If it were left to Democrats alone, every election year would be spent debating the issues that are of importance to the voters. Polls after polls show the public sides with Democrats on the issues. However, talking about boring issues like healthcare or the economy doesn’t necessarily excite the electorate or win elections.
Instead, every four years when voting time approaches, suddenly we begin to hear how gay people getting married and allowing women the right to choose when it comes to abortion is ruining America. These and other “family values” wedge issues usually drive out any sensible coverage on the issues that matter most to American voters - the economy, healthcare, jobs, energy, education. etc. So any sensible American would ask, why would people keep bringing these social issues during election? The simple answer is that it works, it serves as a good smokescreen and has served Republicans well in the past elections. In politics, if a strategy works, why would you change it?
However, the argument on social issues has begun to unravel against the very people who introduced it into the public arena.
During the Clinton years, Republicans spent more than $40 million dollars of tax payer money to investigate what today, would be considered a “private family matter” if it were a Republican. In the 2006 election, God himself got tired of one political party trying to claim ownership to “morality,” and sought to expose the hypocrisy. That year a Republican congressman Mark Foley of Florida who had championed legislation against child molesters was found to have sent sexually explicit messages to pages and soon it was found out he was gay. Shortly before the election, another damning revelation - Ted Haggard then head of the National Association admitted the devil had made him seek a male prostitute’s company. Then there was Larry Craig, Senator from Idaho who was caught by undercover police soliciting sex in a male bathroom at the MN airport. The list goes on.
Conservatives have also been vicious in going after families of Democratic public officials. For years, Hillary Clinton, now the darling of the conservatives, was attacked and called every vitriolic word imaginable. Not too long ago, any Hillary Clinton-bashing book was sure to be a bestseller in conservative circles. Late last year, the same vitriolic campaign was revised to attack Barack Obama’s wife Michelle. Now it is not my place to keep these scores, but in life no story is more captivating than the ones that expose hypocrisy. For years now, Republicans have claimed to be the party of moral values, the only party with a direct phone line to God. In fact a recent book by conservative a pundit declared Democrats to be a “Godless Party”
Now on Sarah Palin, the greatest argument against her is and should be her lack of experience to be on anyone’s ticket for vice president. No less than Karl Rove lampooned Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia for having only been Governor for three years and before that Mayor of a small town called Richmond, VA.
With news of her daughter being pregnant, the Right has rushed to proclaim how nice it is that they have the same problems has everyone. But it is not the Democrats spreading the news, it is the media just doing their job to find out someone relatively new to the public stage with about two months to election. It is fair to question John McCain’s judgment in picking a candidate he only met once and it is fair to question if she is ready and can be ready to be President on day one. Her daughter’s pregnancy would not make much news if Palin had not been touted as a family rights candidate and one that preaches abstinence only.
Joe Biden’s son is heading to Iraq in a few days. Sen. McCain’s son has already served in Iraq but like Senator Jim Webb of Indiana, they have refused to talk about them in public. Not Palin, from the first time Palin was introduced to the public, she dragged her family willingly or unwillingly into the public sphere talking about her son about to deploy and giving more information to the public that would no doubt force his commanders in Iraq to make changes in for his safety. She also mentioned over and over again her latest son Trig born even after she knew he had Down syndrome. If Mrs. Palin had focused on her qualifications on VP and let her family take a backseat, her daughter probably would not be facing this scrutiny. But the conservative establishment has pushed her family stories to support their anti abortion and family values stances. Now, that news has not been so palatable, conservatives are glad Obama is telling the media to back off. Barack Obama who had to recently chided the Right for going after his wife just a few months has shown the type of grace Sen. McCain has lacked in recent months by saying that families should be off limits. Has McCain told people peddling false rumors about Obama’s religion to back off? Where was McCain when people were viciously attacking Michelle Obama? Where was John McCain when people the Swift Boat veterans attacked and distorted John Kerry's military record? Has McCain ever told people questioning Obama’s patriotism to back off? I don’t think so.
Personally, I am with Obama, but I wish conservatives would stop dragging family/private issues into the public sphere whether they be that of Democrats or Republicans.
But it goes beyond just family values and private affairs. Republicans have to learn that when you attack and belittle people’s achievement just for the short term benefits, in the long run, it may come back to bite you. Republicans in 1992 belittled Governor Clinton for being governor of a small state. In comparison to Alaska’s 700,000 people, Arkansas has 2.8 million people. In 1992, Clinton had been Governor for more than ten years. Just as late as two weeks ago, Karl Rove thinking Tim Kaine of Virginia might be picked by Obama to be his VP, had this to say:
"With all due respect again to Governor Kaine, he's been a governor for three years, he's been able but undistinguished," Rove said. "I don't think people could really name a big, important thing that he's done. He was mayor of the 105th largest city in America."
Rove continued: "So if he were to pick Governor Kaine, it would be an intensely political choice where he said, `You know what? I'm really not, first and foremost, concerned with, is this person capable of being president of the United States? What I'm concerned about is, can he bring me the electoral votes of the state of Virginia, the 13 electoral votes in Virginia?"
At the time, it was ok to belittle Gov. Tim Kaine’s experience, but now that Palin has been picked, Rove has changed tunes calling her a ‘bold’ choice for McCain.
These new direction of making politics about the personal instead of the public issues is part of what has contributed in making us the very partisan nation we are today. Now name calling and demonizing your opponent seems acceptable. Earlier in the campaign at a town hall event, a McCain supporter called Hillary Clinton a bitch to his face without so much a rebuke from John McCain.
The media has its job to do in investigating Sarah Palin with nine weeks left to election, but voters deserve to know sooner than later, what exactly will a McCain-Palin administration mean for the economy, education, US foreign policies and restoring America’s image abroad?
I have always believed that we should treat people the way we would want to be treated. I want to believe that the Palin saga will cause Republicans to pause the next time they want to attack their opponent. They might even ask, if it were the other way around, would I want to be treated the same way. Sadly, I have a feeling this is just an isolated incident. It seems for Republicans it is ok to attack others and rev up smear campaigns about your opponents, but when the tables are turned, such behavior is deemed “unfair” and “mean spirited.”
At the time Barack Obama is urging reporters to back off negative coverage of the Palin family, the GOP website continues to list Obama’s work in Chicago as that of a “street organizer instead of a “community organizer.” It continues to feature Tony Rezko prominently although Rezko’s legal problems have no connection to Obama. Yet, on the other side, the DNC website has no mention of the Keating scandal that involved Senator McCain that I was able to find.
If I am not mistaken, the Bible which conservatives seem to hide behind so often says something about treating your neighbor the way you would want to be treated. Will this change the tone of politics for good? Does this mean no more vicious rumors about Obama’s faith? Does this mean a return to talking about real issues? I don’t know, but I have a gut feeling….