Fiscally Conned, Socially Conned: The Con Game of Conservative Talking Points

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Fiscally Conned, Socially Conned: The Con Game of Conservative Talking Points

Scott Swenson

As the reality of governing-by-deregulation-talking-points trickles down upon us, is it too much to hope that voters might see through social conservative talking points too?

As the reality of governance by fiscal conservative talking points about deregulation trickles down upon us, is it too much to hope that voters might see through social conservative talking points too? Neither set of talking points has changed in almost 30 years.

Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks talks about it as the destruction within the Republican Party with respect to the economic stabilization plan:

House Republicans led the way and will get most of the blame. It
has been interesting to watch them on their single-minded mission to
destroy the Republican Party. Not long ago, they led an
anti-immigration crusade that drove away Hispanic support. Then, too,
they listened to the loudest and angriest voices in their party,
oblivious to the complicated anxieties that lurk in most American minds.

Now they have once again confused talk radio with reality. If this
economy slides, they will go down in history as the Smoot-Hawleys of
the 21st century. With this vote, they’ve taken responsibility for this
economy, and they will be held accountable. The short-term blows will
fall on John McCain, the long-term stress on the existence of the
G.O.P. as we know it.

Sex. Abortion. Parenthood. Power.

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I’ve spoken with several House
Republicans over the past few days and most admirably believe in
free-market principles. What’s sad is that they still think it’s 1984.
They still think the biggest threat comes from socialism and Walter
Mondale liberalism.

Talk radio. Fear-mongering lying email forwards. Distortions of fact and outright misinformation have been the tools of the conservative movement.  At least the fiscal conservative talking points were based on an economic theory, however discredited it is. Social conservative talking points are, and always have been, total fiction.

These people truly put the "con" in conservative.

At least a couple of social conservative talking points are already punch lines that need no explanation:

  • Intelligent Design should be equated with science
  • Abstinence-only-until-marriage programs work

VIDEO: Comprehensive Sex Ed vs. Abstinence-OnlyVIDEO: Comprehensive Sex Ed vs. Abstinence-Only
Both of those concepts threaten the education of our youth, robbing many children of critical thinking skills, lessons about functioning in the real world, respect, and personal responsibility. As we are witnessing, those are important lessons to learn if you want to actually govern in the 21st Century.  In a culturally diverse and changing global economy dominated by math and science, these programs are the epitome of the dumbing down of America.

I say that as a Christian and an American, tired of seeing faith and patriotism demeaned by those who abuse both to gain and hold political power. Forgiveness is an important lesson many faiths teach, and important for us all to remember as the reality of conservative talking points hits the fan.

Another social conservative talking point, not yet as familiar to Americans not paying close attention:

  • Contraception is the same thing as abortion

VIDEO: Emergency Contraception is Not AbortionVIDEO: Emergency Contraception is Not Abortion
Within a few weeks, the Bush Administration may issue a ruling that allows individual doctors to determine that based solely on their personal beliefs, not medical facts. They have attacked contraception at home and abroad during two terms in office.

Giving the benefit of the doubt to people who truly believe that life begins at conception, as an article of faith, meaning that every sperm and egg is sacred, and every fertilized egg a person — I can see how some people believe this.  But that is a narrow belief and as such, is not something to be codified into law.  Social conservatives cannot abuse our democracy to pursue their personal faith. We’re not electing spiritual leaders, but someone to govern, with liberty and justice for all. It is important government leads from a place of respect for faith, based on core values culled from our diverse experiences, not political posturing dressed up in "value voter" drag. History hasn’t been kind to people who impose their belief, religious or political, on every other person. 

As a result of fiscal conservative policies, it is more important than ever that people plan their families. Out of work without disposable income, couples have lots of time on their hands. We should work to make contraception more, not less, accessible or prepare for  the Bush Bust Baby Boom, a fitting legacy.

Secretary Leavitt, why don’t you find an ounce of respect for the 98% of American women (and their partners) who use contraception at some point in their lives, and let their conscience be your guide?

One of my personal favorite social conservative talking points is:

  • People "choose" to be gay


The irony? Even though they are wrong, finally social conservatives are pro-choice!

The hypocrisy? Social conservatives would likely use advances in genetic engineering and stem cell research, which they love to rail against, to "pray away the gay" scientifically, if they could. 

