11/11 Flashback: Our moral betters

11/11 Flashback: Our moral betters November 11, 2022

From November 11, 2004, “On ‘moral values’


Following up on this earlier post, I want to make two distinct points more clearly regarding exit polls’ use of the phrase “moral values” to describe the motivation of some Bush supporters.

1. This notion of what constitutes “moral” issues is grotesquely stunted.

“Moral values” as a category cannot be segregated from things like jobs, taxes, the economy, health care, the environment, the war in Iraq, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, government secrecy, honesty, corporate corruption, educational opportunity and protection of civil rights. All of these are also moral issues.

As The Poor Man put it:

“Moral issues” means not putting people before profit, it means trying to help those less fortunate than yourself, and Dear Lord it means not lying for just one blessed moment, because these are, actually, moral issues.

To relocate all of these things outside the parameters of “moral” discussion is, in fact, immoral. To suggest that these subjects are not essential to “evangelical Christian” morality is, in fact, heretical.

So problem No. 1 is that the pollsters’ version of morality is far too small. But that is not the only problem.

2. Some of these “moral” stances are, in fact, morally dubious.

Here let me quote from Matt Yglesias:

The right-wing view on gay marriage — not the view of a small band of religious fanatics but that of a clear majority of the American people — is immoral and wrongheaded. Every bit as immoral and wrongheaded as the old view that the stability of the family required bans on interracial marriage. And in the future, I am confident, it will be regarded as such. …

Gay and lesbian Americans are simply trying to live their lives in peace — with the same rights as the rest of us. That the Democrats paid a price for the very mild form of advocacy for this position is a cause for regret but not for apology.

That’s exactly right. “Civil rights for me but not for thee,” is not a morally defensible position. And much of the language directed against homosexuals this past year has simply been morally odious and despicable — i.e., sinful.

Some political observers have responded to the electoral map and the exit polls by suggesting that if Democrats want to succeed in the scarlet states they will need to: A) accept the gelded notion of “morality” as a category primarily concerned with the condemnation of sexual minorities; and B) join in and embrace this impious form of piety to win more votes.

This is bad advice. It is also — what’s the word I’m looking for? — immoral.


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