Sunday, 12 October 2008

Don't try and out-values me

You lucky WATMers (as we have decided you shall be named!), you get an extra post this week. I know, two posts in one week! Steady on, I hear you cry.

As Toby Ziegler points out in the singular The West Wing, 'there's nothing the Republicans do better than naming things.' Thus 'Values Voters'.

In the United States this annoyingly ubiquitous term is almost always used to describe right-wing, Christian, anti-gay, pro-gun, anti-abortion, anti-separation of church and state, anti-federal government etc etc etc folks.

I am not going to suggest that voters who take those positions are not sincere in their beliefs -- clearly they usually are. But how dare they suggest that those who take alternative positions do not do so based on their own personal values?

The suggestion is that those on the right are more interested in moral or 'values' issues than the left who, I suppose it must follow, vote to maximise their economic interest. This is most obviously countered by the Right's own constant obsession with rich liberals, especially in Hollywood, and their support for the Democrats. It was not the Dems who gave such wealthy people a hefty tax cut.

In fact, who votes only to line his or her own back pocket? How insulting to those of us who think that the separation of church and state is an important value, as is equal rights for gays and lesbians.

The conservatives seems to be getting away with this ruse, and the media are allowing it to happen. In the same way that pro-abortion advocates are characterised as 'pro-choice' and anti-abortion advocates are deemed 'pro-life' the term 'values voter' has well and truly entered the media's lexicon, it would seem for good.

The despicable Jerry Falwell and his apparently satirically-named Liberty University and the conservative "think"-tank, the Family Research Council, are part and parcel of this self-described 'values' voter industry. Why the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence or the excellent charity, Reprieve, should not be included in discussion on values voters, I don't know.

(Allow me a minute to revel in Christopher Hitchens' marvellous comment that "it's a shame that there is no hell for Falwell to go to, and it's extraordinary that not even such a scandalous career is enough to shake our dumb addiction to the 'faith-based.'")

The chutzpah with which groups on the 'moral' right claim to have the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution behind them, is astonishing. They are at least as selective in the exaltation of these documents as the Left but almost certainly more so, especially considering the support these groups all gave to the current inhabitant of the White House and his utter disregard for the Constitution.

The reason the Right has got away with this naming wheeze is that we/they let it happen. And it's too late now.

In politics it is received wisdom to define your opponent, but the Right are so much better and quicker at it than the left. Of course I believe the Left's values (usually, and where the left have got their act together) are better than the Right's, but that's not to say I deny the Right has its own set of values. Values, as a concept, should not be the domain of one party, of one group, or of one wing of political discourse and the Left -- the Democrats in the US in particular -- should be ashamed of conceding the term to the Right as freely as they apparently have.

Those values voters on the left should stand up, shape up and stop it from happening again in the future, say I, and it is certainly good news that the term has yet to arrive in domestic political discussion in the UK.

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