I feel like this Kerry/affair thing has taken the wind right out of my sails. I'm am reminded so much by it of Bill Clinton and the extreme frustration I felt during his second term. His second term for Pete's sake, how could that have even happened? I never have understood how people could have voted him into office that second time. His re-election shook my faith in the populous. Then despite lying under oath, sexual harassment charges, obvious vocabulary games (read, "more lying"), suspiciously timed military actions and the fact that not one of them would trust him alone with their daughters, they defended him with an intensity seldom seen. Why? I can only think of one reason. He is a Democrat.
John Kerry is a Democrat, too. He has been called Bill Clinton without the charm. Now, whether the allegations of infidelity are true or not, the parallels are drawing closer.
The reason that I'm so down is that I can see a pattern emerging, in the interactions between the Left and Right, that disturbs me greatly. It is based in the underlying philosophy of American Liberalism, Moral Relativism. Moral Relativism says that, "nothing is always right or always wrong," there are always circumstantial conditions which effect the rightness or wrongness of an act (read my earlier post The Decline of the Liberal Left). This manifests itself in an unwillingness to ascribe rightness or wrongness to any act, after all no act is inherently right or wrong it all depends on the situation (thus it's other name, Situational Ethics). Very few "pro-choice" advocates would like to be called "pro-abortion" because they are not, themselves, in favor of abortion. They, themselves, would never have one, but can't imagine telling someone else that it's wrong for them to have one.
In the political arena this shows itself in the Left's willingness to (I almost said,"forgive," but that would indicate that they felt there was initial wrongdoing so I will instead say...) ignore all kinds of things that would scandalize the Right. By definition the Left does not believe there is a moral position on any subject. They do not believe in morals. They do not believe in moral absolutes such as, "it is wrong to discriminate on the basis of race," but rather in situations. For example, they would say it is wrong for the government to discriminate against people of color but it is ok for them to discriminate against white people. Or, "I think killing babies is wrong but everyone has a right to choose for themselves." Moral Relativism is the root of the idea that the Constitution is a "living document" (read dependent on the situation at hand).
This leaves us in a position where things which would scandalize the Right and shake their confidence in a candidate for office (low moral fiber, marital infidelity, corruption, lying, poor military record, etc.) matter not one whit to the Left. They are free to bash away with impunity, without regard to consequences. If the Right turns the tables and says, "your guy did that, too," they just don't care. By definition scandals apply only to the Right.
Muck raking politics only works in favor of the Left. Look at just a couple of scandals. Trent Lott resigns after some nostalgic (and yes, stupid) remarks at a birthday party which Democrats reacted to with gleeful venom (never mind that the nostalgia was for the Democratic off-shoot party, the Dixiecrats) but Robert Byrd a former member of the Klu Klux Klan is still in office and is being defended by his colleagues. Why? He's a Democrat and they don't care. Can you imagine if he were a Republican? Then there would be a scandal (and he would resign in shame). Here's another: In the middle of the Clinton scandals Rebublican Bob Livingston, who was nominated un-opposed for Speaker, resigned because it was brought out that he had had an affair some years earlier. He said, "I must set the example that I hope President Clinton will follow. ... I will not stand for speaker of the House on January 6 but rather will remain as backbencher in this House I love so much." He also said he would quit in six months. Did Clinton follow his example? We all know the answer to that. Did Democrats care? No, they called Republicans hypocrites for even considering supporting Livingston, while they continued to support Clinton for much worse transgressions.
Where does this lead us? That's a difficult question. With Democratic primary voters leaving their personal beliefs on the shelf and supporting, not the candidate who believes as they do, but the candidate who is most likely to beat the Republican incumbent, whomever that may be at the time, we can't appeal to their beliefs. Because their beliefs are so mutable, we can't even figure out what they are in order to appeal to them. Even if we could figure out what their beliefs are we couldn't appeal to them, they have put them on the shelf and even candidates within their own party cannot appeal to them (witness the rise and fall of Howard Dean; principal reason - I don't think he can beat George Bush).
The only hope is people who have not declared undying fealty to a party. The vast undecided. The people who have not put their beliefs on the shelf. The people who pick the winner of this, and every, election. We must stop talking to the decideds, on the Left and on the Right, and talk to the undecideds. Help them to understand the issues from the standpoint of the facts and help them see through the hyperbole.