(Article changed on January 25, 2013 at 21:14)
I remember the values I was taught as a kid. They were simple, straightforward values that were hammered into all kids raised in the Father-Knows-Best 50's -- that time period so revered by Conservatives. They were Family Values. I was taught about honesty, (no lying, no stealing -- or you got punished!) I was taught to "fight fair" and play by the rules, because a win wasn't worth anything if you couldn't win fair and square, (and if you got caught cheating -- the other kids wouldn't let you play anymore). I was taught to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" -- not "do unto others before they do it to you." When I was a kid, these were the values parents taught their children in order to prepare them to live in a civilized society. I never thought about these values as Democratic or Republican in nature -- I thought they were universally shared, humanistic values -- the values espoused by the Judeo-Christian ethic. (In the 50's, no one talked about Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu values). I mean, they taught them to us in our churches and synagogues and our schools as well as our homes -- and on TV!
During the election campaign I started wondering what Republican parents teach their children these days. I watched how Republicans from the Presidential candidate on down conducted themselves. If you choose to look at the election as a big game, then Republicans seemed to be disciples of the Vince Lombardi -- "Winning isn't everything -- it's the ONLY thing" -- value system. Any means justifies the ends. Tell the group of people you're with whatever they want to hear. Lie about your opponent. Lie about your own positions. If you get caught in a lie, double down and blame the fact-checkers. Can't persuade the voters? Completely reverse your positions. Still can't persuade them? Re-write the rules so your opposition can't vote. Start rumors. Tell lies. Tell more lies. Repeat them so often people will think they have to be true. Facts don't matter and it's not like any of those promises will be kept anyway-- just win.
Mitt Romney's very first campaign ad was an Obama quote picked completely out of context, claiming Obama said "If this election is about the economy -- we'll lose," when Obama was actually quoting a McCain staffer in the '08 election. When confronted by the actual quote in context on tape, Romney doubled down and continued to repeat the lie. He repeated this pattern several more times. He finally produced an ad so egregiously false (claiming that Chrysler was moving Jeep production to China) that Chrysler's CEO publicly debunked it. And Romney still continued to run the ad. He ran a vicious, classist ad claiming that Obama had secretly removed the work component from "welfare to work," when in fact, Obama had worked with Republican governors to allow them to try new programs that would put even more people back to work. When called on it -- Romney kept running the ad.
Paul Ryan got hammered in his convention acceptance speech from all sides -- liberal and conservative -- because he told so many flat out lies that the press started calling him "Lyin' Ryan." When the campaign suddenly turned moderate, Ryan was reduced to contradicting his very radical, very rigid position on women's choice, despite his co-authoring the bill with Todd Akin to redefine rape and his well-known "no exceptions" position. He reversed himself on the component of his signature budget bill that would have destroyed Medicare and turned it into a voucher system. Whatever. Just win!
Mitt Romney contradicted his own positions on virtually every issue -- sometimes in the same day as he strove to be everything to everyone, and then lied about his former positions. Apparently, these guys never heard of videotape. When called out on Romney's penchant for ignoring the truth, his Communications Director replied, "we're not going to let the fact-checkers run this campaign." What? That should've been a clue to just stop listening. And, apparently, it was.
The Romney campaign started or supported rumors and conspiracy theories that his opponent was foreign, alien, "not a real American," not a legitimate president. That's way more persuasive than trying to defend actual policy initiatives (or create them -- what were Romney's policy initiatives, again?) To make sure the public didn't miss the innuendo, he sent surrogates like Donald Trump and John Sununu out to flat out state that Obama is not an American. Fair play? Hardly.
So back to my question -- what are Republicans teaching their children? If they are still teaching traditional values of honesty and fairness, how do Republican parents explain this campaign to their children? How do they make the distinction that doing such things is wrong, but they're supporting the people who do them anyway? In fact, why are Republicans supporting candidates who act in this way? What did the parents of those Republicans teach them? Republican officials were allegedly outraged at Todd Akins for his remarks that women who are "legitimately raped" can not get pregnant (inferring that women who do get pregnant were not legitimately raped--junk science and mysogeny all wrapped up in one). But their outrage miraculously disappeared as soon as the deadline passed for Akins to withdraw from the race, because they needed his seat to win the senate. Were Akins' views any more acceptable once it was too late to replace him? Did Republican officials ever really reject his statements, or did they just take the most expedient political position? (That's one of those lose/lose questions). It appears that character no longer counts, so are Republicans still teaching the importance of character to their children? How about citizenship? How about sportsmanship? Is winning really the only thing?
Sportsmanship -- playing by the rules and letting the best qualified win -- should not be a partisan value. If it is, what does that mean to our democracy?
(This is part 1 of a 2 part series).