4.6.19

SEEKING A POSITIVE MESSAGE.

David Brooks suggests that the coming demographic transition (the coalition of the ascendant, if you will) brings a serious generation gap in attitudes with it.
[Younger voters] have constructed an ethos that is mostly about dealing with difference. They are much more sympathetic to those who identify as transgender. They are much more likely than other groups to say that racial discrimination is the main barrier to black progress. They are much less likely to say the U.S. is the best country in the world.

These days the Republican Party looks like a direct reaction against this ethos — against immigration, against diversity, against pluralism. Moreover, conservative thought seems to be getting less relevant to the America that is coming into being.
Republican, and conservative, pundits have solid arguments against those claims of discrimination or misplaced national pride. Mr Brooks appears to be suggesting that they're not making those arguments.
The most burning question for conservatives should be: What do we have to say to young adults and about the diverse world they are living in? Instead, conservative intellectuals seem hellbent on taking their 12 percent share among the young and turning it to 3.

There is a conservative way to embrace pluralism and diversity. It’s to point out that there is a deep strain of pessimism in progressive multiculturalism: blacks and whites will never really understand each other; racism is endemic; the American project is fatally flawed; American structures are so oppressive, the only option is to burn them down.

A better multiculturalism would be optimistic: We can communicate across difference; the American creed is the right recipe for a thick and respectful pluralism; American structures are basically sound and can be realistically reformed.
If that sounds a lot like the past couple of years on Cold Spring Shops, it should.  I don't care if the same ideas have occurred to me as to Mr Brooks or to if one of his stringers is finding some of this stuff, as long as the ideas get out and get purchase.

Paul Gottfried puts the case more bluntly.  "Until Republicans decide to act strategically and stop relying on the same old tropes that get them nowhere, in election after election, they will continue to lose." What, though, are the new ideas?

With the identity-politics projects wrecking schools and doing little to inculcate empathy in people who supposedly have privilege, there's an opportunity for public intellectuals of a more traditionalist bent to put forth a positive alternative.

The time is right.  Improved technologies have brought forth greater freedom and greater opportunity, but those didn't come for free, notes Kay Hymowitz.
As societies became richer and goods cheaper and more plentiful, people no longer had to rely on traditional families to afford basic needs like food and shelter. They could look up the Maslovian ladder toward “post-material” goods: self-fulfillment, exotic and erotic experiences, expressive work, education. Values changed to facilitate these goals. People in wealthy countries became more antiauthoritarian, more critical of traditional rules and roles, and more dedicated to individual expression and choice. With the help of the birth-control pill, “non-conventional household formation” (divorce, remarriage, cohabitation, and single parenthood) went from uncommon—for some, even shameful—to mundane.
No more Malthusian traps, no more being bound to the same career path as uncounted generations before you. But perhaps, no neighborhoods either.
[K]inship has been the most powerful glue of human groups since Homo sapiens first discovered the mother-in-law. Evolutionary psychologists have a compelling theory about why: humans practiced “reciprocal altruism” in relation to kin because they had a stake in the reproductive success of their genetic relations. Even evolutionary-psychology skeptics, though, might notice that though marriage has shape-shifted over the centuries and across cultures, it has always defined those people—spouses, parents, children, grandparents, siblings, in-laws—to whom we owe special attention and mutual protection. That would explain why cohabiting couples, even those with children, don’t have the same support from extended family as married couples with children. Marriage creates kin; cohabitation does not.
There's some evolutionary advantage in forming extended families, perhaps? But -- and again, I repeat myself -- what appears to have trickled down from bourgeois bohemians enjoying their greater freedoms messed over people less well situated.
Throughout the Western world, wealthier, more educated parents tend more often to be married before they have children, and to stay married, than do their less advantaged fellow citizens. Their children benefit not just from their parents’ financial advantages, with all the computer camps and dance lessons that a flush checking account can buy, but from the familiar routines and predictable households that seem to help the young figure out the complex world they’ll be entering. The children of lower-income, less educated parents, by contrast, are more likely to see their married parents divorce or their cohabiting parents separate, and then to have to readjust to the strangers—stepparents, boyfriends or girlfriends, step- or half-siblings—who come into their lives. Some children will be introduced to a succession of newcomers as their parents divorce or separate a second or even third time.

Why, after the transition, did the rich continue to have reasonably stable and predictable domestic lives while the working class and poor stumbled onto what family scholar Andrew Cherlin calls the “marriage-go-round”? Observers typically point to deindustrialization and the loss of stable, decent-paying low-skilled jobs for men. True enough. A jobless man, especially one without a high school diploma, is no one’s idea of a good catch. But there’s more to the marriage gap than that. While the loosening of traditional rules gave women freedom to leave violent or cruel husbands, it also changed the cultural environment for couples trying to weather less dangerous stresses and disappointments, including a pink slip. Lower-income men and women are bound to have more financial anxieties, more work accidents, and more broken-down cars and evictions, and they lack the funds for Disneyland vacations, massages, and psychotherapists that might take some of the edge off a struggling marriage. And they see few, if any, long-term married couples who could offer a successful model. With single parenthood and cohabitation both on the lifestyle menu, what they see instead is an easy out.

When so many marriages melt into thin air, lower-income kin networks, a source of job connections, child care, and family meals, attenuate as well. Your mother’s sister’s husband—your uncle by marriage—might give you a tip about a job opening at a local machine shop; an uncle separated from your aunt and living with a girlfriend with her own kids in the next town over, maybe not.
There's a lot more at her article. It is her concluding remark, "There also must be what Tom Wolfe called a 'Great Re-learning' about how to satisfy the human longing for continuity and connection," that I wish to extend.  I start with a Rod Dreher essay that's weighing in on some argument among secular and religious conservatives that's just more Mueller report while the levees are bursting as far as I'm concerned, but in the midst of that commentary, he offers this.  "We also can’t be under the illusion that changing political leadership is sufficient to address the crisis. It may be necessary, but it is not remotely sufficient."  He suggested that the focus of most of the punditry on politics and the presidency was a symptom of a deeper problem.  "[David] Brooks’s frustration is born of the failures of that class."

Also in The American Conservative comes J. D. (Hillbilly Elegy) Vance, looking for principles that work.
I have been criticized from the Right for writing a book that if taken to its logical conclusions, would lead to a lot of big government programs, and I’ve been criticized from the Left for writing a libertarian small-government manifesto. And I don’t totally know what that means, maybe I’m just not a very good writer.

But what I think it means is that I was and continue to struggle with this idea of where does personal responsibility interact with the responsibility of politics in the broader society?
He is looking for ways for people to find meaning without having to take on Great Responsibilities.
That’s the American dream that is in crisis, and that’s the American dream that is shared by so many people across the broad middle of the country. It is not the American dream of the strivers, it is the American dream of a fulfilled and happy and simple, but I think a very pure and very decent life. And that is, in my view, what is most in crisis in our country today, and that’s something that we conservatives have to fight for and we have to defend.
He hasn't offered any specifics. Perhaps that will be the next step. "The reality of blue model decline is so obvious that nobody can ignore it any longer."

The resurgence, however, might also be emergent.  One extended-family Sunday supper at a time.
Francis Caiazza misses his family dinners terribly. “It’s difficult because my children are scattered all over the country, I have one grandson in Duquesne University here and the rest of my grandchildren and children are in New York, Ohio, and Florida,” said the retired federal magistrate judge.

“It starts with the family. When you don't have a family, you have no community. I see the effects, especially with younger kids, drug issues and what have you. It's sad, it's really sad, when you don’t have a family you don’t have community.”
In the story, it's a Pittsburgh cafe owner who invited the neighbors in, and it worked.

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