Sunday, November 14, 2004

More Moral Values

The New York Times > Arts > Frank Rich: On 'Moral Values,' It's Blue in a Landslide

Just made my way through this article, which I think is interesting. In terms of culture, I think Rich is right, blue is going to win. There's too much money to be made.
It's in the G.O.P.'s interest to pander to this far-right constituency - votes are votes - but you can be certain that a party joined at the hip to much of corporate America, Mr. Murdoch included, will take no action to curtail the blue culture these voters deplore. As Marshall Wittman, an independent-minded former associate of both Ralph Reed and John McCain, wrote before the election, "The only things the religious conservatives get are largely symbolic votes on proposals guaranteed to fail, such as the gay marriage constitutional amendment." That amendment has never had a prayer of rounding up the two-thirds majority needed for passage and still doesn't.

Mr. Wittman echoes Thomas Frank, the author of "What's the Matter With Kansas?," by common consent the year's most prescient political book. "Values," Mr. Frank writes, "always take a backseat to the needs of money once the elections are won." Under this perennial "trick," as he calls it, Republican politicians promise to stop abortion and force the culture industry "to clean up its act" - until the votes are counted. Then they return to their higher priorities, like cutting capital gains and estate taxes.

What did Bush start talking about right after election? Privitization of Social Security, not an Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment or appointing an anti-Roe Supreme Court Justice. It seems to me that Bush uses these hot-button issues--as Rich suggests--to garner votes. What he really cares about is making money (or his friends making money). Which, to me, is just as bad. Tim Burke discusses the complexity of this financial equality issue here. I don't know how to solve this one or to convince someone who "watched his income drop from $55,000 to $35,000 since 2001, . . . that it might be a higher moral value to worry about the future of his own family than some gay family he hasn't even met."

Michelle hints at what I think the underlying difficulty is, here and here. I have always felt obligated to help society, but it's not within my own personal capacity to do so much of the time. I struggle to pay my own bills, though I recognize my struggle is much less than most. I grew up very privileged in an upper middle class family. I'm thankful that my parents believed in public school, because as a result, I was in the 1% of the school population who could be classified as middle class or higher. The other 99%, working poor or welfare poor. I realized very quickly that it was sheer luck that I was born into the family I was born into. The kids I went to school with had nothing to do with their current circumstances and yet, they suffered greatly because of them. I knew, even at 9 or 10 years old, that it was unlikely that they would make it anywhere. One of my classmates was very smart and we often ended up in independent study sessions together because we were ahead of the class. She had a paper route and was trying to save money for college. Her mother, single and an alcoholic (near as I could tell), stole her paper route money (about $100). How in the world was she going to make it? Scholarship or grant? I don't think so. Her mother was going to thwart her. And this girl didn't have enough backbone (possibly abused?) to stand up to her. In fact, after elementary school, I did not see her. I don't know if she moved or if she just faded into the shadows.

I feel the government owes something to children like her, to find a way to help them. Maybe it's through providing grants to organizations that can help. Maybe it's even faith-based initiatives. More importantly, I think the government needs to find a way to improve the economic situation more generally. Maybe that's where a lot of people part ways. I know this is what Republicans often mean by "big government"--a government that has its hand in people's personal lives. They're only opposed to big government when it comes to economic issues, not social ones. Or so it seems.

I don't know what the answer is. I only know I continue to struggle to find it. I have not written about politics in a serious way in a while because I grew personally hurt, a little, by the vitriol spinning its way around the internet. I think that some of the anger was necessary to our mourning process. But I do think it's time to move on, and be a little more thoughtful about how we proceed and we need to engage the 29% who voted not on moral values.