Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Pimps, whores and parties: the red-light district of American ideology

Since the dawn of civilization, three professions have stuck around: farmers, artisans and prostitutes. The job of politicians is usually a subset of the last category.

But since turning politicians into artisans would involve messy reform of the electoral system that few seem eager to undertake, perhaps the critics should focus elsewhere. Perhaps the problem lies not solely with the whores but with their pimps. Perhaps the problem is with the political parties themselves.

Democratic and Republican party leaders in modern America have proven themselves both the pimps and hookers of ideology, selling their candidates at the same time they sell their own party platforms.


I find it hard to believe anyone in this country with consistent, strong ideological beliefs could call themselves a full Democrat or Republican — there are just too many anomalies in their party stances, too many instances of selling political philosophy to the highest bidder. Take a few examples:


“Compassionate conservatives” may claim to care about the welfare of children stricken by poverty, illness or expensive medical conditions and the state of the public schools they attend. But their legislative priorities certainly don’t reflect that, which makes the anti-abortion stance of their party platform puzzling. As George Carlin once said, “(Conservatives) will do anything for the unborn — but once you’re born, you’re on your own.”

Democrats, meanwhile, find the abortion issue at the junction between two different solicitors: feminists and the young. But the young are the johns who come to the pimp with hungry eyes and empty pockets, while the feminists have money and political pull to spend. The feminists get the pimp’s attention.

“Big government”

Republicans champion themselves as enemies of “big government,” adversaries of monolithic bureaucracy and huge taxes — and this carefully cultivated image led to the GOP sweep of Congress in 1994. Yet this opposition to government is selective at best.

Republicans don’t like government sticking its nose in business, gun ownership or the environment, but they’re perfectly comfy with bringing it to your front door in the form of morals legislation such as severe drug laws, pornography statutes and dissident witch hunts like the Patriot Act. The pimp is an equal-opportunity provider.

At the same time, Democratic policy looks for big government solutions as it simultaneously tells us not to trust the government. Democrats like to envision themselves as the collective coach of the Mighty Ducks, the champions of the underdogs left behind by the bourgeoisie. But like the pimp who rides from his own stable, the same Democrats who so distrust the privileged offer government (the most privileged institution of all) as the solution; the party leaders are also the solicitors of their prostitutes.

Civil liberties

Democrats call themselves the defenders of civil liberties, but they tend to be rather picky regarding which elements of the Bill of Rights they choose to defend. Privacy advocates, minorities and defense lawyers flock to their red light, so they fight for proper search-and-seizure laws, equal treatment under the law and due process. They take bold stands for the free speech of the artists and protesters who are regular customers; the free speech of the politically incorrect is deemed “bad for business” and fought with censorship.

Republicans say they have the spirit of Old America, but their commitment to its spirit is just as shaky. Gun owners slip them cash and publicity, so they fight for the right to bear arms. States’ rights arguments fit the demands of the anti-government customers, so they go to war for the Tenth Amendment.

Free speech for the politically incorrect is resistance to brainwashing; free speech for statements that are un-American or immoral is dangerous.

These aren’t the only issues where parties have sold their respective ideologies to whomever would pay the most political capital for a roll in the hay. Nor is this phenomenon anything new.

After the realignment of the Democrats in the ’30s, they no longer resembled Thomas Jefferson’s idealistic party of bare-minimum government; Republicans battling the civil-rights movement in the ’60s looked nothing like the party of Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator.

Such shifts are always bad: A party still clinging to policies of a former century can’t be expected to govern effectively in the Information Age, nor can it be expected to respond well to crises as they arise. But policy is not ideology, and serious crises are rare. A little consistency in overarching theories of government is not too much to ask.

Politicians might always be prostitutes to the electoral system. But party leaders shouldn’t double bill the public by whoring their larger ideals and visions to the most convenient interest group.

Matt Lynch ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in English and
political science.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *