Elad Gross @BigElad
We got him.
After more than two weeks of evading service, Senator Josh Hawley was personally served with the subpoena at CPAC.
1:15 PM – 1 Mar 2019
In Maryland. Not Missouri.
Nancy LeTourneau of the Political Animal Blog recently wrote a provocative article on the issue of morality in a pluralistic society. The gist of her argument is that conservative Christians, by making their deal with the devil, i.e. Donald Trump, have not only abrogated their claim to superior morality, but opened the door to a discussion of morality that is more in harmony with liberal pluralistic values. LeTourneau implicitly suggests the existence of a gap between the moral universe inhabited by liberals and that of conservatives. It strikes me that this gap is both more substantive and coarser than LeTourneau in her effort to be fair, suggests.
The difference between the two points of view was clear when the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) revoked an invitation for Breitbart provocateur, Milo Yiannopoulos, to speak at their annual meeting after tapes surfaced in which he seemed to speak approvingly of pedophilia. Just a few weeks earlier conservatives professed to be horrified when he was similarly disinvited to speak by UC Berkeley. The difference? The Berkeley protestors whose actions precipitated the cancellation of Yiannopoulos talk were disturbed by his “free” exercise of “hate speech, racism, misogyny and transphobia.” CPAC couldn’t handle Yiannopoulos speaking “freely” about sexual practices that they consider especially taboo.
Time and again, it seems that the only behavior that can get conservative morality roiling is sexual. Here in Missouri we have a legislature that is all but openly selling influence when they’re not busy slurping the swill ladled out by lobbyists. But it took a sex scandal – legislators hustling interns – to provoke a backlash and, temporarily at least, lend some force to discussions about the need for ethical oversight. The results were rules governing interns (including a widely ridiculed proposal to keep those young sluts from dressing provocatively – our state legislators, it seems, shouldn’t be expected to resist temptation all on their own), and a few limp efforts to address legislative corruption.
Get the picture? If it involves sex, conservatives get worried about morality. Bullying, vicious slurs directed toward groups that conservatives view askance, along with financial and political corruption, not so much.
It’s no accident that conservative and ostentatiously Christian Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO4) objected to the Women’s march as much because of the signs, which she characterized as “very pornographic,”as anything else. I saw lots of signs about the ACA, Social Security and the full range of economic justice issues. To be fair, I also saw signs that would have shocked my very sedate grandmother. Words like “uterus” and Hartzler’s avowed president, Donald Trump’s, favorite, “pussy,” were visible, along with statements that the organs in question were the property of the women holding the signs, and, consequently, not subject to the control of the patriarchs.
Hartzler had much less to say about the issues that brought all those the men, women and children with the “pornographic” signs out. She doesn’t, for example, give a tinker’s you-know-what about healthcare, an issue that motivated many of the marchers – that’s why she’s voted some fifty or sixty times to repeal the ACA – but she’s worried that people who do care about it showed their concern with what she believes to be pornographic signs. It’s all about sex with these folks.
Even the issue that represents one of the most persistent areas of moral disagreement between conservatives and progressives/liberals, abortion, hinges on differences between the way the two camps respond to female sexual behavior. Despite the hysterical evocation of “baby-killilng” and silly labels like “pre-born,” the relationship between abortion and the fear of unfettered female sexuality is, as Sara Erdreich, argues obvious when one considers the prevalence of arguments about whether or not victims of rape or incest “deserve” to get an abortion, but women whose sexual behavior is voluntary don’t. And don’t get me started on Catholicism, female sexuality, and abortion.
Progressives are frequently advised to frame issues in moral terms if we want them to have wide resonance. However, if our concept of what is morally most important differs so radically from the “other” guy, it leaves us with one simple question: How do we talk about the full spectrum of moral issues – which are often life and death issues – with people whose concept of what can be considered moral or immoral seems to be so limited?
The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) regional convention was held yesterday (Sept. 28) in St. Charles, Missouri, just outside of St. Louis. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch report, the main activity at this conference was not a measured consideration of conservative policy ideas, but rather railing at the dreaded liberals and plotting the rightwing battle strategy. The invective seems to have run high. One of the organizers of the conference, though, held forth on the liberal decadence of contemporary Americans in a way that points out all too clearly one of the main failures of conservative ideology, which is its lack of an accurate historical compass:
“Conservatives are angry,” Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, told the gathering. “We’re witnessing the first generation of Americans who, instead of asking what they can do for America, are far too eager to accept liberal platitudes about what America can do for them.”
Liberal platitudes? That’s rich coming from characters who like to beat drums, tootle on fifes and refer to themselves exclusively as “we the people.” Where I come from, folks are pretty sure that government by and of the people means government for the people – we know our Constitution just as well as any conservative and we know what government “for the people” entails. We know that in the first sentence of the Constitution, “we the people” set government the task of securing the “general welfare.”
Nor is the current generation the first to believe that securing the general welfare, making life better for Americans, is one of the most important tasks of government. We know that we are part of a proud tradition that views government as responsible, first of all, for the needs of its citizens.
My generation, born in the 1940s, was the beneficiary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society,” which brought us Medicare, The Office of Economic Opportunity, The National Endowment for the Arts and Humanities, The Wilderness Protection Act, and extensive consumer protection regulations, as well as a “War on Poverty” that was, despite rightwing claims to the contrary, measurably successful in improving the lives of many Americans.
My mother’s generation, born in the 1920s, was saved from the horrors of the Great Depression by the many government programs of the New Deal – in my mother’s case, literally saved from childhood starvation thanks to a government helping hand. And later, Social Security, one of the many products of Franklin Roosevelt’s brain trust, insured her a secure old age – as it does for me.
My father’s generation, born in the first decade of the twentieth century, participated in the Progressive Movement that saw the expansion of public education, government regulation of business to insure fair practices, electoral reform that targeted the corruption of the Gilded Age pols, income taxes to insure that the obscenely wealthy capitalists of the era paid their fair share, along with the expansion of labor unions.
Liberals and Progressives know that the work of insuring the general welfare is an important part of government. That’s why we elected a President who promised to reform a moribund, “free market” health care system that served fewer and fewer people at greater and greater expense. We know from sad experience that we can’t leave our welfare to the workings of a blind, free market whose ascendency still animates rightwing wet dreams. From the Gilded Age to the Bush recession, our history tells us that the radical conservative prescription does not work.
Sadly, Mr. Cardenas and his angry conservatives would like to take us back to the bad old days: no taxes, no regulations, massive financial inequality, horrendous working conditions, a government that exists only to serve the needs of a wealthy elite. They claim to be worried about a culture of dependency. Cut food stamps, they say, but hand out agricultural subsidies to rich farmers and Big Oil; cut cancer research, but throw tax “incentives” at corporations. Mr. Cardenas is right; there are Americans who expect government handouts – and you’ll find them writing the checks that support the political aspirations of many of the politicians who attend CPAC.
I would say to Mr. Cardenas that liberals are angry too. We’re more than angry; we are sick-at-heart that in the light of our history there are still people in this country willing to stand with Al Cardenas and his cohorts and say I’ve got mine, the rest of you chumps can go to hell.
Cross-posted to the DailyKos.