Wednesday, May 17, 2006


George Will has a fantastic column in tommorow's WaPo discussing an aspect of American political discourse - the "values voters" on the cultural conservative right. My issue is not that they aren't casting their votes based on values, but rather that the rest of us aren't. Will:
This phrase diminishes our understanding of politics. It also is arrogant on the part of social conservatives and insulting to everyone else because it implies that only social conservatives vote to advance their values and everyone else votes to . . . well, it is unclear what they supposedly think they are doing with their ballots.
Just so.

Now, we can disagree on the normative worth of our respective values (and as Calimachus says here, should do so as strenuosly as necessary,) but certain 'values' are not, by definition superior to others:
Conservatives should be wary of the idea that when they talk about, say, tax cuts and limited government -- about things other than abortion, gay marriage, religion in the public square and similar issues -- they are engaging in values-free discourse. And by ratifying the social conservatives' monopoly of the label "values voters," the media are furthering the fiction that these voters are somehow more morally awake than others.
Precisely - I would suggest that supporting the rule of law and opposing torture reflect values just as much as promoting abstinence and opposing abortion. Once again, we can disagree as to importance, but finger wagging about moral seriousness doesn't do much aside from make the wagger feel superior and the waggee feel pissed. Will seems to recognize this point as well:
Today's liberal agenda includes preservation, even expansion, of the welfare state in its current configuration in order to strengthen an egalitarian ethic of common provision. Liberals favor taxes and other measures to produce a more equal distribution of income. They may value equality indiscriminately, but they vote their values.

Among the various flavors of conservatism, there is libertarianism that is wary of government attempts to nurture morality and there is social conservatism that says unless government nurtures morality, liberty will perish. Both kinds of conservatives use their votes to advance what they value.
And he concludes that despite their differences, the two frontrunners for 2008 have one thing in common:
both are and will remain busy courting only values voters, because there is no other kind.
As some say, read the whole thing.

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