The Right’s Righteous Frauds
Say what you will about Bristol Palin, she’s a quick study. It didn’t take her long to master the ways of her elders on the censorious right and decide that personal circumstance and past error needn’t prevent someone from claiming righteous leadership. Uncle Rush must be proud.
Soon after President Obama stated support for same-sex marriage, Bristol publicly weighed in. Because, you know, the world was on tenterhooks.
In a blog post she focused on the reference that Obama made to his daughters — and to the same-sex parents of some of the girls’ friends.
“It would’ve been helpful for him to explain to Malia and Sasha that while her friends (sic) parents are no doubt lovely people, that’s not a reason to change thousands of years of thinking about marriage,” wrote Bristol, making her heady debut as the new Dr. Spock for a nascent millennium. She added that “in general kids do better growing up in a mother/father home. Ideally, fathers help shape their kids’ worldview.”
Fathers like … Levi Johnston? It’s with him that she conceived her child — out of wedlock, at the age of 17 — and by most accounts, his relationship with her and the Palin family isn’t any warmer than Juneau in January. A mother/father home is not what he and Bristol have succeeded in creating.
What’s more, she has made sure that their son, Tripp, will at some point be treated to a worldview-shaping image of Dad as something akin to a date rapist. That’s the description of him immortalized in her memoir, one of her many efforts to monetize her surname. It recounts the loss of her virginity as a result of getting drunk and blacking out in the company of Levi, who pounced. What a gift that narrative is to Tripp, now being hauled into a TV reality show, “Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp,” already in production. Little children are known to thrive in such environments.
I hesitated before picking on Bristol because she’s an easy target. It’s like shooting moose from a helicopter flying low over the tundra.
But she so perfectly distills the double standards and audacity of so many of our country’s self-appointed moralists and supposed traditionalists: hypocrites whose own histories, along with any sense of shame, tumble out the window as soon as there’s a microphone to be seized or check to be cashed.
She proves that they’re not going away anytime soon — a new generation rises! — and that they haven’t been daunted by the ridicule justly heaped on Newt Gingrich during the Republican primaries, when he dared to cast himself as a religious conservative.
Certainly Rush thunders on. Last week he bellowed that Obama had decided to “lead a war” on traditional marriage. Seems to me Limbaugh started those hostilities long ago, if not with his first divorce then certainly with his second and third.
For entertainment at Wedding No. 4, to a woman 26 years younger than he is, he hired Elton John (who very questionably took the gig). Gays shouldn’t be allowed to tie the knot, but they sure can carry a tune.
More interesting than the tired, press-a-button condemnations from Bristol and Rush was Mitt Romney’s comportment. He didn’t hasten to turn same-sex marriage into a wedge issue, the way Rick Santorum urged him to, or use his commencement speech at Liberty University to fan the flames of hellfire.
He instead held back a bit, no doubt partly because his need at this particular juncture, as he recovers from the compromising and brutalizing primaries, is to pivot to the center, not cling to the right. I think Obama and his tacticians counted on as much.
And I think that the extent to which Romney continues to hold back will have enormous consequence for the Republican Party’s destiny.
Within its uppermost ranks are many champions of small government who squirm at the small-mindedness of the scowling theocrats in an increasingly uneasy coalition. These fiscal conservatives take advantage of the religious right’s political muscle but have reservations about its hectoring piety, and their own views on social issues are often moderate or somewhat liberal. Recall that Republican money played a pivotal role in the successful campaign for same-sex marriage in New York.
It came from donors who don’t want to see Romney take up an anti-gay mantle and who understand that a reputation for intolerance and bigotry imperils the future of the party, which they would like to orient away from stone throwers in glass houses. They’re Rush-fatigued. Palin-weary.
Bristol’s recent parenting advice to the Obamas extended into the realm of TV. She seemed to question whether they were watching “too many episodes of ‘Glee.’ ”
“Life’s a Tripp,” starring a single mom who once sold a family revelation to Us Weekly, will be more edifying, I’m certain. And it will showcase a woman who’s a shining testament to conventional, old-fashioned families.