The good Americans – who like to call themselves the Real Americans – have told the rest of us what’s wrong with us. Mitt Romney didn’t do that directly – he spoke to a private gathering of good Americans and explained to them what’s wrong with the rest of us – and that was secretly recorded and then broadcast to the world. But it wasn’t a lecture. He spoke, rather clinically, of the Forty-Seven Percent. Those were the Americans who had no sense of personal responsibility, who expected their government to do things for them with the tax money it collected from everyone – money the good people had paid to the government. That money was for other things. These people should get off their lazy fat asses and make something of their sad little grubbing lives. They should take responsibility for those basically immoral lives– but his point was strategic. He had decided to write off these people.
That was his only point. These morally inadequate people were going to vote for Obama anyway. His plan was to win the votes of everyone else, the good people, and he really wasn’t trying to be insulting. He was explaining how he’d make the most of his donors’ money, how he would use it efficiently. They were sitting right there in front of him. This was for them. He was just explaining his general plan to win the presidency to those who would finance it – but nothing is private anymore. When the video of his comments went public, even with the shaky images and bad sound, people were insulted. They had thought they were good people, struggling hard to just get by, and thus actually chock full of personal responsibility. Who the hell was this guy? He was a rich and powerful jerk from a rich and powerful family. What did he know about personal responsibility?
That sunk Mitt Romney, along with his general cluelessness and his awkwardness and woodenness. The complete absence of anything even vaguely resembling charisma didn’t help either – but it’s not as if his Forty-Seven Percent comments were anything new. Reagan had spoken of those Welfare Queens. Paul Ryan and every other Republican who worships Ayn Rand talks of the Makers and the Takers – another way to designate who is a good and who is bad in this world. Everyone from Herman Cain to CNN’s Erin Burnett made fun of the Occupy Wall Street crowd back in the day – those people should just get jobs, anyone with an ounce of self-respect can get rich, and those folks in the street are just jealous. These are not good people – and now those black folks in Ferguson and Baltimore aren’t good people either. Get a job. Maybe the police wouldn’t have to beat the crap out of you or shoot you dead if you weren’t hanging around with nothing to do, with a bad attitude. And no one should get food stamps or anything else. That only makes these moochers-with-attitude even worse people. Life is hard for them? That’s their own damned fault. Ask Bill O’Reilly.
There has always been a whole lot of lecturing going on, and much of it is from the social conservatives. Abortion is murder, no matter what the circumstances, rape of incest or whatever, and maybe contraception is murder too. God said so. Good people have nothing to do with either, and they have nothing to do with gays. Those are not good people. They should not be allowed to marry each other. They don’t deserve it – and Hollywood is ruining everything too. It’s all those naked people. Good girls are modest, and now there are all these pre-teen girls dressing like tramps, or little whores, or skanks, or whatever. And don’t get them started on sex education, or on what that leads to – premarital sex. Good girls are pure and keep themselves pure. Bad girls don’t. This is a matter of family values. Should we listen and mend our ways?
That just got harder:
In the wake of a tabloid report alleging that he molested several underage girls while he was a teenager, reality-television star Josh Duggar said Thursday that he “acted inexcusably” and was “deeply sorry” for what he called “my wrongdoing.”
The 27-year-old Duggar, a high-profile member of the evangelical Christian family that stars on TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting,” also resigned his post with the Family Research Council, a conservative lobbying organization.
“Twelve years ago, as a young teenager, I acted inexcusably for which I am extremely sorry and deeply regret,” Duggar said in a statement posted on Facebook on Thursday. “I hurt others, including my family and close friends. I confessed this to my parents who took several steps to help me address the situation.”
“We spoke with the authorities where I confessed my wrongdoing, and my parents arranged for me and those affected by my actions to receive counseling. I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life.”
Hours before Duggar’s statement, In Touch Weekly had published a partially redacted police report from the Springdale Police Department in Arkansas that, the tabloid said, contained details of the allegations against Duggar. The report redacted the name of the suspect and the alleged victims, all juveniles, but listed Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar as relatives. The incidents occurred in 2002 and 2003.
Well, nothing is private anymore:
Josh Duggar is the oldest child in the family that stars in the popular show, “19 Kids and Counting,” which began as “17 Kids and Counting” in 2008. Duggar, his wife, Anna, and their three children live in Washington, where Duggar worked as executive director of FRC Action, the nonprofit lobbying arm of the Family Research Council.
