Newsweek's Alter Fervently Wishes for 'Demise' of 'Values Voters' in the Fall Elections

What does the "N-word" racial epithet and the pollster term "values voter" have in common? According to Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter, by some elastic calisthenics of the brain, the word "values" needs to be drained of its poison, deprived of its "sting" against liberals, deflated of any political advantage, so that liberals can be seen as just as morality-oriented as conservatives. In describing his column on MSNBC’s Imus in the Morning program on Monday, Alter said this "values voter" term is "driving me nuts," that certain people have a "monopoly" on "so-called traditional values." Alter also displayed an intense desire for the "demise" of "values voters" in the fall election. In his phone interview with Imus in the 6:30 am half hour, Alter told Imus:

You see my Lenny Bruce reference? I try to work him into Newsweek whenever I can. Remember the old routine that he did where he’d use the N-word over and over and over again and then he’d say if we can just say it all the time, it will lose its meaning?...You know, no little black girl can be made tor cry any more, say it so much it becomes meaningless, well. That’s what I want to have happen with this word ‘values,’ ‘values voters,’ which is just driving me nuts. The idea that somehow certain people have a monopoly on values and that, you know, if you are not with them on these issues, that you somehow [mock expression of horror] ‘you don’t share our values.’ And you’re not just wrong, but someone morally inferior if you’re on the other side. And I hope this election is going to mark the demise of the values voters, this idea that people who feel so strongly, you know about these so-called traditional values, that they don’t determine the election the way were seen to have the last time around."

Whoa. That’s an interesting use of words. "Demise" might sound like ‘decline,’ but it primarily means ‘death.’ Is he wishing death on social conservatives? Or is he just verbally clumsy? (Don't tell me Alter would let Sen. George Allen off the carpet with a verbal miscue like that.)  On the one hand Alter wants to declare that social conservatives will not win out as they did last time, but then he has to claim not only that their traditional values are "so-called," but that they were merely "seen" to have been decisive. So if they weren’t decisive, why is Alter so "nuts" that they might influence the election again this year? He wrapped up:

"And the indications are they have less clout this time out. You know, there are a lot of reports that they are going to stay home which is bad news for the Republicans."

You can clearly hear through his irritation, saying "Social conservatives, go home. Religious right-wingers, get out. Stop ruining our liberal utopia, where abortion is widely available and gays getting married is the highest expression of our societal progress." Here’s Alter's festival of wishful thinking in the Newsweek column suggesting that Republicans will stew in their own disgusting social-conservative juices:

Now fallout from the Mark Foley story is giving the GOP establishment a taste of its own sanctimonious medicine, as Democrats tsk-tsk their way back into power. While it's hard to imagine many incumbents losing their seats over the Foley issue alone, the lingering subtext will likely dampen conservative turnout and could help tip close races. Publicity about an influential gay Republican subculture in Washington makes the GOP's pandering on gay marriage less persuasive. And the story adds to the overall sense that the current congressional leadership has failed to offer oversight on a series of moral issues, from corruption to burdening our children with debt to protecting minors from predators in what is supposed to be the "Daddy" party.

More likely, the word will turn into a political football pulled so hard by each team that it finally deflates. Good. That could help lead us back to the hard policy choices we face and the values we have in common..."Values" should be a slice of American apple pie, not a wedge. When all voters are "values voters," the term will lose its sting, just as Lenny Bruce would have wanted.

Liberals like Alter profess that religious liberals have a different agenda to press, to shame conservatives into realizing they also have a biblical duty to assist the poor, a different set of values to vote on. But isn't it obvious to them that this is exactly the "wedge" that they've applied against conservatives since, mmm, the Great Depression? That conservatives didn't share their "values" of assisting the poor? That they cornerered the market on virtue and compassion? Alter isn't sick of "values" having a definition. He's sick of it having a conservative definition. The liberal media wants to rewrite the dictionary so that everyone uses their language with their meaning, and they can't stand it when conservative rhetoric wins with voters.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis