Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Yet Another Republican Caught With His Pants Down


Governor Mark Sanford (R-South Carolina) rather famously disappeared about 5 days ago. The timeline on this story is bizarre! He lied to his family and staff about where he was going, leaving them to come up with one cover story after another. At first he told them he would be "writing" then he told them he was hiking alone on the Appalachian Trial. Meanwhile, it turns out he was in Argentina pursuing an extra-marital affair with an Argentine woman. It goes without saying at this point that Sanford is famous for his strong "Christian family values" positions. He opposes both same sex marriage and civil unions. He has also voted to ban adoptions by gay citizens. As LTG pointed out in a recent phone conversation, these people clearly think the gender of your spouse is more important than your fidelity to them.

There is a clear pattern here. The same psychology that makes men want to become religiously themed politicians seems to make them incapable of having healthy relationships and leading healthy, honest sexual lives. So all you women out there. If your husband tells you he's "been saved" or has "accepted Jesus as [his] personal savior" check his collar for lipstick - the more he prays the more he's getting laid.

He's just resigned as Chairman of the National Republican Governors' Association and he has (until today) been talked about as a potential Republican candidate for the Presidency in 2012. Most recently he tried and failed to get his state to refuse to accept any federal stimulus money. The immediate conventional wisdom is that this helps Sarah Palin in 2012. Palin and Sanford appealed to the same kind of voter.

However, I think that this continuing parade of social conservative Republicans getting caught with their pants down just reveals the hypocrisy of an entire movement. I doubt true independents will be open to the kind of culture war crap that these people peddle in the future. I certainly hope that as the "Religious Right" continues to implode that the momentum for marriage equality will continue to increase.


PS: I can't wait to see the comments from the Republican counter-bloggers.

17 comments:

Dr. Strangelove said...

Some of these right-wing politicians are so damned hypocritical. It is not the adultery that angers me--that is a personal issue for them and their families--but the hypocrisy. They get all up in your face about "defending marriage" and "traditional values," but meanwhile they are secretly committing adultery and lying to everyone about it, including their own families.

Sen. Vitter, Sen. Ensign, Gov. Sanford... Not to mention the pedophiliac Congressional page scandal in 2006... It just keeps going! I hope honest religious voters will come to realize that these people do not actually share their honest religious values.

Raised By Republicans said...

"I hope honest religious voters will come to realize that these people do not actually share their honest religious values."

I prefer that this continuing hypocrisy makes them realize the folly of politicizing morality.

Dr. Strangelove said...

"I prefer that this continuing hypocrisy makes them realize the folly of politicizing morality"

Yeah, good luck with that :-)

Sigh.

Raised By Republicans said...

A boy can dream can't he?

Pombat said...

I'm with you Dr.S - the hypocrisy is the worst bit. Anyone who comes along and tells me any version of "do as I say, not as I do (because I'm more important than you)" is not going to get a welcome reaction.

Keep on dreamin' RbR: it would be great I agree, but I think we're more likely to see them wanting to continue to politicise morality, but with 'properly moral' politicians - these ones were clearly not truly 'God's children'...

The Law Talking Guy said...

It is not a coincidence that most of these people admitting affairs are evangelical Christians. The evangelical culture teaches that we are all sinners, that sin is a personal failing or weakness, and that God will forgive your sins if you recite the evangelical shahada ("I accept Jesus Christ as my personal savior"). In this culture, sin is thought of primarily as a personal failing.

By contrast, The Rabbi Hillel once said (I think it was him) that the origin of all sin is treating other people as means to an end. Sin in this tradition is not something that you do by yourself, like masturbation or cussing, but something that you do to other people..

This evangelical morality is the mindset of a child who thinks that being naughty or being nice is about obeying or breaking what appear to him to be a set of somewhat arbitrary rules of behavior laid down by his parents.

Dr. Strangelove said...

LTG: That was an insightful and enlightening comment about the transitive and intransitive forms of sin. Very interesting. And I smiled because it is sly of you to quote a Rabbi regarding this, since orthodox Judaism--with its kosher laws, strict observance of the Sabbath, and tiny hats--is more often cited as an example of sin defined by, "arbitrary rules of behavior."

I also like your view that the rules-based morality is a childish, immature view of a much more complex concept. From a psychological point of view, it is also quite childish to externalize one's own sinful desires as temptation from the devil. But therein lies a kernel of something I have been trying to wrap my mind around for a while... Somehow those who accept that they are sinners manage to twist this into an absolute conviction that they are inherently good people who are just "tempted" by bad things. It could not possibly be that they actually want to do bad things!

The idea that I can separate certain impulses and say, "those are not me," is a most dangerous form of denial. It is a way of wriggling out of responsibility. The concept of the soul as distinct from the body sometimes reflects that desire to separate certain parts oneself as the "true" self while denying the rest as impure impulses of the flesh. But I am not trying to bag on religion here... The "scientific" division between the conscious and subconscious mind is often misconstrued in a similar way.

The reason for this astonishingly strong form of denial of self among certain creeds and cultures is simple. Too much of what their community rewards and punishes lies at odds with their actual (god-given?) desires. So much effort must be put into suppressing these various desires that it is simpler to attempt to deny the desires altogether. How comforting to believe that, deep down, one wishes to do what one's community demands. How disturbing to know, even deeper down, that this is not truly the case. No wonder people crack under the strain!

Raised By Republicans said...

"most dangerous form of denial. It is a way of wriggling out of responsibility."

From my conversations with my evangelical cousins this is the main point. They just don't know how to live and have stable relationships etc (most of my evangelical cousins are the children and grandchildren of a philandering uncle who has cycled through wives and girlfriends rather shamelessly - he is also a Republican but of the secular variety).

Rather than sit down and do some self exploration or get therapy, they turn to religion. They see the bible as a kind of "how to manual" for life. They cling to it with desperation, insisting that everything they need to know is contained within. Anyone who disagrees is not just disagreeing about some point of personal spirituality, they are directly challenging the psychological house of cards these people have set up to cover up the dysfunction in their own lives. They'll do almost anything to prevent that from happening. One of these cousins (actually a 1st cousin, once removed), made a binding for his bible in a crafts class at his church. The binding was made of metal with sharp corners and flanges all over it. He had transformed his bible into an armor plated tank. A psychologist would have had a field day with it.

Dr. Strangelove said...

In the interest of fairness, we should note that NY Gov. David Paterson, former NY Gov. Elliot Spitzer, and of course famously former Pres. Clinton all had extramarital affairs of one kind or another. Republicans may be cornering the market on hypocrisy but they have no monopoly on adultery :-)

The Law Talking Guy said...

Dr.S- let me be clear that the Orthodox Jews do not consider breaking these arbitrary dietary or sabbath laws to be "sinful" in a Christian sense. That is why the Orthodox have no objection to a sabbath goy, someone who is a gentile but performs for Jews the functions they are ritually forbidden from performing. Jews have a covenant with various requirements, including circumcision; others don't. It's breach of contract, not tort. Sin - doing something inherently wrong - is not the issue with those laws.

The Law Talking Guy said...

Also, Dr.S, I don't think the evangelicals consider themselves to be good people tempted by bad things. This is too liberal a reading. They believe they are sinners, that they want to do bad things. They ask God to give them better desires.

You are correct, of course, that externalizing these wants to an outside devil is childish. It is actually a phase of child development that many children go through, blaming their own bad actions on imaginary friends.

There is theological debate as to whether the devil should be personified. A former Episcopal bishop used to preach not just that God is Love, but that Love is God. The identity, when put backwards, implies that there is no personhood to God. Few Christians would depersonalize God, but many are prone (shall we say, tempted?) to depersonalize the devil. I would answer that something akin to the ontological argument for god's existence - true evil has to be ascribed the attributes of personality to be contemplated appropriately.

Of course, the source of the issue is positing that right and wrong come from a deity, as laws given to Moses on the mount, rather than from more neutral principles. Or the fact that original sin is described in Genesis as the breaking of an arbitrary commandment not to eat of a particular tree, which God supposedly delivered along with a lie or false threat ("for the day you eat of it, you shall die..."). One of the reasons the gospels can be so refreshing is that Jesus keeps telling people to look to the principles at stake, not to arbitrary rules. This was, of course, and is, a commentary and discussion within Judaism.

Dr. Strangelove said...

"I don't think the evangelicals consider themselves to be good people tempted by bad things. This is too liberal a reading. They believe they are sinners, that they want to do bad things."

Theologically you are surely correct. But I think in practice many evangelicals are convinced of their own personal right-ness. That's just my opinion, of course.

Bob said...

First: very good comments! (kind of lame praise I know, but I haven't put my mind around all of them yet -- is that better?)

Second:
...this continuing parade of social conservative Republicans getting caught with their pants down just reveals the hypocrisy of an entire movement. I doubt true independents will be open to the kind of culture war crap that these people peddle in the future.

I think there's a non-cynical disagreement here. There's a lot of people that will see these tawdry goings-on as a "sign of the times", that moral failures are rife. These people may be true independents -- indeed, one of these scandals may cement their conviction that they're not on the GOP side -- but they might respond to someone who boldly and simply proclaims their moral convictions.

That they've been fooled before may be reason to change _who_ they're backing, but I think it won't change _the kind of person_ they're backing. True disillusionment leads to apathy, until a new energizing messenger inspires them.

Frankly, the thing that drives me nuts is that on the national stage, Dems seem to be automatically disqualified -- their inspirational moral messages aren't heard. Maybe their moral values aren't simple enough? Maybe they're talking in the wrong code? Maybe someone's framed "moral issues" in a way that disqualifies them?

To me (I'm blatantly overstepping here, but insofar as LTG and I are on the same page, this is how), the language of civic religion is powerful, simple, moral messaging. ACLU stuff, "West Wing" stuff, Martin Luther King stuff. Individual freedom, equality under the law, freedom from tyranny...you know what I'm talking about.

I'm proud to be an American because my gay friends and my Jewish friends and my Catholic friends and by God my Republican friends too and hell even my FOES can put that aside and build that frickin' bridge to the future and save the world and we can all earn a living and we have the moral sense to keep children from starving to death.

And I am ashamed when we do not.

Am I in such a minority in this? Do the independents that are disgusted not just with immoral politicians, but with immorality, only respond to religious moral messages?

Am I asking for a revitalization of secular humanism, to reclaim a nonreligious aspect to morality discourse?

Raised By Republicans said...

Bob,

I take your points about independents. Interesting take.

I think what you are lamenting is a decline in civic engagement distinct from political/religious identity. These days it seems like people only want to work with people who already agree with them.

During the floods last year here in Iowa I did see a lot of people coming together from across the social spectrum. The local news was showing sandbag lines with college students, Amish farm families and prisoners in orange jump suits all building sand bag walls. It was quite inspiring. Unfortunately, Tim Russert had just died so these scenes were under reported in the national press.

Bob said...

RbR:

I think what you are lamenting is a decline in civic engagement distinct from political/religious identity.
I think that's pretty much right. I think I'd go on and say that "conservatives" have successfully arrogated a lot of the trappings of patriotism, which is annoying. Also, I was trying to offer a "morality" voter a rhetoric that isn't religious.

Actually, I feel like this non-identity based engagement is something that's being appealed to: Obama arguing that everyone should back programs that reduce the need for abortions, the environmental ads by the "we" people, etc. I don't know if it'll take, but I think there's an active marketing campaign to appeal to non-partisans.

(I suspect that many Congresscritters can't wrap their mind around that, and assume it must mean "bipartisan", because what could exist outside the parties?)

The Law Talking Guy said...

Nonpartisans consist, I suspect, primarily of people who don't care about politics. It's like trying to market baseball to people who aren't fans of any particular team. That's why I think we talk "bipartisan" - only the parties have the organization to connect voters who care with candidates and ideas.

I think Obama is addressing Independents, who aren't really nonpartisan, but rather people of shifting loyalties.

Pombat said...

It could be that he actually is trying to reach out to non-partisans, if LTG's suspicion that non-partisans are people who don't care about politics is correct. Given that voting is not compulsory in the US, a great way to increase votes / support for various programs etc is to engage the people who currently don't get involved in anything political (as opposed to chasing independents / swing votes / whatever). They're a fairly large percentage of the population are they not?

[ps LTG: I need some clarification/further explanation on a comment of yours on the Feminism Will Save the Muslim World thread - please?]