The Washington Post yesterday reported on the masters thesis of Virginia GOP gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell. As the paper noted, McDonnell argued, among other things, that working women and feminists are “detrimental” to the family; that government policy should favor married couples over “cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators;” and that the court decision legalizing the use of contraception by unmarried couples was “illogical,” because at the time non-marital sex was itself a crime.
Now we’ve taken our own look at the thesis — written for Regent University in 1989, when McDonnell was already a married man of 34 years old. And it looks like the Post left out some other excerpts that might also give readers some pause.
More than anything, McDonnell’s thesis comes across as representing a manifesto of the anti-gender-equality right-wing, as it fought a desperate rearguard action against the gains made by the women’s- and gay-rights movements of the 1970s and 80s.
Soon after calling the Supreme Court’s decision on contraceptives “illogical,” McDonnell blasts “the perverted notion of liberty that each individual should be able to live out his sexual life in any way he chooses without interference from the state” (pg. 15). It was essentially that “perverted notion of liberty,” of course, that the Supreme Court would uphold in 2003 when it struck down Texas’s anti-sodomy law.
McDonnell then says that government has no authority to redefine family relationships, because the family predates civil government — it was created by God in the Garden of Eden:
The family as an institution existed antecedent to civil government, and hence is not subject to being defined by it. It is in the law of Nature of the created Order that the Creator instituted marriage and family in Eden, where He ordained that “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Family arises out of this divinely-created covenant of marriage between a man and woman, the terms of which can neither be originally set nor subsequently altered by the parties or the state. (pg. 19)
McDonnell goes on to refer to family as a “God-ordained government,” and asserts that there’s no need for government policy to treat “alternative lifestyle living arrangements” equally to the traditional family (pg. 19).
McDonnell adds: “[W]hen the exercise of liberty takes the shape of pornography, drug abuse, or homosexuality, the government must restrain, punish, and deter” (pg. 26).
And he blasts efforts to “redefine family by allowing special rights,” not just for “homosexuals,” but for “single-parent unwed mothers” (pgs. 72-73).
McDonnell also criticizes the prevalence of “no-fault divorce,” referring to the “pain for women and children when the [marriage] covenant can be so easily discarded” (pg. 73).
And he attacks the phenomenon of women working outside the home, writing that the proliferation in the day care industry was caused by the desire of some women “to break their perceived stereotypical role bonds and seek workplace equality and individual self-actualization.” Asks McDonnell: “Must government subsidize the choices of a generation with an increased appetite for the materialistic components of the American Dream?” (pg. 45)
“Further expenditures” on child care, he wrote “would be used to subsidize a dynamic new trend of working women and feminists that is ultimately detrimental to the family by entrenching status-quo (sic) of non parental primary nurture of children” (pg. 46).
McDonnell also comes across as a zealous, ideologically driven opponent of the New Deal and the welfare state, utterly unreconciled to the principle of using government to provide a safety net for the neediest — calling it a socialist plot to destroy the family. He writes:
[E]very totalitarian movement of the twentieth century has tried to destroy the family. The modern American experience can be seen as an ideological battle between the forces of democratic capitalism and socialism, with the latter’s attempt to “substitute the power of the state for the rights, responsibilities, and authority of the family.” (pg. 10)
And later he writes that one proposed bill’s intention to target funds to low-income families “seems to perpetuate the income redistribution philosophy of the Great Society which has already produced its harvest of dependency, anomie and irresponsibility.”
Lest there be any mistake, he adds: “Once differential tax rates and benefit distributions are accepted in principle, there is but an arbitrary legislative line that inhibits the slide to socialism” (pgs. 46-47).
Of course, that puts him right in line with the contemporary Republican party.
McDonnell seemed to understand this stuff was political dynamite — and as such, he said that Republicans should act on this agenda regardless of whether the people wanted it:
It is also becoming clear in modern culture that the voting American mainstream is not willing to accept a true pro-family ideologue…Leadership, however, does not require giving voters what they want, for whimsical and capricious government would result. Republican legislators must exercise independent professional judgment as statesmen, to make decisions that are objectively right, and proved effective. (pg. 61)
McDonnell told the Post his views have changed since he wrote the thesis. But the proof of the pudding lies in McDonnell’s record in state government, where, as the Post shows, he worked to put many of these radical anti-women, anti-gay, anti-welfare-state notions into practice.
The DNC jumped on the Post’s report, releasing the following hard-hitting statement today:
In Bob McDonnell’s preferred Virginia, women would be stigmatized for choosing to work outside the home, access to contraception would be all but banned and women would be denied equal pay for equal work. In Bob McDonnell’s preferred Virginia, the medical decisions of women and their doctors would be criminalized and the victims of rape and incest would have no medical recourse. While Virginians want to keep the Commonwealth moving forward, these devastating revelations prove that Bob McDonnell wants to take Virginia backwards.
And to be clear, these were not the musings of young student, but rather a 34-year old married man on the cusp of elected office who would go on to doggedly pursue the extreme agenda he called for once in that office.
By undermining his main argument that he’s in the main stream of Virginians, not only has this revelation laid bare McDonnell’s real agenda, but is nothing short of a game changer in this election.
George Allen alienated Virginia voters in 2006 with one moment on the stump that, to many, revealed his true nature. Could McDonnell’s thesis play a similar role this time around?
(Note: All page citations are listed in terms of the PDF numbering, not the numbers printed on the internal pages.)