For Many Conservatives, Personal Responsibility Is So 47 Percent

Personal responsibility is the cross to bear of those who have been unfortunate enough to be born less fortunate.

If you ask members of the Republican party about any one of our social safety net programs, badly needed resources on which 49 percent of Americans depend, you tend to get standard answers. They usually include words like “takers” and “entitlements.” Let’s recall this standard bearing gem from recent presidential candidate Mitt Romney:

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president [Obama] no matter what…who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims. …These are people who pay no income tax. …and so my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them that they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.”

Of course the more humane and rational among us are quite aware that these programs overwhelmingly assist the elderly, disabled and gainfully employed, but afflicted with unlivable wages. The oft-peddled image of the lazy American eating prime rib in a hammock simply doesn’t hold up to reality. But no matter. “Those people” ought to suffer further for their crimes of poverty, lack of educational opportunity and infirm bodily condition. It is the cherished rhetorical and policy practice of oligarchs throughout history. If they want to live the American dream, let them figure it out, with no help from any of us. And let’s use the Bible as a defense of that position whenever we can. That’s capitalism, baby!

Yes, members of the GOP, party media apparatus and conservative celebrity heroes love telling everyone how to live and worship (Christian), and regulate their bodies (oh especially if female!) and embrace a moral philosophy of complete personal accountability. And yet stubbornly, these crusaders seem to have a hard time practicing what they preach (pun definitely intended). Also, the buck definitely stops before the sinner’s door in these cases, a benevolent gift of grace perpetually denied the economically challenged, especially if they are of a different creed or color.

While right-wing conservative hypocrisy is nothing new, I suggest that the latest round of agency deflection is unique and supremely galling. As a female writer and proud feminist, I am measuredly loathe to devote any more ink to Josh Duggar or the Ashley Madison hacking scandal, but I must, if only to further the goal of duplicity awareness.

For you see, Josh Duggar, despite being raised in a family that espouses to teach children to “exercise self-control in any situation,” has failed to keep it in his pants. So many times. And despite the horndog’s taste for his own underage sisters and other married women, proclivities that do more than hint at personal failings that deserve our collective denunciation, somehow the Duggar circle believes their oldest gift from God has been a victim in his own right. A martyr of authority.

Pastor Ronnie Floyd, leader of an Arkansas congregation that has included the Duggar family in the past, indicts culture for Josh’s indiscretions. He said during a live stream pulpit sermon earlier this month, “This sexual revolution is altering mindsets, undermining the family, influencing the culture and is a mockery to Biblical truth.” Yep. With so many women running around the country retaining informed and empowered reproductive control, how else could a young family man be expected to react? The good reverend has also been known to shrug off Duggar’s violation of his siblings as if it were an annoying mosquito bite: “Things like [this have happened before and will happen again.”

Personal responsibility is the cross to bear of those who have been unfortunate enough to be born less fortunate. Those who have been blessed so heavily by God with TV ratings, revenue and the power to lead political parties can hardly be expected to manage their libidos and moral rectitude with so much important work in front of them. The work that those damned poor and unwell choose not to do.

Unfortunately, the Ashley Madison scandal also ensnared executive director of Louisiana’s Grand Old Party, Jason Dore. However, just so we’re clear, Dore is not to blamed for so much as bad judgment upon the release of records showing he paid almost $200 for use of the site. This was merely, “opposition research.” The man is a true patriot.

The unique cocktail of xenophobia, inequality, misogyny and do as I say, not as I do insincerity that has come to typify right wing culture is swiftly moving the Republican party to the fringes of mainstream tolerance. Perhaps that should be reward enough for having to tolerate the constant stream of cruel duality that renders many of the characters onstage – Duggar, Dore, Donald Trump – stomach-turningly disingenuous. But somehow it isn’t. Too many injustices. Too many families are being hurt.


Image via Reuters

Becky Sarwate is the current President of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association, founded in 1885, as well as Recording Secretary for the National Federation of Press Women. She is a national award-winning journalist, blogger, newsletter editor and theater critic. Becky lives in Chicago with her partner Bob and their menagerie of pets. Keep up with her at
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