“We need to get back to traditional values, traditional families, etc.”
You hear this over and over again from conservative politicians, like a stuck Alvin and the Chipmunks 45 RPM record. It’s amusing at first, but that broken record gets old really fast.
What are they actually talking about? For the older base, it’s meant to evoke nostalgia. Remember when a gallon of gas was only a quarter and a loaf of bread was a nickle? You’ve seen that meme a million times discussed on social media, and it’s popular. Wildly popular, because we all have that tendency to often look back to the past with rose-colored glasses. About a year ago, I made a meme of myself on “Whiskey and the Morning After” partially as a joke and also as a social media experiment. It went viral quickly, and I still see it on a regular basis, including on conservative sites who use it to play to that sense of a wonderful childhood and good old days gone by.
The whole “traditional values” cliche? It’s really just a dogwhistle to those who oppose marriage and racial equality.
Obviously, as a politician you can’t just come out and say “remember when those gays and blacks knew their place and we controlled women’s naughty bits?” Same thing with blaming the poor for the economy. You can’t usually get away with blatantly saying the poor are lazy and just want free stuff–that didn’t work out so well for Mitt Romney and his “47%” comment, did it?
Code words work, and they work well. Remember the Reagan-era “welfare queen” stereotype for those who collected welfare? That’s still going strong today to describe poor black women. “Putting God back in the White House,” that’s a code to the birther wing of the GOP who are convinced the President is not only from another country but he’s also a secret Muslim.
So… the next time one of your conservative friends or coworkers starts talking about “traditional” or “remember when,” ask them exactly what they mean. Are they reminiscing about cheap gas, the Red Scare and Norman Rockwell? Or is it more likely that they miss a white America, gays in the closet and women in the kitchen instead of the workplace? I know the GOP does.
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