King David, Governor Sanford, and Republican Party Platforms—Not Necessarily in that Order
According to Wikipedia, a political party platform is “a list of the actions which a political party supports in order to appeal to the general public for the purpose of having said party’s candidates voted into office…Individual topics are often called planks of the platform.”
During the past five national elections, Republican Party leaders, candidates and politicians have made “traditional values,” including family, moral and religious values, key structural planks in their platform—in addition to other planks with various names and mantras, containing what Republicans consider to be the “right” form of marriage.
After reading Republican Party platforms dating back to 1992, it seems to me that the “values” planks have gradually begun to lose their luster and their resilience.
The 1992 and 1996 Republican Party platforms were brimming with “values” rhetoric.
From the 1992 platform:
Families built on solid, spiritual foundations are central to our Party’s inspiration…we renew our commitment to these fundamental principles, which will guide our family, our country, our world into the next century.
We applaud the fine example of family values and family virtue as lived by the President and the First Lady.
There were also references, albeit subtle and indirect, to marriage: “Republicans recognize the importance of having fathers and mothers in the home,” and “Today, more than ever, the traditional family is under assault.”
The “values” cry reached a crescendo during the 1996 elections, after Clinton’s extramarital affair.
The 1996 Republican Party platform:
The Clinton administration has proven unequal to the heritage of our past, the promise of our times, and the character of the American people.
This too we want for America: moral clarity in our culture and ethical leadership in the White House. We offer America, not a harsh moralism, but our sincere conviction that the values we hold in our hearts determine the success of our lives and the shape of our society. It matters greatly that our leaders reflect and communicate those values, not undermine or mock them.
Bill Clinton has…promoted lifestyles inimical to their values.
And, on marriage, the platform boasts:
[Republicans] passed the Defense of Marriage Act, which defines “marriage” for purposes of federal law as the legal union of one man and one woman and prevents federal judges and bureaucrats from forcing states to recognize other living arrangements as “marriages.”
The 2000 Republican platform, after four more years of the Clinton administration, was surprisingly less strident on values:
Our platform is uplifting and visionary. It reflects the views of countless Americans all across this country who believe in prosperity with a purpose — who believe in Renewing America’s Purpose.
We recommit ourselves to the values that strengthen our culture and sustain our nation: family, faith, personal responsibility, and a belief in the dignity of every human life.
On marriage, a less veiled, more blustery: “We support the traditional definition of ‘marriage’… as the legal union of one man and one woman, and we believe that federal judges and bureaucrats should not force states to recognize other living arrangements as marriages.”
In 2004, after four years of Bush, the Republican platform was even more muted on values, but increasingly insistent on mandating “how to build ‘stronger families,’” based on the Republican-sanctioned model for such a family.
Now fast-forward to the 2008 Republican platform—a remarkably “values light” platform:
Our platform is presented with enthusiasm and confidence in a vision for the future, but also with genuine humility – humility before God and before a nation of free and independent thinkers.
Did such “genuine humility” perhaps come about because Republicans finally realized that their exclusive claim to moral and family values was a sham—a pretense that was jarringly revealed by a host of Republican “values scandals.”
But, there was still plenty of self-righteous bluster on “Preserving Traditional Marriage.”
This now brings us to Governor Sanford and his recent moral and family values lapses.
It has been reported, here and elsewhere, that Sanford has twice compared himself and his rather messy situation to King David’s legendary family values problems—problems of biblical proportions.
First, that the governor has been doing a lot of soul searching and that he found it interesting that King David “fell mightily, fell in very, very significant ways, but then picked up the pieces and built from there.”
And, more recently, ”…it is my hope that I am able to follow the example set by David in the Bible – who after his fall from grace humbly refocused on the work at hand…”
Somehow, Sanford’s remarks on falling mightily and of picking up the pieces, made me think of the Republican Party’s platform.
A platform that was once bold, lofty, and that appeared very sturdy—strong enough to support an elephant. But, a platform that contained some very flimsy, rickety and chancy values planks.
A platform that has now been seriously structurally compromised as a result of Republicans ripping off those very planks and using them to clobber the opposition over the head.
This has made it easier for Republican politicians, especially those who have used those planks as bludgeons, to fall through the now-gaping holes in that lofty platform, and to not be able to pick up the pieces and “build from there”—unlike King David.
For an inimitable cartoon by Nick Anderson on “The ‘Family Values’ plank of the Republican Party platform,” please click here