Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Joan Walsh on GOP's Moralizing Analysis: Blaming the 99%, Shielding the 1%

At Salon, John Walsh wonders when all those white working-class voters Mr. Santorum is supposed to lock into the Republican voting columns will wake up and realize that what Republican leaders used to say about people of color (to gin up racial animosity among working-class whites), they now say about white working-class people.  The Republican dog whistles used to be about lazy, immoral "welfare queens" and "young bucks" living off the fat of the land while leading immoral, unproductive lives.

Now, the moralizing analysis offered by Republican leaders as a solution to all America's economic problems and social woes wants to maintain that "we’re all lazy, oversexed, instant-gratification-seeking grifters now. Even white people."  We've all let that liberal ethos of easy pleasure, low productivity, and disdain for marital commitment and family have its way with us (particularly after "radical feminism" began having its way with us), and the result is moral decline leading to social and economic decline.  Or so the Republicans keep wanting to argue--and so David Brooks keeps wanting to maintain as he does everything but stand on his head to paint Santorum as the savior of white working-class Catholics.

As Walsh notes, all of this moralizing analysis blaming the middle- and working classes for their economic misery is, at bottom, an attempt to defend the haves against the have nots.  As I've repeatedly noted vis-a-vis Mr. Brooks, that warmed-over Calvinist moral analysis that he keeps offering as the solution to all the nation's ills never calls on the rich to be sober, hard-working, committed to their spouses, and godly.  The preaching is only for the 99%.  

It's all about transferring the weight of moral analysis from where it would be placed in any political analysis worth its moral salt.  What political commentators need to be examining with moral insight is the insupportable maldistribution of wealth in our society, and the misery that this maldistribution creates for all of us.  What needs to be looked at is the moral obligation we all have--those who have benefited most from a society and have most enriched themselves within a given society--to assure that no one goes without food, meaningful jobs, health care, sound education, etc.

Instead, we get Mr. Brooks preaching to us that America is creative because of the wonderful "moral materialism" of the super-rich--about which Walsh concludes,

That’s the creative genius of American conservatism: It always advances “social values” that defend the “economic ambitions” of the very rich and blame the non-rich for their inability to prosper. Moral materialism, indeed. Santorum is coming down from his Iowa high, despite the best promotional efforts of Brooks, but his belief in the moral decline of the American middle is widely shared within his party. Here’s hoping the white working-class voters he was supposed to lure to the GOP finally realize the truth about Santorum’s party: All those old stereotypes about the moral and personal failings that kept black people from getting ahead now apply to them, too.

My additional question: when will white working-class Catholics also begin to realize that they've long been played as fools both by the Republican party re: "pro-life" and "family values" issues, as Republican rhetoric decries the moral lapses of women choosing abortions or couples divorcing, while this rhetoric totally ignores the socioeconomic factors contributing to high abortion rates or high rates of marital dissolution.  Thereby making what the U.S. Catholic bishops say about their commitment to a strong and consistent ethic of life entirely empty, insofar as they continue to give the Republican party their blessing as "the" pro-life party, while they ignore the profound and numerous ways in which official Republican parties militate against Catholic social teaching about economic justice for all.

P.S. As Michael O'Loughlin reports at America yesterday, five former U.S. ambassadors to the Vatican endorsed Mr. Romney this weekend, noting that he has their "wholehearted" support because he has the right values.  These include Mary Ann Glendon, who participated in many bishops'  shameful politicized attack on the Obama administration in 2009 by refusing an honor given her by Notre Dame University when it invited Mr. Obama to be its commencement speaker--since only the Republicans are, you understand, pro-life.  And long after it began to be known that Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, had a lengthy record of sexually abusing seminarians, Glendon continued defending him, along with "pro-life" Republican Catholic leaders William Bennett, Richard John Neuhaus, Deal Hudson, Bill Donohue, and others.

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