Mainly because the right is so self-righteous and absolute in their beliefs. They make it so difficult for themselves to wiggle (this may also be true of their dancing). I remember being in high school and reading about the French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre. One of the tag lines that we were told to attach to his works was “moral relativism.” In contemporary popular culture, that great fictional cop, Bobby Simone on NYPD Blue, said it all in three words, “Everything’s a situation.”
Once you’re liberated from the absolutist constraints of a political party, a religion, a cult, or any other strict organization, you become freer to think for yourself. Republicans lock themselves into the dogma of Grover Norquist or Ted Cruz and if they deviate from it, they think that they have sinned (a term that is much more relative and less scary to the rest of the world).
But like every organization, the Republican Party has numerous constituents who look to it for leadership. At times the values of these various groups are at odds with those of other groups. This became exceptionally clear in recent weeks. We have New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul to thank for this. They both got bent out of shape about whether the common good, also known as “the state,” has a legitimate stake in guidelines for measles vaccines.
Both Christie and Paul rallied to the defense of parental rights. They asserted that if parents have convictions based on the belief that measles vaccines are harmful to their children, these rights must be protected against the iron hand of the state. Perhaps this is so; like so many issues, the wisdom of compulsory measles vaccines is complicated. So in this case, Christie and Paul said, “Sometimes it should be the state’s decision; sometimes it should be the parents’ decision.”
The problem is that in this case, Christie and Paul let the exigencies of life influence their thinking on vaccines. The irony is that neither they nor any other prominent Republicans allow the complications of day-to-day life to influence their decisions on other parent–state conflicts, such as reproductive rights. It’s an absolute to Republicans and many of their constituents that abortion is morally wrong, that the state should enforce this mandate, and that parents have no rights when “the voice of God” is heard.
Well, where is the “voice of God” when it comes to vaccinations? Perhaps it’s too minor an issue, only two hundred million people have died from it since its inception. If you believe that there is a “voice of God” that is intricately involved in our social, economic, moral and political issues, then you have some explaining to do as to why parents have the right to say no to vaccines but don’t have the right to say yes to abortion.
This so-called moral relativism is much easier if you are a person who believes in a Supreme Being who has historically given us a path by which to live, but who is not our everyday cop on the path as we journey through life. It is also easier if you do not accept a Supreme Being, or if you are agnostic on the issue. But perhaps it’s the Republicans who get the last laugh, because while we parse issues and try to apply reason, they have the comfort of knowing that many Americans prefer to make political decisions as the GOP does, with a heavy dose of hypocritical absolutism.