Tea Party Morality: Why We Laugh When Politicians Promote 'Family Values'
One of the funniest people in this country today is a man named Tony Perkins, a pious Republican who surpasses any atheist comedian or liberal pundit in lampooning the “pro-family” pretensions of the American right. The latest joke perpetrated by Perkins is a “True Blue” award bestowed by the Family Research Council of America — over which he presides — on Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL), recognizing the legislator’s “unwavering support of the family.”
Perkins’ twisted sense of humor is obvious to anyone who knows much about Walsh, whose ex-wife is suing the freshman Congressman for failing to pay more than $100,000 in support owed for their three children. He claims that she agreed “verbally” that he could withhold payment whenever he was short of funds. She says he is lying. Either way, this distasteful dispute hardly reflects Walsh’s deep devotion to family values.
But then anyone who knows much about Perkins would say that the Walsh case is only the latest example of his established taste for self-parody. In that vein, he may never surpass the Family Research Council’s endorsement of Senator David Vitter (R-LA) last year – not long after the Louisiana Republican admitted to patronizing the notorious “D.C. Madam.” At the time, Perkins scolded Vitter for adultery, while nevertheless praising him for his renewed commitment to their shared ideology.
“He left me convinced that I should give him another chance,” said Perkins after meeting with the disgraced Senator. “He certainly has not changed his positions. If anything, he’s gotten stronger and more resolute in his firm conservative stance.” Listening to that pap, it wasn’t easy to decide whether Perkins had been duped, or merely believed that everyone else would be.
As for Walsh, his personal misconduct clearly doesn’t worry Perkins so long as he adheres to the extreme political positions of the religious far right, which demands the repeal of health care reform, the revival of official discrimination against gays and lesbians, and the restriction of women’s reproductive rights. That makes him a defender of “faith, family, and freedom,” no matter what he does to his kids.
Only Mark Twain or Moliere could do justice to such a continuing tableau of unblushing fraudulence, which stretches back well over a decade to the years when Newt Gingrich and the Christian Coalition dominated Capitol Hill. Back then, vice of every variety ruined the marriages of many leading members of the Congressional class of 1994. But their personal behavior mattered not at all so long as they voted the corporate party line and recited the same old bigotries.
They were the Tea Party zealots of their time – and now Walsh, aside from his credentials as a True Blue family man, can boast that he is a Tea Party favorite and a member of its caucus in the House.
Walsh is a ridiculous figure and so is Perkins, but there is nothing amusing about their politics. And even the “pro-family” comedy wears thin on closer examination, because these men represent the worst enemies of the family in America today.
They rail against Medicare and health care reform, which save families from devastation by rising insurance costs, unaffordable care, and pre-existing conditions. They oppose extending unemployment insurance, which permits jobless breadwinners to feed and shelter their families. They want to destroy Social Security, which permits the elderly to live with a modicum of dignity even when their families cannot afford to support them.
They have turned family values into a bad joke – and there are millions of earnest Americans who still don’t get it.