Republicans scored huge victories nationwide on Tuesday. Families, however, took it on the chin.
Either voters are sending strange, mixed signals or, what is more likely, family values no longer are a perceived part of either party's platform. We’ve come a long way from the days when it was a winning slogan for conservatives.
On Tuesday, voters in Massachusetts elected a Republican governor but, on the same ballot, soundly defeated an initiative that would have strangled the state’s casino gambling industry in its infancy. In Alaska, voters appear (as I write this) to have elected a Republican senator, even as they also voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use. Marijuana was a big winner in Oregon and the District of Columbia, as well.
If you check on dictionary.com, family values is defined as “the moral and ethical principles traditionally upheld and transmitted within a family, as honesty, loyalty, industry, and faith.” Those are principles at odds with the push to legalize what for years has been understood as behavior that is harmful to self and others.
But for at least 20 years now, governors and state lawmakers of both major parties have embraced gambling. Writing on the Christian Science Monitor website two years ago, Jonathan Zimmerman of New York University noted how support of legalized gambling “contradicts the principles that each party claims to hold dear.”
“Sure, some Republicans celebrate it as a triumph of free-market capitalism. By its very nature, however, gambling also corrodes the basic values at the heart of capitalism: individual initiative, discipline, and responsibility.”
As an example of this, he points to a recent advertisement for the Connecticut state lottery. “ ‘When I was younger I suppose I could have done more to plan for my future,’ says a smiling young man. ‘Or I could have made some smart investments.’ But he didn’t, the man admits. Instead, he bought a $1 lotto ticket, and he gets ‘a nice big check every year.’ ”
Meanwhile, legal gambling takes a disproportionate amount of its earnings from the poor, just as it thrives on those with gambling disorders.
Americans learned more than once in the 19th century how government-approved gambling leads to corruption. One lesson not soon forgotten came when the District of Columbia authorized a lottery in 1823 to help pay for civic improvements, then ended up struggling to pay the winner after the agent hired to run the lottery skipped town with the money.
Today we pretend to have guarded against this sort of thing by making government dependent on the gamblers for more than ever.
Marijuana, meanwhile, has gained a foothold under the fiction that it is a harmless drug and that legalizing it won’t lead to an increase in underage usage.
At least one House member, Rep. Andy Harris, R-MD, a doctor, has vowed to make sure Washington’s initiative in favor of recreational pot never goes into effect. According to the Washington Post, Harris said the measure “will result in higher drug use among teens.” Plus, there is the little matter of marijuana use still being illegal under federal law, and Congress retains veto power over what happens in D.C.
“I will consider using all resources available to a member of Congress to stop this action, so that drug use among teens does not increase,” he told the Post in a written statement.
I suspect there won’t be much political will, even among Republicans, to negate an initiative that passed by a roughly 2-to-1 margin, although Congress will have the job of reviewing every little regulation the District of Columbia passes concerning the sale, taxation and regulation of the drug. Besides, the president would have to agree to anything Congress does in that regard, and Barack Obama may not want to hinder what is seen as a wave of acceptance sweeping the land.
Not all waves bring pleasant sounds and soothing relief, however. Families of all kinds struggle to keep children from trouble and family finances from ruin, even as they teach principles that pass success to future generations.
Their interests did not fare well on Tuesday, nor do they seem to have many champions left in the political world.