February 18, 2010
with "respect" to certain definitions of "traditional values"
Bill Quick has a very thoughtful essay with which I generally agree, although I was a bit confused by the essay's title -- which characterized the "Tea Party Principles" as "the call for fiscal conservatism and respect for traditional values."
Because I write this blog, the above puts me in the position of having to ask a difficult question.
Exactly what are traditional values?
This is no idle question here. I would be less than honest if I did not admit that the very name of this blog is grounded in a certain jovial disrespect for at least one, well-known outfit's definition of the term-- that of the Traditional Values Coalition (an outfit I freely admit I absolutely do not respect and never will).
The organization could not possibly be more clear about what they mean by the term. The very first Google hit you get goes to the web page they have set up, which is boldly titled "TRADITIONAL VALUES DEFINED" (of which I will excerpt some, with all bold and italics in original):
TRADITIONAL VALUES DEFINEDAmong the "values" listed (presumably in order of importance) are Values Three and Four:
Homosexuality, Bi-Sexuality, Transgenderism, And Other Deviant Sexual Behaviors: The Bible clearly condemns all sexual behaviors outside of marriage between one man and one woman. Homosexual behavior is explicitly condemned in both the Old and New Testaments as an abomination and a violation of God's standards for sexuality. We oppose the normalization of sodomy as well as cross-dressing and other deviant sexual behaviors in our culture.And here are Values Seven and Eight:
Addictive Behaviors: We are opposed to the spread of legalized gambling in our society because this behavior frequently leads to addictions, the destruction of families, and the abuse of children. We oppose the legalization of addictive drugs and support strong law enforcement efforts against this societal scourge. We believe it is self-destructive and destructive of our culture, for individuals to become addicted to such behaviors as gambling, alcohol, smoking, pornography, or the use of drugs.Finally, the "summing up":
The Summing Up: Traditional Values are based upon biblical foundations and upon the principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, the writings of the Founding Fathers, and upon the writings of great political and religious thinkers throughout the ages.Frankly, I don't see the above "values" reflected in the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution (nor do I understand why supporting or opposing legislation constitutes a "value") but that's not the point. As most regular readers know, I disagree with most of the above, and because these disagreements are a major reason I started the blog, I feel obligated to at least ask what is meant when the term "traditional values" is used to characterize a movement I am on record as supporting. From what I have seen of the Tea Parties, they are not publicly advancing or advocating the above "values" as representative of the Tea Party movement -- regardless of whether individual members agree with them or not. Maybe I've been to the wrong Tea Party, and perhaps Bill Quick is talking about different Tea Parties.
More likely, he has a different definition of "traditional values" than does the Traditional Values Coalition. Unless he has changed his mind on gay marriage, he has to, because when he came here during an extended debate on the subject, his position was that it is bigotry to oppose gay marriage. I disagreed because I think that reasonable people can differ on this issue, and that opposition to gay marriage is not necessarily bigoted, that calling people bigots is not helpful, etc. However, while I don't call all opposition to gay marriage bigotry, I would have to say that the TVC's advocacy of intolerance would constitute bigotry according to the dictionary definition of the word. Calling people bigots is not something I take lightly, because the term tends to denote disrespect. They have a right to their First Amendment views, and while I respect that right, that doesn't mean I have to respect the views themselves. So, if the definition of "Traditional Values" is the same as the one given above, I would disagree that they deserve respect.
Then again, what is "respect"? Even that can be weaselly:
If respect means holding in high or special regard, it is impossible for someone to give that to views he considers bigoted. Lest anyone think I am quibbling over the meaning of "respect," consider that Congress is prohibited from passing laws "respecting an establishment of religion," yet there is no genuine consensus over what the word means. (I tend to agree with the people who think it means "regarding" as opposed to "esteeming" or "admiring.") But I think that to the extent that the above-listed "traditional values" are religious in nature, it might actually be violative of the First Amendment for the government to get involved in "respecting" them.
It also occurred to me that by using the phrase "traditional values", Quick's idea might have been to broaden the definition of what has become (thanks to groups like the TVC) an otherwise loaded and inflammatory code-language term, in the hope that it is weakened so that all those followers of both "sides" in the culture war don't continue to assume it means being intolerantly anti-gay, opposed to pornography, and in favor of drug law enforcement.
If that is the case, I'm all for it. How could I not be? After all, my use of the word "classical" reflects a similar goal. What is tradition? Ours is Judeo-Christian and Greco-Roman, which as I have noted repeatedly, the tradition stretches pretty far back in time:
I should stress for the benefit of all readers (and not just the Post-Modernist ones who are trained to notice these things) that I deliberately used the term "B.C." out of respect for our Christian tradition. (I could easily have used the less respectful "BCE" which has unnecessarily come into vogue.)
In his essay, Bill Quick later expands upon his choice of words:
No one can doubt that the tea parties -- and the fiscal conservatism and respect for traditional conservative and libertarian values they represent -- are a legitimate and growing force in American politics. The question is: to what purpose will this force be directed? Will it become a third party, on the order of the powerful but short-lived Perot uprising that led to both the election of Bill Clinton and the destruction of fifty years of Democrat dominance in the House of Representatives but eventually faded away? Or will it wield its influence to retake the GOP and reinvigorate the Grand Old Party?I'm all for "respect for traditional conservative and libertarian values," because I try to be polite and respect everyone's values and not just my own. But I'm still confused, not only because I like to know the meaning of phraseology, but because I don't want to idly toss a phrase around which might be interpreted as meaning that I respect political beliefs I do not respect, profferred by admittedly intolerant people who do not respect mine.
I'm not alone in my confusion. Commenter CatoRenasci expresses a worry (perhaps grounded in the way the term is used by groups like the TVC) that there might be a certain incompatibility between libertarian and conservative values which hasn't yet been solved:
There is no question that the Republican Party, ironically itself a third party movement that eclipsed the Whigs, must either embody the anti-statist position or be replaced by a party that does.Far be it from me to solve the problems of "the right." (I don't even know whether I am on the right; I only know that I am definitely not on the left.) I like to think that there is a solution in the limited government, federalist approach. The trouble with that is that it requires an honest admission -- from everyone -- that no matter what side you're on, the federal government is not there to enact your values. Whether they're "traditional" or Judeo-Christian, modern or Greco-Roman, tolerant or intolerant, and whether they're deemed worthy of "respect" or not.
MORE: M. Simon left a great comment to Bill Quick's post:
I favor respect for American values. When I point out to my friends something quintessentially American I say "That is as American as Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n Roll."American values I can respect.
posted by Eric on 02.18.10 at 01:18 PM
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