Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'It's Values, Stupid,' Political Essayist Argues

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'It's Values, Stupid,' Political Essayist Argues

Article excerpt

VALUES MATTER MOST: HOW REPUBLICANS OR DEMOCRATS OR A THIRD PARTY CAN WIN AND RENEW THE AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE By Ben J. Wattenberg Free Press, 426 pp., $25 `IT'S the economy, stupid!" The phrase scribbled on a wall in the 1992 Clinton-campaign's war room has become a standard, if inelegant, political aphorism. But Ben Wattenberg's latest book challenges that long-held assumption. While he allows that taxes, deficits, wages, and unemployment are not without relevance, the most important touchstones for today's voters, he says, are value-oriented issues. Crime. Welfare. Education. Permissiveness. Discipline. Discrimination. Pornography. Family values. These are middle America's most critical hot buttons. "Whichever political party, whichever political candidate ... is seen as best understanding and dealing with that values issue - will be honored. Honored at the polls," Wattenberg writes. Coming from a Bible-toting member of the Christian Coalition, his views would not be so surprising. But Wattenberg is a lifelong Democrat who cut his political teeth as a speechwriter for Lyndon Johnson. Over the years, his views have shifted toward the center. He is a self-declared Reagan Democrat. Clinging to the hope that his party will moderate, Wattenberg has not followed the handful of Democratic politicians in the past two years who have either abandoned altogether the ship of public service or simply opted to turn a few degrees to starboard, put on a Republican cap, and ride the conservative Gulf Stream. Still, his book is a scathing indictment of the liberal Democrats in Congress, President Clinton and and his administration, which have been the principal policy guides. Most conservatives would find little to quibble with in his arguments. While government is not the cause of social ills, Wattenberg argues, government policy can go a long way toward supporting or eroding public values and perceptions about promiscuity, racism, drug dependency, grade inflation, and other problems. …
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