Announcing my intentions to run as a Republican for South Carolina’s new 7th Congressional district last autumn, I – in black and white and on these very pages – declared that my candidacy would defy the Republican orthodoxy on family values. Even as I was identifying myself as a conservative candidate, I was distancing myself from that most bedrock of Republican ideals.
Then when this spring I withdrew from the race, I cited my pregnancy as the reason. Guess what phrase I used in interviews with the media? “Family values.” Yep. There I was, not even a politician yet and already lying through my teeth and flip-flopping my positions.
Well, I didn’t exactly lie. … I told the truth, but not the whole truth. It’s true that I’m pregnant and it’s true that I can’t imagine trekking back and forth to D.C. with my tiny new baby. But to place the decision squarely on my growing family, well, that wasn’t a thoroughly honest assessment of my reasons for dropping out of the race.
In a roundabout way, though, “family values” really was the reason I didn’t continue on the path toward Congress.
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You see, I just couldn’t continue to commit myself to a political party that pretends to care about family values while stomping on the spirit of families’ interests. Where I agree with Republicans is that families are indeed the cornerstone of society. But I don’t believe that government officials have any legitimate role in determining which families deserve to be valued.
As it turns out, if you substitute the word “business” in place of “families” in the sentence above, you’ll have a sentence that Republicans repeat almost as a mantra. That’s exactly what is so crazy-making about millennial Republicanism: It proclaims allegiance to limited government – no matter what, forever and ever amen – except when it’s convenient to do otherwise.
Lest you accuse me of pointing out problems without offering solutions, here you go. Three things that pregnancy has taught me about why Republicans have it all wrong when it comes to family values:
1. Foreign policy. The Republican establishment has a fetish for war. Southern conservatives in particular live (and die!) for “God and country.” But on the eve of this Memorial Day, I have to wonder: Why keep committing young Americans to endless wars and wars with no strategy and no parameters for victory? I swear, sometimes I can’t help but hope that the baby in my belly isn’t a boy, lest he someday be some politician’s fall guy in some aimless war.
2. Health care. Back in the 1990s, Republicans evidently understood that it’s actually the rich and the middle class who stand to gain from universal access to health care. That’s because the poor and the elderly can rely on Medicaid and Medicare while regular families struggles to pay premiums. And that’s if they’re eligible for coverage at all, as so many are not – a fact I learned the hard way when I discovered that no private South Carolina health insurer will cover prenatal or maternity care. If Obamacare is problematic, it’s because it doesn’t go far enough in making health care as accessible for middle-class families as it is for poor families.
3. HOAs and POAs. While big-issue topics dominate political conversation, homeowners’ associations just as insidiously erode family freedom. The South Carolina coast in particular seems to have an especially intimidating HOA presence – and unfortunately the state’s laws serve to back up the HOA bullies. This is particularly troubling and ironic in light of our state’s recent attack on labor unions. Homeowner’s associations are but glorified unions. The primary difference is that, in my experience, HOA bullies tend to be retirees. Homeowners’ associations prevent, for example, my husband and I from building a fence around our yard – something we’d like to do to protect our growing family from speeding cars and strangers.
See? “Family values” is a lie, and it’s a lie I won’t keep telling, even if it compromises my chances of running on the Republican ticket. It feels good to come clean.
Contact Wilkes, a local political blogger and former candidate, at firstname.lastname@example.org.