Wednesday, March 07, 2007

As it becomes ever clearer that Republicans don't stand for any of the familiar American values, we still await signs that Democrats are much better


I've just had a chance to read Howie's post this morning about "Republican family values," jumping off from Harold Meyerson's column in today's Washington Post, "'Family Values' Chutzpah." I commend both Howie's and Harold's pieces to your attention. By convenient coincidence, they fill in some of the picture I just found myself trying to dab at the other day, regarding a switcheroo in the political parties' traditional stances on "values" issues.

Meyerson is working from a recent piece in his paper documenting the near-collapse of the traditional family.
The conservatives are right that one decade, at least in its metaphoric significance, can encapsulate the causes for the family's decline. But they've misidentified the decade. It's not the permissive '60s. It's the Reagan '80s.

It was, he writes, in the Reagan '80s that America's master capitalists discovered what fun they could have if working people were excluded as participants in the American economy and were reduced to the status of spare parts. In the absence of anything resembling a stable income, the spare-parts class of necessity evolved a new set of social arrangements befitting its new status.
American conservatism is a house divided against itself. It applauds the radicalism of the economic changes of the past four decades--the dismantling, say, of the American steel industry (and the job and income security that it once provided) in the cause of greater efficiency. It decries the decline of social and familial stability over that time--the traditional, married working-class families, say, that once filled all those churches in the hills and hollows in what is now the smaller, post-working-class Pittsburgh.

Problem is, disperse a vibrant working-class community in America and you disperse the vibrant working-class family.

Which is how American conservatism became the primary author of the very social disorder that it routinely rails against, and that Republicans have the gall to run against.

Just the other day, writing about Wagner's Die Meistersinger, and in particular the master's charmingly whimsical joke in which the Nightwatchman making his rounds of the streets of medieval Nuremberg manages to totally miss a full-scale riot, I grasped at the values issue I can feel sure is embedded:
Of course, the Nightwatchman isn't "protecting" the good burghers of Nuremberg. But in some sense his presence is a symbol of what does protect them: a sort of unspoken basic social compact whereby even when those burghers erupt in midsummer craziness, they do it within certain bounds. It will taking a great deal more working-through for Sachs, that most reasonable and rational of men, to make his peace with the craziness that he in fact inadvertently instigated. But for us lesser mortals, there is some comfort to be derived from the deep-rooted reasonableness even of our rioters.

I suppose this might once have gladdened the heart of law-and-order conservatives. But now that conservatives have given themselves over to unchecked greed and selfishness, to clawing and scratching their way up the food chain to the mortal peril of anyone who gets in their way, increasingly huddled inside gated or otherwise locked security zones, there's something amazingly simple and touching about Wagner's gently ineffectual Nightwatchman, who turns out to be, really, quite as effectual as he needs to be.

Even the cancerous growth of America's junk religions can't sustain the pretense that the American right has any attachment to decent values or anything resembling coherent morality. The junk-Christian pastors, sprawled atop their rising mountains of shekels, bloviate unto their worshipers: "Go with Greed, little lambkins, verily unto your slaughter. Suckers!"

Shouldn't there be political implications here? Well, yes and no. Certainly a lot of traditional Republicans have awoken to the cesspool of corruption their party has become in the Age of DeLay and Abramoff, and we're even seeing signs of stirring among the betrayed religionists who put those junk-Christian preacher-capitalists in megabusiness.

The element missing from the equation is any commitment to decent values from the other side, from our side. And I think a good shorthand way of expressing the gap is by reference to what Howie has led us to think of as "Inside the Beltway" values, which rise "above" party to pure, unadulterated greed and selfishness, where the only rightful function of government is to enable insiders to plunder and extort whatever they can.

If the symbol for Republicans is that strange agglomeration of rabidly homophobic closet queens, perhaps for Democrats it's Master Rahm Emanuel in full dominatrix regalia putting the whip to gutless pols demanding to be punished by puling about (ha!) justice and (ooh!) fairness and (ouch!) economic opportunity.

And, oh yes, making little gurgly noises about quitting our part in the carnage in Iraq, and the attendant mutilation of our fighting forces there, and then living up to our obligations to all those families the Bush regime has at best disrupted and at worst shattered with its criminally insane imperialist adventure.

Polls keep showing us the breakdown of confidence in the ability of Republicans to address any of the country's major problems. Any increased confidence in Democrats, however, has to be of the wish-and-a-prayer sort. What are the chances that Democrats will give Americans any reason to hope for much more from them than from the degraded criminality of DeLay and Abramoff and Bush and Cheney?


At 3:33 AM, Blogger BLOGGER said...

Nice post
Thanks for your blog URL submission at REPUBLICANS

At 12:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dems are NOT much better, and therein lies the problem with our country. If the Democratic Party had a spine, Bush would not have been able to commit even half his crimes.


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