The last presidential election turned out to be a referendum on "values" after all —though the outcome was not what Dan Quayle had in mind when he attacked Murphy Brown. The real values of the GOP were not family values at all. They were, rather, elitist values, a charade unveiled by a failing Reagan/Bush economy. With the ascension of Bill Clinton, it was apparent that it was "...the economy, stupid!", that the GOP White House had for twelve years gone through the motions in a bubble. It was a White House isolated from real problems, real issues, a real world. It was a White House [like that of Bush today] of delusions, spin, and demagogic sloganeering. It was Bush [Senior], himself, who said in his second debate: "I'm not sure I get it". That was one of only two things Bush Sr. was ever right about. The second was "voodoo economics".
But the Reagan/Bush dynasty did not fail. It succeeded in "getting government off the backs" of country club cronies, oil barons, the upper one percent of the nation. Reagan/Bush would be more fondly remembered had it failed. Sadly, twelve years of GOP success either created or rewarded a privileged aristocracy still clamoring for privilege and special treatment by the tax man. This is success that the country would do better without.
The rest of us pegged the family values talk for what it was: old fashion elitism, intolerance, bigotry. What historian Henry Steele Commager said of Warren Harding and the era of normalcy which followed his corrupt, scandal ridden administration can be said of the Reagan/Bush years:
Never before had the government of the United States been more unashamedly the instrument of privileged groups; never before had statesmanship given way so unreservedly to politics.The pundits blame the President's lack of "...the vision thing". However, vision belongs to those who see a need for change and make constructive proposal in good faith. George Bush [Sr] may have been sincere when he said things weren't so bad. They weren't! For him and his rich cronies. Hadn't Marie Antoinette said something similar? Let them eat cake! Had not Herbert Hoover, likewise, opined that the poor might do well to sell apples and oranges from a push cart?
—Henry Steel Commager
Pat Buchanan's "hate speech" at the GOP National Convention proved to have been a throw back to bad ol' days, specifically, the administrations of Harding, Hoover, and Coolidge when American society was materialistic, intolerant, an era when membership in the Ku Klux Klan rose to millions.
Much of the problem is the character of the American rich —the GOP's core constituency. They are overly impressed with themselves. They imagine that they are the "upper class". They delude themselves by thinking themselves intelligent and citing their wealth in evidence. The nouveau riche are the most egregious offenders, more likely to think their wealth deserved.
The English aristocracy —by contrast —are educated at Cambridge and Oxford. An American Rhodes scholar was impressed with English university life and summed it up this way:
Three thousand young men, every one of whom would rather lose a game than play it unfairly.Those are most certainly not the values that can be associated with the party that gave this nation a slogan: Greed is good. Those are not the values of a party knee deep in the Savings and Loan scandal. Those are not the values of the Boeskys, the Helmsleys, Iran/Contra, Watergate, and Iraq-gate.
As mentioned this essay was written in the twilight of Bush Sr's regime as Bill Clinton waited in the wings to take the oath of office. If Bush Junior had merely picked up where Iran/Contra and the Savings and Loan scandal left off, it would have been bad enough. Alas, Junior was not merely crooked, he has attacked the very foundations of our republic. He sold out to his "base" —a venal cabal of the super, super rich, the defense establishment, and the oil industry. He has placed two nations into the hand of this Axis of Privilege and ruthlessness —the United States and Iraq.