If you want to see pandering raised to an art form, take a look at the "Values Voter Presidential Debate
" hosted by Phyllis Schlafly, Paul Weyrich, Don Wildmon, Mat Staver, Rick Scarborough, and Janet Folger last week.
The "Values Voter" movement pushes an off the wall amalgam
born of fundamentalist paranoia (reverse the loss of religious liberty for churches, prohibit activist judges from ruling against acknowledgments of God), right-wing "get the government off our backs" nonsense (prohibiting schools from evaluating children's performance), tax cuts, xenophobia ("True Enforcement and Border Security", prohibiting the use of foreign law as authority by judges, whether or not incorporated into US law by treaty), and resentment against "activist judges".
Oh, and deep concern about "our national interest in the institutions of marriage and family", which consists of two, and only two, initiatives: passing a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and passing the "Protect Marriage Act" ban same-sex marriage. The out-of-wedlock birth rate, declining marriage rates, rampant divorce and flagrant disregard for Jesus' observations about remarriage aren't an issue to "Values Voters", I guess. Just us fags, who threaten to bring civilization to its knees by getting
married and staying
In any event, the problem for Republican presidential candidates is that these folks, who consist of about 20% of the electorate, get whipped up into a frenzy by their "bible-based" churches around election day and vote in high percentages. As a result, "Values Voters" control the Republican primary process. If the "Values Voters" settle on a "man of faith" as they did in 2000 when they coalesced around George Bush, other candidates can call it a day. Ask John McCain, if you don't believe me.
This year, the "Values Voters" have not, so far anyway, coalesced around a "man of faith". Not that there isn't an abundance of self-proclaimed "men of faith" running for President on the Republican ticket, ranging from born-again Mike Huckabee to wild-eyed Alan Keyes. And now that James Dobson has dumped on Fred Thompson, the great white hope of "Values Voters", it looks like the "Values Voters" are going to have to dig deeper.
Mike Huckabee, who seems to be a decent man, if a "true believer" for the Christian right in the sense that Dennis Kuchinich is a "true believer" for the left-liberals, won the post-debate straw poll hands down (63%) followed by Ron Paul (12%) and Alan Keyes (7%). The rest of the field barely registered a blip with the "Values Voters" attending the debate.
Interestingly, Mitt Romney, the flip-flopping Mormon, got not a single -- not one -- vote in the straw poll. We might be in for some fun in early 2008, if Romney wins in the early caucuses and primaries, and the "Values Voters" have to start rationalizing Romney as a "man of faith", when a significant number of conservative Christians think Mormonism is an anathema. It will happen, of course, once the Religious Right's spin machine gets going. "Values Voters", who are just about the only folks in the country who still think that George Bush is a great man -- proving that they are loyal to a fault once they decide someone is a "man of faith", if not very smart, since Bush has done zip for them -- give new meaning to biblical phrase "Are we like sheep?"
I watched the "debate" on streaming video, and it was a hoot, particularly when it came to issues involving gays and lesbians -- the "What will you do to stop homosexuals from taking over the country?" variety.
The various Republican candidates toe the "Values Voters" hard line stance on gay and lesbian issues, for the most part -- here's a rundown:THE SHOWRudy Giuliani
Once a supporter of gays and lesbians, Giuliani changed his tune when it became clear that he couldn't win unless he got straight with the Religious Right. Giuliani now emphasizes his opposition to same-sex marriage, though he also opposes a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, putting him in the same camp as most of the Democratic presidential candidates. Giuliani came out against New Hampshire's civil union law. Giuliani has dodged DADT, saying "now isn't the time
" to revisit the policy, given the war in Iraq. Giuliani dodged questions about his support for ENDA. Giuliani says he plans to appoint judges to the Supreme Court in the mold of Antonin Scalia, who wrote a distempered dissent in Lawrence.John McCain
Although McCain never expressed strong views about gays and lesbians, either way, McCain sharply attacked the Religious Right as "agents of intolerance" in the 2000 primaries: "Political intolerance by any political party is neither a Judeo-Christian nor an American value. We are the party of Ronald Reagan, not Pat Robertson.
