Outside Looking In

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Last weekend in Ames, the group known as the Family Leader – a Christian organization – held a meeting in Ames during which Republican candidates for president came before the judging eyes of those assembled to tell why they, the candidate, lined up best with the views of the Family Leader. That of course being Christian and lining up with the narrow views of what a family should look like.

Outside the CY Stephens Auditorium in Ames was a band of atheists letting those in attendance that Christianity is not the only religion of Iowans

As they arrived at an all-day cattle call of conservative presidential hopefuls, Christian conservatives were greeted by demonstrators from the Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers who sought to convince Republicans that the party’s rhetoric was pushing atheists away as voters.

“They’re telling me they don’t want me in their party,” said John Fruetel, of Newton, who was part of a protest outside Stephens Auditorium in Ames, where more than 2,500 people were arriving to hear from 2016 GOP candidates at the 2015 Family Leadership Summit. Fruetel said he identifies as a conservative on many issues except social ones.

Thus the party that claims to be the party of “family values” was once more blatantly pushing away a large group of Iowa voters some of whom may share some of their values because the atheists are not part of the Republicans narrow view of what a “family” should look like. They are just one of any number of groups that are good citizens and who are part of families that do not conform to the narrow confines of Republican ideals.

A recent survey released in May shocked much of the country with the revelation that Americans by the droves are turning away from religion in general and the organized religion in particular. The survey revealed that some 22.8% of Americans now claim no religious affiliation. That is nearly a quarter. If you figure there are approximately 250 million adults of voting age and requirements, then potentially excluding a quarter of those voters – or @ 60 million – from your voter pool seems like a risky choice.

Certainly all 22.8% of the non-affiliated are not atheists or agnostics. Atheists and agnostics now make up @ 7% of the population and are growing fast. However they and the others that make up the non-affiliated group are not the type of voter the Republicans are trying to attract. So when the Republican Party talks about “family values” they start from the premise of a specific model of family.

Late last year Pew Research released a study that the so-called traditional family is now in the minority in America. No doubt that number is even higher if you add in the requirement that the family must also be Christian.

So what kinds of families are we talking about and what is the Republican approach to them?

We can start with families with a single parent, most likely female, at the head. This family may nave come about because of divorce or perhaps there never was a marriage. These are families that are quite likely poor if not in poverty for many reasons including low pay and unequal pay for women, which are often due to Republican policies. Republicans traditional answer to this is to bring a male into the household, as if that could be done with a snap of the fingers.

Another family that does not fit the model but is becoming more and more prevalent is the gay family. As marriage equality really takes hold we can expect these families to grow. Republicans have treated such families with outright hostility in the past. Their party has worked overtime and more to create laws to stop gay marriage. The traditional churches have worked hard to create a caustic environment for such families to let them know they are not welcome in certain communities.

Those are probably the most prominent of the non-traditional types of families. Other types of such families include common law marriages and those with more than two generations under one roof. If you throw in non-Christian homes in this country that really raises the number.

So the party of “family values” only works for those who fit their model of family. Republicans have shown outright hostility to some of those whose family falls outside of their norms. Yet many of those in non-traditional families will vote for those who work to cripple their family. We always wonder why, but groups such as the Log Cabin Republicans continue to exist even when they are told they are not wanted.

While Republican family values center around religion and the model traditional family that forces people to fit their mold, the Democratic party accepts people for what they are and focus on policies that will help the family to survive and hopefully thrive no matter what the makeup of the family is. Policies such as equality of pay for women, higher minimum wages, pay for hours worked in the economic realm. Access to good schools that are adequately funded and staffed with well-trained licensed teachers, access to college for all that is either free of very affordable in the education area. In the health care area, Democrats continue to push for single payer for all that would expand coverage while greatly lessening the costs. Don’t forget that Democrats are the party for Grandma and Grandpa also. Social Security and Medicare, which are under constant threat from Republicans, help the elderly live lives of dignity in their latter years.

Democrats are inclusive and fit their policies to the needs of the majority of Americans. Republicans are exclusive and have a mold that folks must fit to be one of them.

About Dave Bradley

retired in West Liberty
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