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Perspective

Defending the Family From Its Defenders

The phrase "family values," as it is used by politicians, marks one of the official borders between left and right in the United States. The fact is infuriating to Republican moderates who want to turn their party in the direction of opportunity and choice, which—translated into moral terms—mean adultery, divorce, and infanticide, the apparent credo of the Northeastern Republican senators who handed President Clinton his triumph over impeachment. Out here, however, a thousand miles from Sodom and Gomorrah, a man cannot entirely rid himself of the idea that the whole point to economic opportunity is to be able to make enough money to take care of his wife and children. Such a man will never be able to compromise with a party that advocates cheating and infanticide.

On both sides of the moral frontier, there are a few emigres: leftists like David Blankenhorn, who have made capital (political as well as economic) out of marriage, and conservative Republicans like Phil Gramm and Steve Forbes, who in the 1996 campaign hardly mentioned the family. These exceptions, however, only prove the rule: Blankenhorn is denounced as a conservative by the Nation, even though he is a leftist who used to hang out with the communists at Highlander Folk School; and Steve Forbes has had to change his political tune sufficiently to accommodate a few bars of "Mother" and "Sonny Boy."

For moral reactionaries...

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