Where Have All the Values Voters Gone?
It is funny how the mind can wander, especially on a slow, hot, lazy Saturday afternoon.
Joe Windish’s column, “Gay plot for hijacking America uncovered!” certainly got my mind “awandering.”
My mind started thinking of the infamous Senator Larry Craig, then of Conservatives, then of hypocrisy, and then of “family values and moral values”–perhaps not in that exact order.
Then, my mind somehow wandered back to the 2,000 and 2004 elections, and how, during those elections, Conservatives blanketed the electronic and printed media with messages of how our country had lost its moral compass; how Americans had lost their family and moral values; how Republicans and Conservatives–if elected–were going to re-instill those values in government, in society and anywhere else they could; how our new president would “restore honor and dignity to the White House.”
As a matter of fact, just prior to the 2004 elections a whole new class of voters was created, the “values voters,” and political analysts claim that moral values and family values trounced every other value or issue in the 2004 elections–even the economy, the Iraq war, and terrorism–and were responsible for the Republican victories that year.
Our great, fair and balanced Fox News proudly proclaimed on November 4, 2004,
“Though the airwaves preceding the election were rife with talk of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the management of the war in Iraq, job creation and even the so-called legions of angry, young voters — it turns out good old ‘family values‘ may have been the key to President Bush’s successful Election Day strategy.”
The Democrats were “doomed” until they can woo the voters who belong to this new political force, the values voters.
But wait, it is now 2008 and the presidential campaign is in full swing. It is awfully quiet out there when it comes to “good old” family values and moral values. Where are the Republicans to once again tout their moral and family values superiority and to claim such values as Conservatives-only territory?
The last time I remember a Republican presidential candidate addressing that issue was Mitt Romney back in December of 2007.
A December 18, 2007, USA Today article, “’Family values’ lower on agenda in 2008 race,” took note of such a phenomenon and offered a couple of possible explanations:
… there are signs that family values have lost their punch as a campaign issue. Most voters say family values in general are important to them, but a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds they don’t care much about candidates’ personal lives. Political analysts say voters and candidates have broader, more immediate concerns: the ongoing U.S. action in Iraq and Afghanistan, nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea, the threat of terrorism and an economy that’s putting stress on low- and middle-income people.
The “traditional” family — a married couple with kids — made up fewer than 22% of U.S. households last year, according to the Census, down from 40% in 1970. Roughly one-fifth of Americans have been divorced. Nearly two in five U.S. births last year were out of wedlock, more than twice as high as in 1980. More than half the country says same-sex partners should be able to marry or form civil unions.
It could also be that when comparing the major Republican presidential candidates against the major Democratic presidential candidates during this year’s elections in terms of “family values,” the Republicans do not fare as well as the Democrats. According to USA Today:
Among the Republicans, Giuliani is in his third marriage while McCain and Thompson are each in his second… Romney and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee are married to their high school sweethearts. On the Democratic side…Dennis Kucinich, 61, is in his third marriage…Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, former North Carolina senator John Edwards and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson are married to their original spouses. So is New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, despite her husband’s affair while he was president…Overall, “the Democratic candidates actually have more stable family lives than the Republicans,” says Tony Fabrizio, a GOP pollster
On Giuliani, in particular, USA Today said:
The most surprising candidate this year has been Giuliani. He remains a top GOP contender despite his longstanding support for abortion rights and his widely publicized extramarital affair with Judith Nathan — to whom he is now married — during his previous marriage. He’s even been endorsed by Pat Robertson, a leading Christian conservative who says the key issue is who can best fight terrorism.
Americans also have seen major cultural changes become woven into society. Divorce, blended families and women in the workforce are common, and polls show most people support gay civil rights. “First we had the feminist and the sexual revolutions, and then we went through a long period where so much of politics was a backlash against those movements,” says Frances Fox Piven, a sociologist and political scientist at the City University of New York Graduate Center. “That’s kind of been worked out now. People have adjusted.”
Yes, these are all plausible explanations as to why Democrats are not being lectured as much on “values” by Republicans. But on a lazy, summer Saturday afternoon in Texas, the mind does funny things, like recalling names such as:
David Vitter, Jack Abramoff, Mark Foley, Bob Packwood, Bob Ney, Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Ted Haggard, Rick Renzi, Bob Allen, and, yes, the one that got my mind wandering to begin with, the inimitable Larry Craig.
And the mind comes up with additional and interesting explanations.
A note to my gay friends and readers: This lazy afternoon’s epistle should in no way be viewed as critical of anyone’s sexual orientation. On the contrary, I find it distasteful when people cover-up their God-given sexual orientation for political purposes, and I find it morally unforgivable when people misuse their positions of power to legislate against, prosecute or punish the perfectly legal and human actions and behavior of those of their own sexual orientation.