‘Moral values’ hijack election

Despite all our various differences, we should strive to be one nation – with liberty and justice for all.

Moral values” is a confusing term, yet it’s the oft-cited reason President George W. Bush won re-election. Maybe I’m obtuse, but it’s unclear to me what moral values Bush epitomizes.Does “moral values” mean giving tax breaks to the extremely wealthy while underfunding education for the poor? Denying equal rights to gay and lesbian individuals? Sacrificing U.S. lives for overseas oil?

Whatever “moral values” means, nationwide exit polling showed 22 percent of voters cited it as the most important issue in deciding for whom to vote. In fact, moral values frequently usurped dominant issues such as the economy, terrorism or Iraq. A whopping 80 percent of those “moral values” voters cast their ballot for Bush.If you suspect these alleged “moral values” voters were primarily composed of religious zealots, you’d be right. In Ohio – the lynchpin of the election – 25 percent of the voters described themselves as evangelical/born-again Christians. They supported Bush by a 76-24 margin.

Republican strategists realized these religious conservatives were Bush’s holy bread and butter. Subsequently, these strategists sought to “energize the base.” “Manipulate the biased” is a more apt description, however. Practicing shameless demagoguery, the Republican National Committee sent out mass mailings to scare evangelical Christians to the polls. The pamphlets have a picture of the Bible with the word “BANNED!” across it. Next to that was a picture of a man on his knees, placing a ring on the hand of another man with the word “ALLOWED” across it.

The Republican National Committee also ran several radio ads, one ad asserting, “They’re trying to hijack the institution of marriage, plotting to legalize partial-birth abortion and working to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance and force the worst of Hollywood on the rest of America.” Moral value voters, misinformed yet indignant, swarmed to the polls.

Nationwide, Republican strategists also sent pastors propaganda packets to promote political puppetry. The first and foremost on the agenda was to proselytize “the defense of marriage.” We apparently needn’t fear attacks from terrorists as much as attacks from committed same-sex couples. This fear is probably why 10 out of 11 states passed statutes banning marriage and/or civil unions of same-sex couples, framing it as a “defense of marriage.”

This is a queer use of the word defense. Then again, maybe before women’s suffrage, religious chauvinists denied voting rights to women, calling it “defending democracy.” Maybe before Brown v. Board of Education, religious racists spun school segregation as “defending education.” In that context “defending marriage” makes sense.

The primary argument against same-sex marriage is that extending equal rights to gay and lesbian couples would degrade the “sanctity” of marriage. In the Bible it’s “Adam and Eve,” not “Adam and Steve.” Then again, religious bigots at one time wanted to prohibit interracial marriage for the very same reasons. Maybe they parroted that in the Bible, it’s “Adam and Eve,” not “Antwone and Eve.”

It’s bitterly ironic that opponents of gay marriage are obliviously ignorant that they’re rehashing the very same arguments religious racists who opposed interracial marriage used; or maybe they’re just trying to ignore this embarrassing fact.

If one were to argue against the “defense of marriage,” it could be pointed out that “sanctity” is a religious concept, and has no place in secular law. Our country is a constitutional democracy, not a theocracy. One might highlight the equal protection clause in our Constitution. Yet none of this seems to matter to the “moral values” voter. To their credit, they seem impervious to logic, rationality and reason.

If they read their Bible, they’d see for every passage allegedly opposed to homosexuality, there are multitudes regarding the poor. If religious observance truly motivated their vote, then they’d have voted for Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., on the basis of health care, housing, education and assistance for the poor. But apparently the Bible is all fluff, except for that racy Sodom and Gomorrah stuff. Evidently, Jesus didn’t love the poor as much as he loathed homosexuals.

The media should not let religious bigotry masquerade as “moral values.” Some have claimed the Democrats are “out of touch” with moral values. If religious intolerance and bigotry are the values, I don’t mind if Democrats are “out of touch.” I’d rather have them be out of touch than shamelessly enflaming and pandering to prejudice like the Republican Party.

Moral values are not about encouraging prejudice; they’re about promoting equal rights for all. Moral values are not about favoring the rich; they’re about lifting up the poor. Moral values aren’t about imposing one’s religious dogma upon others; they’re about tolerating a plurality of religious and ideological views.

Despite our differences, we should strive to be one nation – with liberty and justice for all.

Matthew Brophy is a University graduate student. He welcomes comments at [email protected]