The FRC, a conservative Christian organization led by Tony Perkins, is known for its advocacy against same-sex marriage, “with the mission to champion marriage and family as the foundation of civilization, the seedbed of virtue, and the wellspring of society.”
Perkins said in a statement Thursday that Duggar resigned from his post “as a result of previously unknown information becoming public concerning events that occurred during his teenage years.”
“Josh believes that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work,” Perkins added.
Understatement is amusing, but this is a mess:
Duggar was running a used-car lot before he became the new face of the Family Research Council. Duggar’s dad, Jim Bob Duggar, served in the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1999 to 2002. As executive director of FRC Action, Josh Duggar would attend the major functions and share photos of himself with Republican candidates.
Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar said in a statement, also posted on the Duggar family’s Facebook page on Thursday, that the period 12 years ago was “one of the most difficult times of our lives. When Josh was a young teenager, he made some very bad mistakes, and we were shocked. We had tried to teach him right from wrong. That dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before.”
Josh Duggar’s wife, Anna – who is pregnant with their fourth child – added that her husband told her of his “past teenage mistakes” two years before he proposed to her and that he had received counseling that “changed his life.”
This is awkward, and it is political:
The Duggars have endorsed Mike Huckabee for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, and on Friday morning, the former Arkansas governor said that he and his wife, Janet, wanted “to affirm our support for the Duggar family.”
“Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable,'” Huckabee wrote on Facebook. “He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story. Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things.”
It may be time to circle the Republican wagons:
The FRC, from which Josh Duggar resigned on Thursday, is known in Washington for hosting a Values Voters Summit, which regularly gathers Republican politicians trying to run for president. The organization’s budget in 2013 was about $13 million, according to its financial statements.
“Family Research Council is one of the major players among the pro-family social conservatives and has a major D.C. presence,” said Tobin Grant, a political scientist at Southern Illinois University, who compared the FRC to the Heritage Foundation or the American Family Association. “It still represents an old guard of people who are pushing the culture wars and traditional family values.”
On the other hand, in 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center controversially listed FRC as an anti-gay hate group. Republican politicians trying to run for president have ignored that – liberals whine about all sorts of things – but this will be hard to ignore.
Bob Cesca points that out:
Huckabee’s soft-pedaling here, as well as his attempt to pivot the scandal into the laps of everyone else but the perpetrators, makes it seem as if Josh Duggar innocently blurted an obscenity on the radio, or was caught shoplifting a bag of chips from a 7-Eleven. He confessed to repeatedly molesting young girls. Then he and his family engaged in a lengthy cover-up, while foisting Josh into the spotlight of their television show and allowing him to proselytize in support of the twisted Duggar concept of “family values,” which included shaming the LGBT community. There’s no way to soft-pedal something like this, but Huckabee managed to do it, and it inextricably tethers the presidential candidate to these unforgivable people.
And it kind of makes sense, too.
Usually when an anti-LGBT Christian conservative is caught in a sex scandal, the real crime is the hypocrisy. In the case of Josh Duggar and his family, it’s about the crime and the hypocrisy and the scam, all functioning in tandem, that make this particular scandal so horrendously ugly.
And here we go again:
Huckabee has repeatedly shoehorned himself into various news cycles by condemning everyone from single mothers to Beyoncé. Regarding the latter, where was the soft-pedaling about Beyoncé’s (comparatively inconsequential) song lyrics, for which he publicly scolded both Beyoncé and, amazingly, the president and Mrs. Obama?
Interesting how Huckabee reprimanded the Obamas for allowing their daughter to listen to Beyoncé, and yet he can’t quite bring himself to similarly wag his finger at Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar for manufacturing an environment that led to their son becoming a sexual predator, while concurrently burying the crime and scamming television viewers into unknowingly following the allegedly wholesome, Christian life of that predator. Put another way: Beyoncé and the Obamas are immoral because of song lyrics, but Jim Bob, Michelle and Josh Duggar are, according to Huckabee, “honest” and “good people.” (Insert your own race-based observations here.)
This can only get worse:
Jim Bob Duggar withheld the molestation from the police for an entire year while he ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, and when Jim Bob finally reported the molestation to the police, he approached a family friend in the Arkansas State Police who was later nabbed for child pornography. And then the Duggars knowingly and self-righteously presented themselves as reality show saints, floating like winged cherubim above the homosexual riffraff, hurling down condemnations and outright lies at the sodomites whenever an opportunity presented itself. The Duggar television brand, while based on real life, is clearly and carefully sculpted to bury the nasty truth.