I’ve been gay all my life. I chose to be honest about it after working through the lies told by the far-right and accepting myself.  I also chose to be a Christian, and have had that choice tested by far-right hatred and condemnation.  The only time I was ever truly tested about my sexuality was with the woman I chose to be honest with about my life before engaging hers with mine. She is amazing and if it was nothing but a choice, would have made it very easy. Jesus is amazing too, and both she and he loved me exactly as I am, even in the face of such anti-Evangelism as is spewed from the far-right. But somehow the far-right during the election portrays their side as "victims" who are "threatened." Which leads to their next talking point:

  • America was founded as a Christian Nation

Wow.  It’s a not a big leap from dinosaurs and man walked the earth at the same time to this one, I suppose.  Technically, if this was true, we’d all be Anglicans. For all their schisms, at least Anglicans keep their food fights within their own lunchroom.  Or we could all be Iroquois, since our Constitution was modeled in part on the Iroquois Confederacy, tribes who understood deep faith, spirituality and respect for earth and all beings.

Why must these mega-televised-dominionist religions usurp a perfectly good democracy and run it into the ground with such bitter political division, resulting in the most socially conservative president in history unable to lead his own party during a time of fiscal crisis?  Could we get a little equal time for Buddha’s Four Noble Truths if every talk show host and pundit feels it necessary to run through the Baltimore Catechism, or if special interest lobbyists for the Catholic Conference of Bishops are going to have de facto veto power in Congress and state legislatures? Could we get more than an obligatory reference to Jewish Holy Days?  If Evangelical preachers get to moderate political debates, how about at least acknowledging peace loving Muslim-Americans instead of equating them all with terrorists?

America was founded on religious freedom because of people escaping religious persecution. Of all people, the social conservative descendants of Puritans, and the warped ideas about human sexuality that came with them, should know that.

But all social cons care about, they claim, is abortion.

  •  Abortion is …

VIDEO: Does Life Begin at Fertilization?VIDEO: Does Life Begin at Fertilization?
The truth is the anti-choice movement has a million abortion talking points and only one of them is true. Abortion can hurt. It hurts being stigmatized for having an abortion, for making the best choice for yourself or your family about an unintended pregnancy in a difficult moment. Not being able to get an abortion hurts too, women all over the world, and will again in the US if Roe is overturned and a federal abortion ban passed. Abortion hurts our democracy, making it impossible to govern, as we now see in the midst of a fiscal crisis — so wed to ideology and talking points are conservatives that they cannot imagine how to do anything but obstruct. 

We can disagree about abortion and live lives true to our individual values, working to reduce unintended pregnancy, without undermining our entire political system, but social conservatives will not rest until their talking points on abortion are imposed on every American.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote about the division in Congress saying,

I always said to myself: Our government is so broken that it can only
work in response to a huge crisis. But now we’ve had a huge crisis, and
the system still doesn’t seem to work. Our leaders, Republicans and
Democrats, have gotten so out of practice of working together that even
in the face of this system-threatening meltdown they could not agree on
a rescue package, as if they lived on Mars and were just visiting us
for the week, with no stake in the outcome.


In the past two years some politicians have attempted to move beyond talking points toward common sense. Pro-choice members of both parties along with pro-life Democrats worked together to propose ideas like the Prevention First Act, the Responsible Education About Life Act, Access to Birth Control Act, the Unintended Pregnancy Reduction Act and other common sense ideas. The reality is, social conservatives have demonstrated as much interest in working on common sense policies to reduce unintended pregnancies, as fiscal conservatives have been willing to provide adequate oversight to the wild lending products that created this credit crisis. Not at all. They stuck to their talking points. In this election, social conservative talking points are on overdrive on talk radio, in emails, in misinformation and we see how shallow the talking points are.

People should believe what they believe, and live their life in good conscience, but to govern the United States of America in the 21st Century by shallow talking points is frightening.

Washington is broken. It is time for those who broke it to accept personal responsibility.

We see what the politics of personal destruction, divided government, and fiscal conservative talking points can achieve, do we really want to overturn Roe v. Wade, make contraception illegal, subjugate women, continue discriminating against gay citizens, play on racial and ethnic fears, and teach Intelligent Design and abstinence-only-until-marriage — as official US government policy? Do we really need to experience more governance by social con ideology and talking points before we understand what it means to lose our individual liberty?

When will we put an end to the con game and stop governing by talking points and find common ground for policies that actually work in America’s pluralistic democracy? 

As soon as we stop electing people who govern by talking points.