Sunday, April 10, 2016

Family Values

I don't exactly know the explanation for some of the differences in regional cultural tendencies. But even the churches are different, at least here in the northeast. When I lived in Boston, and when I was a community organizer in Philadelphia, preachers generally were on the progressive side of politics. Of course some of the Black churches were socially conservative, but the big ones were generally progressive, and I think that has generally changed anyway. A lot of church basements housed the offices of progressive organizations, and churches provided the meeting space for anti-war and social justice movement events. I realize this is a regional reality, those southern and Midwestern megachurches are a different story.

As a matter of fact my uncle was an Episcopal pastor. We attended his church, and my mother taught Sunday school. I even got a bunch of Sunday school perfect attendance pins, which were pretty nice, with gold plating and blue enamel. (Wish I still had them.) My uncle denounced the Vietnam war from the pulpit. So even though atheism hit me like a diamond bullet right between the eyes when I was 14, my impression of Christianity was that it had something to do with the Jesus of the Gospels, until the Christian right emerged on the scene in the 1980s. What woodwork did those people come out of, I wondered?

Well, the rural churches in the northeast, it turns out, are more like churches in the south and midwest. I don't know the explanation for the rural vs. urban cultural divide either, but out here it's Glenn Beckistan. Fortunately there isn't much population so their votes don't add up to much, but still.

So I read with considerable interest Josh Marshall's recollection of how Dennis Hastert became Speaker of the House. As you may be old enough to remember, in 1998 the Republicans impeached president Clinton, though the Senate failed to remove him from office, over a consensual adulterous affair with an adult. Yeah, she was a White House intern, so it was fairly skeevy, but on the other hand she initiated it.

The story Marshall tells is actually kind of incredible. I've never seen anybody put it together the way he does. Remember that Speaker Gingrich thought the threatened impeachment would be popular with voters, but in fact Democrats picked up seats in the mid-term, leading to Gingrich's resignation. But it turned out later that while Gingrich was moving to impeach the president, he was carrying on an adulterous affair with a staffer in his office, some 20 years his junior.

So the House Republican Conference nominated Bob Livingston to succeed Gingrich. But then Larry Flynt, the porno magnate, announced he was working on a story about Livingston's adulterous affairs So Livingston Livingston resigned from the House and David Vitter took his seat. In 2007, we found out that the whole time, Vitter was a regular customer of a prostitution ring.

Hastert became Speaker as a colorless, non-controversial compromise candidate. But now we learn that he had a very dark secret in his past, as a serial sexual abuser of boys in his charge as a teacher and wrestling coach. Remember Sen. Larry Craig? And so many others?

Whenever a sex scandal breaks about a politician, you can make money betting that it's a "family values" "Christian" "conservative" before you even learn the name. Yeah, there was Clinton (who we really knew about all along) and Elliot Spitzer, but you would win by far the majority of your bets.

Now that they are busy passing bills allowing discrimination against gay and transgendered people, you have to wonder about the people who are sponsoring and voting for those bills. Just sayin'.

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