Why the GOP Campaign for the Presidency Is About Guaranteeing a Radical Conservative Future for America
Continued from previous page
When this idealized family model is projected onto various governing institutions, we get conservative versions of them: conservative religion with a strict father God; a view of the market as Decider with no external authority over the market from government, unions, or the courts; and strictness in other institutions, like education, prisons, businesses, sports teams, romantic relationships, and the world community. Control over reproduction ought to be in the hands of male authorities.
For conservatives, democracy is about liberty, individual responsibility and self-reliance -- the freedom to seek one's own self-interest with minimal or no commitment to the interests of others. This implies a minimal public and a maximal private.
We can now see why the Santorum Strategy is so concerned with family values. Strict father family values are the model for radical conservative values. Conservative populism -- in which poor conservatives vote against their financial interests -- depends on those poor conservatives having strict father family values, defining themselves in terms of those values, and voting on the basis of those values, thus selecting strict fathers as their political leaders.
The repetition of language expressing those values leads to more and more working people becoming political and accepting those values in their politics. As long as the Democrats have no positive moral messaging of their own, repeated over and over, the Santorum Strategy will go unchallenged and conservative populism will expand. Moreover, repeating the Santorum language by mocking it or arguing against it using that language will only help radical conservatives in propagating their views.
Democrats are concentrating on the presidential race, hoping that if Obama wins, as it looks like he will, all will be fine. They are missing the bigger picture. The Democratic strategy of getting the independent women's vote for Obama is not sufficient, because independent women may still vote for their local conservative leaders as the strict fathers they want to see in office.
Democrats have been gleeful about the Santorum birth control strategy, taken up by conservatives in the House as a moral position that if you want to use birth control, you should pay for it yourself. Democrats see this as irrational Republican self-destruction, assuming that it will help all Democrats to frame it as a "war against women." I hope they are right, but I have doubts.
This is anything but an irrational position for radically conservative Republicans. Quite the contrary. It fits conservative moral logic -- the logic used by conservative populists, male for sure and for many women as well. In some respects it embodies the most powerful aspects of conservative moral logic, strengthening conservative moral logic in the minds not only of conservatives, but also of independents who have both conservative and progressive world views and swing between them.
Here's how that logic goes:
- The strict father determines what happens in the family, including reproduction. Thus reproduction is the province of male authority.
- The strict father does not condone moral weakness and self-indulgence without moral consequences. Sex without reproductive consequences is thus seen as immoral.
- If the nation supports birth control for unmarried women, then the nation supports immoral behavior.
- The conservative stress on individual responsibility means that you and no one else should have to pay for your birth control -- not your employer, your HMO, or the taxpayers.
- Having to pay for your birth control also has a metaphorical religious value -- paying for your sins.
- This is a classical slippery slope narrative. If no one else should have to pay for your birth control, the next step is that no one else should have to pay for any of your health care.
- And the step after that is that no one else should be forced to pay for anyone else. This is, everything should be privatized -- no public education, safety nets, parks, or any public institutions or services.
That is what makes conservative moral logic into such a powerful instrument. And conservative and independent women can be pragmatic about the birth control details, while accepting the moral logic as a whole.