Wednesday, September 01, 2010



How Conservatives and the GOP Destroyed the

"Traditional Family" They Claim to Treasure

For decades, social conservatives have had a lot to say about the decline of “family values” in the United States, and they have a long list of people they like to blame, including gays and lesbians, Hollywood, the adult entertainment industry, feminists, rappers, the ACLU and abortion providers. As the Christian Right sees it, a major cultural war has been taking place in the U.S. -- and the American family is being attacked by everyone from Larry Flynt and Planned Parenthood to 50 Cent and proponents of gay marriage.

Social conservatives are right about one thing: the American family is under attack, but not from cultural liberals. The greatest threat to the American family is economic stress -- and the modern-day Republicans and social conservatives who preach family values are the ones who have done the most to imperil the American family. From union-busting and the outsourcing of jobs to developing countries and opposing universal health care, social conservatives have not only endangered the American middle class -- they have also made it increasingly hard to raise a "traditional" family.


Ironically, the decade that social conservatives point to as a cultural ideal -- the 1950s -- was also a time when unions were at their strongest and, under Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower (who supported elements of the New Deal and would be much too centrist to receive a GOP presidential nomination today), Americans in the highest income bracket paid income tax rates of up to 92 percent. There were some major economic injustices in the 1950s and 1960s, of course -- especially for the many African Americans who found themselves on the outside of the American Dream looking in. But on the whole, American families were better able to afford a middle-class life. A college degree practically guaranteed a living wage for white-collar workers, and many blue-collar men went to trade schools, joined unions, bought houses and raised two or three kids on a single salary.

John Schmitt, senior economist for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), said the U.S. is actually a more prosperous country now than it was in 1950s, '60s or '70s; unfortunately, Schmitt said, most of the prosperity is concentrated at the very top.


This is all very obvious to someone who's not a Republican or fundamentalist Christian, but it bears repeating because it's starting to look like we're going to be seeing a lot more squeezing of the middle class in the guise of GOP attempts to "fix" the economy once they've won back Congress, and, given his White House history thus far, I'm not expecting President Hope And Change to do much to stop them.

That is, three decades of the infamous Reagan coalition, social or "family values" conservatives allied with fuck-the-poor-and-everyone-else fiscal conservatives, have done a real number on many Americans who self-identify as Christian. The Gospels are pretty goddamned clear about what Jesus thought about wealth and society, but, for fundamentalists, such unambiguous messages of compassion and anti-materialism are either ignored or twisted to mean their exact opposite: greed-driven winner-take-all pro-capitalist philosophy has successfully replaced "the meek shall inherit the earth."

Consequently, fundamentalists are utterly incapable of understanding how their embrace of pro-wealthy conservatism is totally at odds with their lionization of the nuclear family. I mean, for years I figured that the Reagan coalition would eventually just fall apart given the philosophical incompatibilities between the business side and the Jesus side. But it didn't. Instead, the Jesus people assimilated, turning their backs on the most important parts of the Bible, and digging ever more deeply into the parts that don't talk so much about the rich, while sometimes actually rewriting the parts that do. Thus, we hear continual bitching and moaning about divorce and abortion rates, as though people make such choices in a social and economic vacuum--it is as though "suffer the little children" now means "make the little children suffer."

Is it worth arguing with these people? Would they even recognize verses like "sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor"? I mean, it's as though conservatives now live in a parallel universe, with different Bibles, different US Constitutions, and different world histories. I grow increasingly tired of the struggle for meaning: when you argue with crazy people, you lose automatically simply for trying to argue with crazy people.

One thing's for sure. "Family values" people are full of shit. It's all so Orwellian.