Whose ‘values’?

Summer has come and gone. I know this because football is in full swing, baseball is nearing the World Series, leaves are changing color, and America has just experienced the annual Values Voter Summit.

Created in 2006 by a group of conservative Christian leaders looking to become more influential in American politics, the event brings together a couple thousand or so attendees who listen to assorted radio and TV talk show hosts, politicians, and other prominent social conservatives as they enthusiastically condemn anyone who doesn’t agree with their point of view. It’s Us versus Them, with no middle ground nor hope for compromise.

Of course, that pretty much describes every political event… from the smallest town hall to the huge conventions held every four years by the two main parties. The speakers are just telling the crowds what they want to hear, and those at the Values Voter Summit got quite an earful.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann declared that the US is engaged in “spiritual warfare” with the terrorist group ISIS, clearly suggesting that the fight against this extremist group is a battle between Christianity and Islam. You would think that Congresswoman Bachmann — an appointed member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence — would be aware that Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Jordan have all carried out air strikes against ISIS. Of course, that fact doesn’t fit Bachmann’s agenda, so her audience was led to believe that this is a religious conflict.

Senator Ted Cruz told the crowd that he’d like to “abolish the IRS”… which is an interesting concept. I wonder how the good senator expects this nation to operate without revenue?

And what would a gathering of this type be without Sarah Palin? The former Alaska governor got in plenty of jabs against President Obama and former Secretary of State — and probable presidential candidate — Hillary Clinton. Sadly, Palin seemed to have some difficulty reading from her teleprompters, especially when she flubbed her punch line about truth being “an endangered species at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue.” (I don’t remember everything I learned in grade school, but I do recall the White House is at 1600 Pennsylvania.) Perhaps someone should send Ms. Palin a map of Washington DC.

But those in attendance… and those who are fans of these and other Summit speakers like Gov. Mike Huckabee and Sen. Rick Santorum… are willing to overlook these discrepancies. All they want to hear is someone saying what they already believe. They want famous people to validate their own beliefs regardless of those pesky facts that keep getting in the way.

One would be tempted to think that the Values Voter Summit is merely a one-sided event designed to attack one party and favor another. On the face of it that would seem valid, since all of the politicians invited to speak are Republicans. The organizers would want us to think otherwise, that they transcend partisan politics, that they are willing to stand up in opposition regardless of affiliation. They would point out that two very prominent members of the party, Gov. Chris Christie and former Gov. Jeb Bush, were purposely not invited.

In response I would suggest that both Christie and Bush have established records of pragmatic bargaining, demonstrating a willingness to reach across the aisle in order to govern in a way that offers a piece of the pie to both sides. But the Values Voter Summit appears more interested in achieving purity within the ranks, and those who show even the slightest inkling of compromise are not worthy.

Imagine if a similar meeting were held but the only invited guests were from the far left of the political spectrum, packing the airwaves with truth-deprived attacks upon an administration that came from the other side. Same concept, but from the opposite perspective. Would the attendees and their leaders be hailed as true patriots or radical extremists?

Twisting the truth isn’t new in politics, of course, and it isn’t limited to one side. Ever since someone got the bright idea to hold elections, candidates and their supporters have done everything they can to toss aside logic and common sense. The ultimate prize is all that matters. Win at all costs, even if you have to lie to do it.

Sadly, while the concept isn’t new, it’s more obvious today. We have more opportunities to be persuaded and informed – 24-hour cable channels, talk radio, websites, etc – than ever before. It’s unfortunate that so many people take advantage of those resources to spread absolute falsehoods.

I’d love to be able to tell you that there’s a solution, that things will get better, that truth and honesty will prevail. Sorry, but I’m a realist. As long as even one politician wins a race by lying about his opponent or himself, that tactic will continue indefinitely.

What we’re left with, if we’re lucky, is the lesser of the evils. Sometimes we’re less lucky.

(Originally published in the Morrisons Cove Herald on October 2, 2014.)

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