When Bill Clinton was being excoriated by the right for weak morals, the term “Family Values” was coined. It may have been around already, but that is when Republicans took it to the People’s Bank.
The internet existed, but social media was still in its infancy and the brushfire of negativity was experienced through traditional media. Fox News came into existence at the beginning of Clinton’s second term and there was no denying that it grew by hammering Clinton for his sexual proclivities and by claiming the mantle of “traditional American values.”
I remember asking myself: “How badly will Democrats strike back at a Republican president after this firestorm of hatred for Clinton?”
George W. Bush became president and my answer was revealed. It was bad. I remember then saying to myself: “I wonder how badly Republicans will strike back at a Democratic president….”
Barack Obama was elected and my answer was something worse than I could have imagined. The internet had exploded with extremists digging in and fanning flames. Echo chambers became deafening, and anger took on new dimensions. The ugly “isms” that fester on the underbelly of humans became de rigueur. Truth was changed from a pursuit into a purse; there was money in hatred.
Like his policies or not, we had a president who clearly lived with and cherished family values and he was being vilified by the….party of family values.
And I wondered….how badly will Democrats react when….
And then Donald Trump was declared president. The division of political camps now transcended even the tribal conflict between Packers and Vikings. This was cultural. However, a new dimension rose from the very platform cultivated to inspire the right-wing populist revolution. The man who was favored by the right to become president was verifiably bereft of the family values that had been elevated to oppose the left.
But, in a cultural conflict logic is as relevant as the difference between Ohioans and Michiganders warring over the Toledo Strip; it only matters on which side you were born. Republican’s ethical “get out of jail free” card was played by pointing at Democratic support for Clinton. They branded Democrats “hypocrites” for disliking a president with a poor moral code because they voted for a president with a poor moral code.
Where I’ll grant Democrats a hall pass in the “who is more hypocritical?” debate is the fact that Clinton was never hoisted his flag as the standard bearer of family values. And Democrats never branded themselves as the party of those values. Not because they lacked them, but because they didn’t use them as a political agenda. It wasn’t the basis for correcting the economy, for appropriating funds, for establishing foreign relations, or for….you get the point.
Republicans did make that claim. Which would be fine except they threw those values out the window as soon as they contradicted their candidate who would ostensibly….correct the economy, appropriate funds, establish foreign….you get the point.
So where does that leave us today? Should I even ask the question: “What are Republicans going to do to the next Democratic president (there will be one someday)?”
We are now in an area which, like the concept of infinity, there is no model for understanding. The Kavanaugh hearing is a case in point. Republicans were going to support him no matter what questions were raised. There wasn’t a millisecond between Dr. Ford’s testimony and “He’s innocent!”
I saw a post where someone pointed out the double standard of Democrats who supported Clinton but now accuse Kavanaugh of an unsavory past. Never mind that the Clinton impeachment hearing was regarding perjury and Kavanaugh’s own friends offered that he perjured himself when he said he “never drank so much as to black out.” There wasn’t another millisecond between the possibility of that revelation and “He’s innocent!”
And quick judgments are not confined to the national scene. Today, I was told by the city of Waterloo that someone is furious that “Gary Kroeger, the liberal, thinks he can put political yard signs on city property!” Never mind that the young man who mowed my lawn moved them and didn’t know they had to be 10 feet into my lawn from the curb (they have been fixed). The vitriol is such that a relatively benign mistake is a catastrophe in someone’s mind and is an example of my arrogance.
The other day I was told that there are people who will not come to my restaurant because I am a vocal Democrat. They hate my views so much that the enjoyment of Italian food in a fun atmosphere (and where, by the way, there are no politics discussed) cannot compensate their disgust.
My late father told his sons “silence is agreement” or at the very least compliance. And so I am vocal, and I write about and participate in causes I believe in. My conscience, inherited from my parents, will not allow me to be silent when I see injustice. My family values include valuing the hopes and opportunities of others, and the fight for human and civil rights is central to my being.
I doubt anyone would disagree with those directives. We will disagree on how to achieve such ends, but shouldn’t that be okay? Not only okay, but a good thing? I think it was once. Disagreement does not have to be civil war.
And a civil war is what we are in.