give your money to the corporations” is a much more important virtue in the GOP and the American system of capitalism than “Give up your worldly possessions” or “Give your money to the poor”. And because these power brokers are generally lovers of money and luxury and power itself, they are all too often involved in ALL the things that the religious moral conservatives are totally against, leading to the scandals and the hypocrisy that is now ripping the party wide open.

Polls consistently reveal that most American are a very open-minded lot, and these supposedly big issues shouted from the pulpit by the moral conservatives just aren’t very big to the average American. Every day there is yet more acceptance of gays, more acceptance of evolution, more acceptance that global warming is real and we have to do something about it, etc. In general, there is more acceptance every day of the idea that others do not have some inherent right to thrust their ultra-conservative religious views of morality on the rest of society, and more push-back by average Americans that have had more than enough of it.

In a nutshell, all those moral-conservatism, anti-science, pro-religious talking points that the GOP embraced over the years in order to get a block of voters to add to their ballot boxes are now coming back to haunt them because those views are simply out of touch with the REAL mainstream American who’s not a finger-wagging, ultra-conservative member of the morality police, has no desire to be, and certainly has no desire to be regulated by them through legislation. And, because they’ve now all but totally abandoned their roots of fiscal conservatism and smaller, LESS intrusive government in the process of embracing the ultra-conservative morality police’s agenda of MORE intrusiveness by the government into the lives of private citizens (for their own good, of course), they’re also losing that root base of their party in droves as well.

Worse, as must be viewed from the GOP’s think-tank island, isolated somewhere on the fringe of American public opinion as revealed by polling numbers (despite their claims without proof to the contrary), the younger generations that are coming into voting age and will soon take over the political landscape are even MORE accepting of these mainstream ideals, which the GOP loudly branded “liberal”. With their grasp on internet technology, use of blogs and ability to ferret out the truth of statements and situations before the next commercial, an increasing distrust of the ‘mainstream media’ and increasing interest in politics at earlier ages, this coming generation and those that follow are likely to reshape politics in ways that are wholly disastrous to the “Grand OLD Party”. This is especially true when one considers that their ideals are strongly at odds with the politics of corruption, greed and hypocrisy that have become the norm for the GOP in the years since realigning with the moral conservatives.

When all is said and done, I think they took a simple idea to get more votes by tapping into what was then an untapped block, then got in way too deep with it, and now they have very little chance of pulling their fat out of the fire.

My view is that they can’t go in either direction at this point. If they abandon the moral conservative “flock” that they turned into a politically charged block of voters who ARE now interested, engaged and WILL vote for someone, those voters are likely to come to terms with the bumper sticker that is getting more popular: “Jesus was a Liberal”. On the other hand, if they continue to pursue that minority block of moral-conservatism votes, the new generations coming up that polls show are more accepting of all the things the GOP in lock-step with the ultra-religious right have been bad-mouthing will move in droves to the alternatives; the Democratic or Independent parties (and polls show that’s already happening). In concert with the abandonment of the fiscal conservatives who are beginning to move to the Independent column (a trickle at this time that appears to be growing in intensity), that would leave the GOP completely redefined as “The Ultra-Christian Party”, and nothing more.

Alone with just the ultra-religious moral conservatives views and agendas that the average American still doesn’t relate to, even after so many years of such rhetoric from the right-wing pundits, and in dwindling numbers of even those as the younger generation abandons religion and its related bronze-age thinking in the wake of emerging science and technology and news that explores things like Pastor Ted Haggard’s gay prostitute lover and Karl Rove admitting that he’s not really religious and doesn’t really believe, the GOP better buckle up – it’s going to be a bumpy ride, and it’s only just begun.