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Can We Stop Pretending Republican 'Family Values' Means 'Not Cheating On Your Wife?'
It's not 'pointing out hypocrisy.' It's giving them credit they don't deserve.
Have you heard the one about the Family Values Republican who is getting divorced because he (allegedly) cheated on his wife all over the place? Of course you have! And if it wasn’t Rep. Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, whose wife, Melody Duncan, is divorcing him over his ongoing affair with DC Lobbyist Liz Williams, it was someone else.
“As a life-long social conservative, I am a strong advocate for life and traditional family values,” Duncan’s campaign page reads. “The most basic component of our society is the family. Now more than ever, it is imperative that we protect the values that America was founded upon and have made our country great. I am a proud member of the Values Action Team because of my desire to protect family values.”
Duncan, a member of the Now-Too-Wacky-For-Marjorie-Taylor-Green Freedom Caucus, then goes on to talk about how very much he hates abortion. Because of the “family values.”
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Defendant is a public figure, having served for thirteen (13) years as a United States Representative in Congress for the Third (3d) District of South Carolina. Defendant has run for election, along with the support of his wife and sons, on a platform of family values.
Defendant recently left the marriage and has admitted to Plaintiff that he has an ongoing sexual relationship with a woman named Liz Williams. Additionally, Defendant has admitted this adulterous relationship to many other people, including the parties' sons and members of his staff.
As recently as August 28, 2023, Defendant hosted a "Faith and Freedom BBQ" where he spoke to the crowd, among other things, about his marriage to Plaintiff (calling her a supportive and loving wife and portraying an image of himself as a dedicated, dutiful husband. Upon information and belief, Defendant then left the next day and went directly to the home of his paramour, Liz Williams, in the Washington, D.C. area, where Plaintiff is informed and believes he continues to reside. Plaintiff is informed and believes that Defendant's extramarital relationship(s) is/are widely known in political circles of South Carolina and Washington D.C.
The divorce filing also notes that Melody Duncan has been told by others that there has been at least one affair other than the one with Williams. She is requesting a complete and final divorce immediately, “based upon the statutory grounds of adultery.” In South Carolina, a no-fault divorce requires a trial separation of at least one year, and Melody Duncan, clearly, is ready to throw the whole man out right now.
One can hardly blame her for being pissed at her soon-to-be-ex, and disgusted, in particular, over the idea of him swanning around preaching about family values and talking about their fabulous marriage right before running off to screw some chick in DC. Who wouldn’t be!
I am, however, really starting to question the wisdom of the whole “Look at this Republican who says he is for family values but cheats on his wife, what a hypocrite!” rubric.
The thing is, we’ve been doing this since they first came up with the term; we screamed it into the wind in 2016 and throughout the whole of the Trump years, and it’s never worked for us. Why? Because “Family Values,” to Republicans, literally only means “oppressing women and all LGTBTQ+ folks.” It has literally no meaning beyond that, to them, so our cries of “hypocrisy” will never make a dent or change a single mind. At the end of the day, the Left supports women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, and these are the things they actually have a problem with. Not this dude cheating on his wife, not Donald Trump grabbing ‘em by the pussy or cheating on his wife with a porn star, and not Josh Duggar molesting his sisters.
Calling them hypocrites credits them with caring about things they objectively do not give a flying fuck about. It also suggests to people who don’t pay as much attention to these things that people like Duncan are an aberration and normally Republicans do care about “family values” beyond its usefulness as a tool of oppression. Which they do not.
I am not saying I haven’t done this myself. I absolutely have! Especially when it has come to pointing out that those who love fetuses so much that they want to force us to give birth to them against their will almost never give a crap once they’ve exited the womb. It’s normal to get a little schadenfreude-y about these things.
But the more I think about it, the less helpful I think it is, least of all because these people do not actually care about being “hypocrites,” they care about getting what they want. Literally the only people who care when Republicans get their adultery on, other than their spouses, are Democrats, and while they’re focused on getting what they want, we don’t want to be standing around going “B-b-b-but don’t you see he’s a hypocrite? And that we’re the ones who really value family?”
I think there’s kind of a superstitious belief among some that if they speak fondly of “principled conservatives,” pretend “family values” means something other than a desire to oppress others, and firmly chastise them when they are tacky, that they will become some better version of themselves. Which, you know, they won’t.
The fact is, Duncan isn’t really a hypocrite at all. He has been very clear over the years about how little he values women, and it’s no big surprise that this includes his own wife. I refuse to pretend to be shocked when people who hate women and push for legislation that hurts women turn out to be people who do crappy things to women. What we should be pointing out is that, rather than being an aberrance or an example of hypocrisy, is how perfectly in line his behavior actually is with the whole Republican ethos.