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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Voter ‘values’: bigotry, ignorance and fear”

    Talyor Kessinger columnist
    Talyor Kessinger
    columnist

    The Republican Party has presented itself as a moral party for decades. Since the fall of the House of Clinton, it’s done an especially snappy job of portraying itself as the ethical party – that is, the one that really cares about values such as the sanctity of marriage and the right to life of unborn children.

    Such concerns have been concentrated, to a large extent, in a very small number of special-interest groups mostly far right of the average American. In spite of their scarcity, they have nonetheless managed to turn the word “”values”” into a code word for “”reactionary Christian values.””

    The “”values voter”” bloc governed by multiple interest groups still considers itself the largest single voting group in the country, and there may well be some truth to their claims.

    Sure, Democrats try hard to make it seem like they’re the only ones who care about issues such as women’s rights, gay rights and fair trade. They’re no better. But Republicans are much more skillful at it. Look for yourself. Multiple MSNBC and Time polls in 2004 showed that Bush had a solid lead primarily on “”values-based”” issues like gay marriage and abortion. John Kerry had the upper hand in many other areas, but Bush squeaked by as a direct result of this lead.

    The maligning of those who disagree with modern conservative morality continues: Check Sam

    The simple truth is that every voter is a “”values voter,”” and every debate is a debate about values.

    Brownback’s Web site and you’ll find an assertion that “”the only values Mitt Romney has consistently cared about are in his stock portfolio.”” Apparently, in Brownback’s Bizarro World, thinking abortion ought to be “”safe and legal”” is tantamount to being a nihilist.

    To capture the moralistic flavor of the far right, we need only travel back in time to Sept. 17. In Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the “”Values Voter Debate”” was hosted by several interest groups before a largely far-right audience. Seven Republican candidates showed up, each leaving hilarious soundbites viewable on YouTube.

    Tens of thousands tuned in to watch this parade of every ultra-conservative stereotype imaginable. Most questions were about protecting America’s children, stopping the “”homosexual agenda,”” taking a stand against illegal immigration and so on.

    Even Ron Paul was a breath of fresh sanity as he argued to the audience that morality cannot be legislated – a Herculean feat on par with trying to convince an angry bull that goring you is a bad idea – and babbled incoherently about the gold standard.

    Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani and John McCain were the only four candidates who had the sense not to show up – and they deserve respect for distancing themselves from the debacle. But this didn’t stop them from being asked questions. In a display of true third-grade intellect and maturity, the camera zoomed in on their empty podiums as they “”gave”” their silent responses.

    Linguistically speaking, the debate’s premise is ridiculous. The simple truth is that every voter is a “”values voter,”” and every debate is a debate about values. All of us, conservative and liberal, make political decisions for reasons other than self-interest – for instance, because we think a particular candidate’s stance on a certain issue is somehow “”good.”” But this is simply a value statement. Are you for a particular issue? That’s a value you hold as important. Against it? That’s still a value you hold.

    The only voter who isn’t a “”values voter”” is an apathetic one – and an apathetic voter generally doesn’t vote at all.

    But the mere fact that people are willing to overlook this speaks volumes about the political climate in this country. No one would let a cabal of Satanic lesbian ecofascists host a debate and call it a “”values debate,”” even though religious freedom, lesbian rights, and environmental health are serious values worth considering.

    Rightist interest groups are doing everything they can to taint the very concept of morality by associating it with bigotry, ignorance and fear. This is deeply frightening for the future of our country: if being moral means being an idiot, then being immoral is the only option left to us.

    The best outcome for America at large, which would lead to the exciting presidential race we ought to have, would be for both intelligent Republicans and Democrats to take back the meaning of values from the far right.

    Most importantly, candidates should strongly invoke a return to the one value whose importance usurps and precedes all others: liberty.

    The core American value is – or at least ought to be – that people should be permitted to do whatever they want, free from government interference, unless there’s a good reason otherwise. What constitutes a “”good reason”” is really the only matter of debate between conservatives and liberals.

    The time has come for moderates to reclaim values from the far right. The optimal candidate should be able to convince the electorate at large that it is, in fact, an ethical choice to vote for someone who isn’t completely insane, and that freedom ought to reign supreme once more as the ultimate value.

    With any luck, we’ll see an end to the great scare of the last eight years – and with it, an end to the relevance of the far right in mainstream politics.

    Taylor Kessinger is a junior majoring in math, philosophy and physics who favors Mitt Romney. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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