Family-Values Politics Loses Its Value

As Democrats take on antiabortion and abstinence-only funding, some Republicans fall prey to sex scandals.

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The beginning of the end of family-values politics? As sex scandals plague top Republicans, Democratic presidential candidates promise attacks on antiabortion and abstinence-only funding, and more states reject federal dollars to teach abstinence-only in public schools, one wonders whether all this put together signals the beginning of the end of family-values politics.

Launched as then Vice President Dan Quayle's theme during the 1992 presidential campaign, politicians promoting family values have succeeded in implementing many of their goals: cutting back significantly on abortion rights, spending more than a billion federal dollars on abstinence-only education, and limiting access to contraception.

But a revolt appears to be brewing. This week the major democratic presidential candidates committed  to reversing the Bush administration's approach to abortion rights, judicial appointments, sex education, and contraception.

All this is happening as several major GOP figures fall prey to sex scandals, the latest being Republican Sen. David Vitter, who recently apologized for his "very serious sin" of patronizing a Washington, D.C., call-girl ring.

That same Vitter, at the time a Louisiana state representative, wrote an op-ed piece for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He weighed in on the question of whether then President Bill Clinton should be impeached because he had lost the moral authority to govern:

The writings of the Founding Fathers are very instructive on this issue. They are not cast in terms of political effectiveness at all but in terms of right and wrong—moral fitness. Hamilton writes in the Federalist Papers (No. 65) that impeachable offenses are those that "proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust."

The question occurs: Now that Vitter's family-values pillars have tumbled, might he be leading his own expulsion proceedings in the U.S.Senate?