The Republican Party of 1992 was the party of family values. It did ring a bit hollow when career-woman and corporate attorney Marilyn Quayle extolled the virtues of stay-at-home Moms at the convention, but that Republican Party gave us the eminently honorable George H.W. Bush, while the Democratic Party gave us the somewhat disreputable Bill Clinton. I was somewhat suspicious of the family-values line, and in fact voted Democratic. As a modestly religious person, though, I maintained an admiration for both a party and a candidate which represented those values. Moreover, I maintained what might even be called envy of the devoutness of evangelical Christians. They expounded and lived seriously the values that I was more lax in practicing. And they laid claim to holding their leaders to a higher set of values.
But Jerry Falwell has set me free! “Conservatives and Christians need to stop electing ‘nice guys.’ ..the US needs street fighters like @realDonaldTrump at every level of government.” As Michael Gerson put it, “for some evangelical Christians, the pretense of reluctantly supporting candidate Donald Trump only because of the binary choice with Hillary Clinton has been abandoned.” Starting with Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign, evangelicals have chosen those with the more sordid past as their preferred candidate (mind you, I do believe in forgiveness and redemption). They dismissed concerns about a grown man feeling the titties of 14 year old girls and threw in with Roy Moore. And they have treated Donald Trump as one of their own.
This is liberating! Never again will conservative Christians be able to hurl family values, Christian values, a more holy lifestyle at me and make it stick. I have been freed from the shackles of the virtuous.
A photo went viral recently of two Trump supporters in matching t-shirts saying, “I’d rather be Russian than a Democrat.” It may have been tongue-in-cheek, but it’s also revealing. When I was in high school, I went through a ‘radical period.’ When we said the Pledge of Allegiance in large gatherings in the auditorium, I would stand but not put my hand over my heart. I was rejecting patriotism. I remember at one of the gatherings the father of one of my classmates looking a bit askance at me. I confess to having been a bit contrite, but only a bit. Still, I maintained an admiration for those who were patriotic, especially those who had been in the military and sacrificed some part of their lives to this greater sense of common good. I was proud of my father’s service in World War II. There seemed to be something praiseworthy in such patriotism.
But those two fellows in the better to be Russian t-shirts have emancipated me! I no longer need to show deference to them. Turns out it seems these days that conservatives’ patriotism often means little more than being anti-gay, and if it requires pledging allegiance to King George, or aligning with Vladimir Putin, so be it. Seems I remember something about rejecting despotism, declaring independence, and we the people joining together. American patriotism should not be feudalism.
Among others, Max Boot, formerly Republican, has derided what has become of the right. But for me, it’s not a case of laying criticism on Conservatives, Evangelicals, Republicans, the Right. They are what they have become. Rather, it is this sense of liberation that I feel, that I no longer have to think that they have something superior, their religious or patriotic values, to hold over me. I have an invigorated confidence in my values that I can wield as I stride forth into the political confrontations to come.