The ‘family values’ party

THE ‘FAMILY VALUES’ PARTY…. In Louisiana, retired state Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor launched an unexpected primary campaign against Sen. David Vitter (R) recently, citing concerns about Vitter’s character. That seemed like a sound rationale — Vitter ran on a “family values” platform, and then got caught with prostitutes. Vitter also paid a violent criminal to oversee women’s issues for his Senate office, despite the aide having attacked his ex-girlfriend with a knife.

As Traylor conceded, the issue wasn’t ideological — both he and Vitter are very far to the right — but was based instead on integrity. Traylor would have the moral high ground, the argument went, while Vitter wouldn’t.

So much for that idea.

Traylor has his own ethical questions that could threaten the upstanding image his campaign has opted to present. They include … his complicated romantic history, including allegations of affairs with two married women.

As sleaze goes, this gets pretty ugly, even for the right-wing. According to the allegations, Traylor got involved with a married woman, whom he later married after her divorce. When she later died, Traylor began another affair with the wife of his stepson.

As Justin Elliott summarized, “Louisiana Republicans are facing a choice between a family values incumbent who solicited prostitutes and a family values challenger who is currently sleeping with his stepson’s estranged wife.”

And did I mention that Traylor considers himself a Christian conservative, whose most notable accomplishment was “protecting traditional marriage” in Louisiana?

Of the two, I suppose one has to give the edge to Traylor — his sexual escapades are bizarre, but at least they’re not illegal, as was the case with Vitter and his prostitutes. But the details of both are a reminder that when Republicans claim to be the party of “family values” and the arbiters of morality, there’s no reason the public should take this seriously.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.