For seven years, television viewers, whether hate-watching or not, made the “19 Kids and Counting” show a massive hit; glued to their TVs for never-ending Duggar marathons, rooting for America’s largest and most clean-cut Christian family. Jim Bob, a self-professed Christian, obviously calculated that the gold-mine was worth con-job.
Likewise, Mike Huckabee is scamming his political supporters, hubristically comporting himself as a serious candidate when it ought to be fully transparent to anyone paying attention that he’s running simply to burnish his career and to augment his personal wealth.
Huckabee’s candidacy isn’t about helping his supporters who, by the way, are donating their hard-earned cash and limited spare time to his campaign; Huckabee’s candidacy is all about increasing his media cache, it’s about boosting his speaking fees and strengthening his hand in preparation for his next Fox News Channel contract. Former George W. Bush speechwriter, David Frum saliently refers to Fox News and AM talk radio as the “conservative entertainment complex” and Huckabee is one of the main stage players.
This can’t be emphasized enough: Huckabee is taking money from ordinary Americans who think he’s in the race to win and to change things, when in reality he has no hope of winning and he knows it.
That is a bit harsh, but then there’s Joan Walsh:
This comes on the heels of court transcripts revealing that bullying patriarch Bill O’Reilly, another purveyor of right-wing family values, used to return to his family and “go ballistic,” in his words, once dragging ex-wife down the stairs by the neck in front of his daughter. The daughter called his outbursts “scary and demeaning,” but also told a counselor she didn’t have much of a relationship with him because he was “never around.”
Of course, that didn’t stop O’Reilly from lecturing African Americans on how to raise their families, blaming black community troubles on “no supervision, kids with no fathers.” Now we know that instead of taking care of their own children, O’Reilly and the Duggars were out telling other people how to take care of theirs.
Or in the case of the Duggars and LGBT folks, telling them they couldn’t have any. With 19 biological kids of their own, the Duggars should have been way too tired for that level of homophobic activism, but they made time for it. And yes, a staple of their screechy preaching has been that LGBT people… wait for it… molest children!
That really was their thing:
Stellar mom Michelle Duggar made a robocall pushing the repeal of a local anti-discrimination ordinance, arguing that it would allow “child predators” to threaten “the safety and innocence of a child.” Maybe she had a guilty conscience.
Josh himself claimed anti-discrimination laws “protect one group of people over another” and make it hard to “protect the well-being of women and children in our cities.”
On the campaign trail in 2012, Duggar told reporters “Our family is like the epitome of conservative values. People connect to us in that way.”
Much of the 2016 GOP presidential field has connected to Josh, at least, who seems to have a vanity photo with a most of the 19 (or so) and counting GOP presidential contenders. The entire Republican field is united on the inferiority of gay families, but hails parents like the Duggars, who let their son prey on his sisters for a year without going to authorities.
Meanwhile, Fox News remains silent about the behavior of O’Reilly, because his angry white patriarch shtick is the core of its brand. The NFL is now more sensitive to the concerns of women’s rights advocates than Fox is.
It was a tough week for sanctimonious creeps, but it wasn’t so great for the rest of us, either.
We’ve been lectured for far too long, and the Atlantic’s Megan Garber explains the particulars here:
All reality TV – and reality TV about families, in particular – revels in the systemic collision of intimacy and publicity, the none-of-your-business and the everybody’s-business. All famous families are alike; all famous families are unhappy in their own way.
But the Duggars, whose recent additions to their family have made them, now, the stars of “19 Kids and Counting,” also represent a unique strain of reality TV stars. They are, on the one hand, like the Thompsons and the Kardashians and the hair-gelled kids from Jersey Shore: They consider what it means to be a family. These shows, which celebrate and denigrate their stars in pretty much equal measure, would be painfully unwatchable if it weren’t for that. And “19 Kids” presents a particularly charming answer to the question of family-hood. It offers up a (very large) group of people who enjoy each other, who tease each other, who laugh with each other—who seem to like as well as love each other.
