Observers keep wondering how the Republican Party, the Christian Right, and "values voters" can continue to support politicians like David Vitter. After all, he's violated the same moral code he and his allies would forcibly impose through the power of the state. While the left understandably rages about hypocrisy - and that's the right word for partisans like the GOP and Tucker Carlson - rank-and-file Christian voters continue to support a motley assemblage of Republican "sinners," no matter how glaring their personal dishonesty or how unorthodox their sexual behavior. What gives?
The answer may lie in an as-yet undiscovered medical condition I call "Political Suppression of Sexuality Disorder," or PSSS. When conservatives are caught in compromising positions in the future, it's possible that they'll plead PSSS and check themselves into the nearest rehab (although some angry and defiant types like Vitter may very well echo that new hit song by saying "no, no, no.")
PSSS should be added to next edition of the the DSM Manual of Mental Disorders, with the following general criteria:
Political Suppression of Sexuality Disorder
A condition in which the individual believes the human body and personality are hostile zones which must be forcibly subdued through external forces, especially state action.
Two or more of the following must be present for a diagnosis of PSSS:
- Intense fear of the patient's own sexual desires and impulses.
Political leaders can, of course, suffer from PSSS and be hypocrites at the same time. Some otherwise inexplicable outbursts are best explained using this mixed diagnosis. (Think about all those conservative images of group sex and pedophilia in response to gay marriage proposals, for example. Better yet - don't.)
Why have so many political and religious figures said that gay marriage will lead to bestiality? Christian anti-abortion activist Neal Horsley was very explicit about his intimate history with farm animals - and his belief that this was a widespread form of agrarian sexual expression. (I kid you not.)
Of course, there are many on the right who appear to have no problem with sexuality - their own or anyone else's - but attack public figures selectively for sexual behavior in order to advance their own political agendas. Dick Cheney's an obvious choice here, but so is George W. Bush. The best story I've ever heard about Bush involves a transsexual college friend who met him in the White House after many years. With great discomfort, she said "I used to be ..." and blurted out her old male first name. She stammered, "And now I'm ... I'm ..."
"And now you're you," Bush said reassuringly. That's a sweet and even beautiful story. It suggests that Bush doesn't suffer from PSSS. He's just another hypocrite.
Then there's Tucker Carlson, who led the charge against Clinton's infidelity. When Vitter's indiscretions were revealed, Tucker suddenly became the defender of private liberties. Glenn Greenwald documented both the shrillness and the cynicism of his Vitter defense, which echoed my own experience with Tucker (although our conversation was considerably more civil). During that show, and later on his blog, he implied that the left as a whole was comprised of "slanderers." (Hmm. What was that Shakespeare line about "protesting too much"?)
There are only three ways to look at the sex lives of politicians:
1. Infidelity and "deviant" sexual expression (i.e. non-missionary acts) are personal matters, and we're not interested in the sex lives of our leaders.
2. Infidelity and sexual "deviance" are sins, and we condemn it in our leaders regardless of political party.
3. Infidelity and sexual "deviance" are morally wrong, but we excuse in with politicians we like and use against those we don't like.
People of good will can disagee about #1 and #2, but #3 is clearly indefensible. And yet that's where you'll find the entire GOP establishment, the Christian Right, and media advocates like Tucker Carlson. But what about "values voters" themselves? Why don't they turn against figures like David Vitter?
Here's one reason: They want somebody to protect them from themselves. That's why they can forgive Gingrich or Giuliani but not Kennedy or Clinton: Rudy and Newt will protect them from their own bodies and minds with authoritarian laws. Ted and Bill won't.
Liberals like Joan Walsh who point out the inherent hypocrisy of Vitter and his supporters aren't hypocrites themselves, despite the angry accusations from the right. They explicitly condemn the double standard, not the behavior itself. The right's rage is a response to being discovered in an indefensible position.
We don't need a new diagnosis to explain Tucker et al. The "hypocrite" label fits just fine. But here's a possible explanation for the Vitters of the world, and for the "values voters" who keep supporting them: