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11/06/2004

Moral Values

We must come to terms with "moral values," how the GOP branded itself as the party of "moral values" and how durable support for the GOP is among those people that proclaimed "moral values" as their chief reason for voting.

The first step is to strongly reassert the moral character our specific positions. Those who advocate hiding our beliefs are playing into conservative hands, conceding the immorality of our policies and blithely returning to the pluralism that, though good and necessary for the country, is routinely attacked by conservatism as a characterological defect. Pluralism, of course, should be defended in its own right as a moral good, but embracing it without defending it is a recipe for failure.

The second step is to attack the character of movement conservatives. They are hypocrites, liars and thieves - and we need to make sure the people know it. Jack Abramoff, Tom Delay, Mitch McConnell - these people need to be personally attacked for their hubristic reaches for power and personal aggrandizement, their disrespect for the people and democracy. George Bush lies all the fucking time. He is an arrogant piece of shit that doesn't respect the people enough to tell them the truth about anything. He thinks the people are rubes and idiots, yet we don't punish him for it.

The third step is to persuade the people that personal character is shown through actions, not words. George Bush talks the talk, but he doesn't deliver shit. Actually he does deliver shit: torture, graft, and lies. Since the founding, conservatism (John Adams) has advocated personal, character driven conceptions of morality as necessary to some metaphysical moral valuation of the character of government. Liberalism, or republicanism, has countered with a specific and clear public morality - listening to the good faith opposition, offering public justifications for policy decisions, transparency and respect for the people, honesty in government. Bush's claim to morality is entirely based on his monogamy and his artful use of code words - even his "strength" on terrorism was built on a "moral" foundation, rather than anything credible. We need to turn Bush's anti-democratic actions and sentiments into an actionable defect. We need to revive secrecy and deception as moral issues.

Finally, we need to turn education - as a policy matter and as a personal matter - into a moral virtue, rather than a defect. Anti-intellectualism is the organizational core of modern conservatism, it is singularly devoted to building a chip on the shoulders of "heartland" voters. Nuance is denigrated, ignorance is "authentic," intelligence is foreign. We can not let this stand.

See: CJR, NYT 1, NYT 2, CBS, Poynter.

 

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