The difference between the Duggars and their fellow reality-TV families, though, has been that the Kardashians and the Thompsons and their fellow families don’t claim moral superiority over their viewers. They claim, instead, a moral distance from those viewers. The Kardashians, in some ways the polar opposites of the Duggars, revel in their uniqueness, in their marginality, in the collection of idiosyncrasies that got them their own reality show(s) in the first place. The Kardashians have no interest in making people want to be like them. They have an interest, instead, in making people want to be not at all like them. They have an interest in inspiring fascination rather than emulation. Their weirdness is their capital, and their currency.
Not so the Duggars, who use their fame – their TV show(s), their book(s), their various political appearances – as platforms for evangelism. And evangelism not just for a religion, but for something more basic: a lifestyle. A lifestyle that is so inflected with moral messaging that we might as well call it A Way of Life. The Duggar children are home-schooled. Michelle Duggar, who recently recorded a robocall arguing against protections for LGBT and transgender residents of Fayetteville, Arkansas, doesn’t allow her daughters to wear shorts or skirts with hems that fall above the knee because an exposed thigh, she has explained, amounts to “nakedness and shame.” The girls generally avoid beaches and swimming pools under the same logic. Jessa Duggar (whose recent wedding TLC treated as a Very Special Event, dedicating multiple episodes to it) married her fiancé not just having never had sex with him, but having never kissed him.
Fine – if that makes her happy – but the whole thing was one long lecture, or a sales job that somehow ended up on The Learning Channel:
The overall effect of the show and the books and the overall omnipresence of the Duggars is promotional – and promotional, in particular, of a way of life that rejects the norms of the mass culture in favor a kind of moral libertarianism. “19 Kids and Counting” doubles as an extended infomercial for “family values” as the Duggars define them. … And the show, being what it is, spreads the messaging beyond television alone. On TLC’s website, the older Duggar children keep “life books”: virtual scrapbooks “where you can immerse yourself in the milestone events of Duggar family members who’ve recently had memorable life moments – courtship, marriage, pregnancy, and so on.” Michelle has her blog. Jessa has her Instagram account. Josh has his, too – and, until yesterday, a high-profile job at Washington’s conservative Family Research Council.
So the Duggars have built a micro-empire by way of the mass media. They are celebrating the rejection of mass culture through the tools of that culture. They have been using their fame; now, they are victims of it. The extremely sad scandal they are now contending with is what happens when family values collide with cultural norms.
Garber wonders what The Learning Channel will do now:
Earlier this year, the network cancelled “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo,” its alternatively beloved and belittled spinoff of “Toddlers and Tiaras,” after that show’s matriarch, Mama June, began dating a convicted child molester. (He never appeared on the show.) But “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo” was not morality in the guise of entertainment; with “19 Kids” the stakes are higher. What will TLC do now that the show that so stridently celebrates the wholesome is wholesome no longer?
That’s easy – they pulled all past episodes and are mum on continuing the thing. That makes sense, because the new the headline from Gallup is “On Social Ideology, the Left Catches Up to the Right” – so the writing is on the wall:
Gallup first asked Americans to describe their views on social issues in 1999, and has repeated the question at least annually since 2001. The broad trend has been toward a shrinking conservative advantage, although that was temporarily interrupted during the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency. Since then, the conservative advantage continued to diminish until it was wiped out this year.
Ed Kilgore adds detail:
That in itself is significant, but if you add partisanship into the mix, the change is even more significant. As recently as 2009, 31% of self-identified Democrats also self-identified as “conservative” or “very conservative” on “social issues.” That was a bit of an outlier, but the number was in the low twenties earlier. Now it’s at 14%, even as the “liberal/very liberal” total has spiked to an all-time high of 53%. There’s been a smaller but still significant shift among Republicans from “conservative’/very conservative” to “moderate,” but the overall trend is being driven by Democrats.
Kevin Drum adds perspective:
For a long time, one of the rocks of political analysis in America has been the simple fact that conservatives outnumber liberals. That’s been true since at least the 60s, and probably for the entire postwar period – and it’s been a perpetual millstone around Democratic necks. They couldn’t win national elections just by getting the liberal vote and a little bit of the center-right vote. They had to get a lot of the center-right vote.
But it now looks like that era is coming to an end. With social issues increasingly defining politics, a social liberal is, for all practical purposes, just a plain old liberal – and the trend of increasing liberal ID is already underway.
How did that happen? It was all the lectures, lectures about very bad people. Says who?