Wiping the Sheen off Conservative Rich Guys' Morality

Today, a commenter on a previous blog item of mine about GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain suggested it was mighty mysterious that President Obama doesn't have any sexual peccadilloes in his closet when so many Republican presidential contenders seem to.

"Joshua," the commenter, suggested the "Chicago mob of politicos" probably seized control of Obama early on and more or less emasculated him in order to keep him clean for their purposes -- a Manchurian Goody Two-Shoes.

I offered Joshua an offhand response, which was that the serial psychodramas we are witnessing in the Republican presidential campaign more or less mirror similar psychodramas I have seen all my life in my own social circles. My hippie-liberal friends tend to be the ones with the boring but very stable private lives -- marriage, kids, the idea that putting a lot of different vegetables into a blender so you can drink them is exciting.

It's the conservative Christian-right Republicans who have the flamboyant private lives: too many divorces, pills, sleeping with sisters-in-law, booze, child-abandonment. I have always had these very mixed feelings about them, half disdain and half envy. It's a calamitous picture, but it also looks much more exciting than blenders.

After I wrote my obnoxious response, it occurred to me to wonder what the truth is. Not that we'll ever know with certainty, but an intriguing theory is offered by a law professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, who has studied this very question. In her book, Red Families v. Blue Families, June Carbone argues that liberals and particularly Democrats are more family-centric and stable in their private lives than conservatives and particularly Republicans. She bases her case on statistics from staunch red-voting states versus staunch Democratic states.

The lowest divorce rate in the country, for example, is in gay-marriage-allowing, healthcare-mandating, egg-heady Massachusetts. Generally it's the solidly Democrat-voting states where there is less divorce, child pregnancy, child abandonment and other conditions symptomatic of crappy morals. It's the red states where people's morals tend to be more reminiscent of the colony cage at the SPCA.

Carbone, in an interview last year on NPR, said she thought the difference had everything to do with premarital sex and the age at which people get married. People in red states who think premarital sex is bad get married early so they can have sex. Then they have bad marriages, because they're too young, immature and economically unstable.

People in blue states allow themselves to have sex before marriage so they can postpone marriage until they are grown up and have reliable incomes.

Hmm. Could be.

I'm delighted to see that someone who has taken a rigorous look at the numbers came up with a theory that backed my hunch, but I'm not sure I agree about the cause.

The thing I notice about rich Republican conservatives is that, even though they tend to rail against Hollywood, they are much bigger fan-slaves to it than liberals, maybe because liberals read books and newspapers. Whatever the reason, I think people on the money-make in our society, whose dreams of happiness are dreams of wealth, just admire and envy the shit out of Charlie Sheen.

He's their champion -- a guy who may be stoned crazy, unable to function as a human being let alone utter a coherent sentence, but by God he's so rich he can get away with it. Plus he gets to be on television all the time. That's like Herman Cain, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich and Michelle Bachmann all rolled into one utterly terrifying androgynous exemplar of the Republican conservative ideal.

You know, I admitted I sometimes feel a pinch of disdain mixed with a dash of envy when I look on these people at play. Maybe the difference is that they just don't have the disdain.

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Jim Schutze has been the city columnist for the Dallas Observer since 1998. He has been a recipient of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies’ national award for best commentary and Lincoln University’s national Unity Award for writing on civil rights and racial issues. In 2011 he was admitted to the Texas Institute of Letters.
Contact: Jim Schutze