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Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Values and elections

Lots of people have been talking about "values" and how they impacted the elections last week, with some commentators saying that voters who thought that "moral values" were most important gave the election to Bush. Now, there is evidence that this is just not true, or not true to the extent that some people are making it to be, but it is the current narrative, so we can run with it a bit.

Of course, "moral values" to Bush voters meant mainly one thing this year: say no to homos. Sure, there was abortion in there too, and probably even some of that old-fashioned racism that some Republicans still rely on. But it was mainly gay marriage and how "those" people are somehow threatening marriage. That is the sum total of the "values" that people are concerned about.

Now, I'm not claiming to be as much of an expert on values as people like Jerry Falwell or James Dobson. After all, I was raised Catholic, which to many evangelical Christians (Brother Jed, anyone?) means I'm not much better than scum. Also, I only went to religious schools for 13 years. But even so, these "values" sure sound strange to me. I guess I heard too much of the Gospels and not enough of Leviticus, because I hardly remember talking at all about abortion or gays. I don't know if Jesus would have been pro-choice, but he probably would have had compassion for anybody who was faced with that choice, given his compassion for other troubled people. Jesus said absolutely nothing about homosexuals, but again, he really did have a soft spot in his heart for those persecuted by society. And the parable of the Good Samaritan pretty much says what he thinks about racism and bigotry.

I would venture that he would be pretty outspoken against torture, but for some reason people cared much more about this than this. We even have as a candidate for Attorney General the person who legally condoned Abu Ghraib. How anybody can call themselves Christian and remain unconcerned about such things I honestly do not understand, because it shows an ignorance of Christ so abysmal that I don't know where to start.

A lot of people do agree that torture is a far more pressing "values" question that gay marriage, though, and it is up to Democrats to come up with a better message. Perhaps they can start by saying that they won't vote for anybody who supports torture. In a broader sense, Democrats do need to shift the values debate towards values that help create strong families, like health care, education, and living-wage jobs, and away from "values" that only serve to divide people and pit government against freedom.

Some Democrats are starting to get this, and they prove that when you talk about these values, you win elections. I don't buy the notion that Democrats need to be more "liberal" to get elected, they just have to have a message that is clearly defined and differentiated from Republicans. Not more liberal, just different, although the Republican party has moved so far right in recent years that just about any rational position on an issue is going to be more liberal than the Republicans.

For too long liberals have ceded religion, theology, and Jesus to Republicans, and this has been done in haste. Jesus was a carpenter; he probably would have carried a union card if he had the chance! Democrats believe in values that do bring families and communities together, values that do strengthen these institutions, and it's just a matter of getting the word out.

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