McCain is an opponent of a federal constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, on federalist grounds, although he supported an amendment to the Arizona Constitution to ban gay marriage, which failed at the ballot box. McCain has declined to take sides in the debate over civil unions in New Hampshire. McCain voted against the inclusion of sexual orientation in hate-crime laws. McCain supports DADT and opposes ENDA.Mitt Romney
Romney fashions himself as the best candidate to protect the "traditional family" from the onslaught of same-sex marriage. Romney is adamantly opposed to extending legal protection to gay and lesbian families: "Today same-sex couples are marrying under the law in Massachusetts. Some are actually having children born to them. We've been asked to change their birth certificates to remove the phrase 'Mother and Father,' and replace it with 'Parent A and Parent B.' It's not right on paper. It's not right in fact. Every child has a right to a mother and a father.
" With the conviction of the converted, Romney is a cheerleader for a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. In more recent years, Romney has come out strongly against ENDA and announced that he supports DADT.
But Romney has had a change of heart. As recently as 2002, Romney's gubernatorial campaign distributed a pink flier to celebrate Pride Weekend: "All citizens deserve equal rights regardless of their sexual preference
," or so the the flier said at the time.
And now, most recently, he seems to be recanting a bit on his hard-line stance against gay and lesbian families, noting, in New Hampshire this summer: "There are other ways we raise kids, and that's fine -- single moms, grandparents raising kids, gay couples raising kids. That's the American way to have people have their freedom of choice.
" With Romney, its not so much WYSIWYG as "I tell you what you want to hear ..."Fred Thompson
Thompson does not support amending the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Instead, he supports amending the Constitution to prevent state or federal judges from legalizing marriage without the consent of state legislatures, and to codify DOMA in the Constitution. Thompson opposes hate-crime laws, opposes ENDA, and supports DADT.THE MINORSRon Paul
Paul is basically Libertarian and believes that government should stay out of the lives of citizens. Paul is against a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, is against federal laws that could protect gays and lesbians from discrimination, including hate-crime laws and ENDA. Paul supports DADT.Mike Huckabee
Huckabee says he will lead a effort to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, opposes hate-crimes bills and ENDA, and supports DADT. As governor, he led the Arkansas fight to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a heterosexual union, and supported a ban on gay couples becoming foster parents. Tom Tancredo
Tancredo supports a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, opposes ENDA and hate-crimes laws for sexual orientation, supports DADT, and voted to prevent the District of Columbia from offering domestic partnership benefits to homosexual employees. Duncan Hunter
Hunter boasts of having led the opposition to gays serving openly in the military, and, along with Keyes, advocates the idea that homosexuality itself -- as opposed to homosexual acts -- is immoral. Paul is against hate-crime laws for sexual orientation and in favor of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. Needless to say, he supports DADT and opposes ENDA.Sam Brownback
Brownback fashions himself as the Senate's most outspoken opponent of same-sex marriage. He has spent hours on the floor of the Senate with charts showing the declining rate of heterosexual marriage in Scandinavian countries, where gay unions have been sanctioned for years, arguing that any redefinition of marriage in the United States could have devastating consequences on heterosexual monogamy.
Brownback has made opposition to gays and lesbians a central issue of his campaign. When General Peter Pace called homosexuality "immoral," Brownback was one of the few Republicans to offer his public support. Brownback is against ENDA and hate-crime legislation and supports DADT.Alan Keyes
Keyes announced his candidacy a week or two ago, and it is taking on the flavor of a "moral crusade", just as his 2004 Illinois Senatorial campaign did. As usual with Keyes, gays and lesbians are in his cross-hairs. He supports a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, opposes hate crimes legislation and ENDa, and supports DADT. If past is prologue, Keyes can be counted on to raise the level of "Values Voter" hysteria in the campaign to new levels.