Last week Tucker Carlson broke a carefully guarded conservative taboo and called out our elites for their role in destroying american families. Much of the reaction has been a predictable demand to stop holding our elites accountable and get back to blaming the working class, especially white working class men, for not being elite. At National Review David Bahnsen* complained in Tucker Carlson Is on the Wrong Side of the Crisis of Responsibility that the real problem is that weak men are screwing feminism up:
Carlson seems to suggest that our system itself is to blame for individual shortcomings, and that collective restructuring of free institutions will alleviate and cure those shortcomings. This is simply not reflective of conservatism, or of founding ideology.
I do my own argument no good to try to set the record straight about those barbs Tucker launched: His motive was to set the tone rhetorically and emotionally, and he did so effectively, even if dishonestly.
Our happiness was not taken away by a bad trade deal or a policy shortcoming, as bad as some policies and laws surely are. The pursuit of happiness is necessarily integrated with character, and the demoralization of our country has been a vicious cycle for a generation now. It does us no good to sit and play “chicken or egg” about this when our communities are in such disarray. No one who cares deeply for American families, blue-collar workers, and those who are on the outside looking in in today’s globalized and changing economycan plausibly claim that it is NAFTA’s fault that those young men playing Fortnite for eleven hours a day do not have shining neighborhoods. If we say that NAFTA hurt their desire to spend time more productively, we must discuss labor dynamism, not accept basement-dwelling and video-game addiction as the logical outcomes to changing economic circumstances. There has been a social deterioration in much of working-class white America—one that is not Wall Street’s fault, not private equity’s fault, not China’s fault, and not Washington, D.C.’s fault.
It is because I care for the plight of families in America, as Tucker no doubt does as well, that I cannot tell the disenfranchised: “Someone did this to you, and someone else will have to make it right.” Pretending that cultural deterioration was merely the byproduct of a disinterested or malignant ruling class is disingenuous and dangerous. Tucker appears to declare illegitimate the suggestion that those who are flourishing in the modern economy, which includes himself and myself, care for those who do not. Yet while it is patently false that those who are succeeding are always and forever aloof, I appreciate Tucker’s call that decision-makers should focus on expanding opportunity for those who have been left behind.
National Review’s Jim Geraghty wrote in Tucker Carlson’s Populist Cri de Cœur:
On any given weeknight, Tucker Carlson will sit down in front of the cameras at Fox News and say some bizarre or silly things (Beware the Gypsies!) or downright repugnant things, like that poor immigrants “make our own country poorer, and dirtier, and more divided.” But a lot of people are buzzing about Carlson’s opening monologue from Thursday night, a long and winding journey through what troubles the United States of America as 2019 dawns. Our Kyle Smith calls it “galvanizing” and a “populist cry of dissatisfaction that is underlain by certain grave truths.”
Leaders may want those things for us, but we should have no illusion that they can provide those things for us. Dignity, purpose, self-control, independence, and deep relationships have to come from within, and get cultivated and developed by our own actions. Good parents and relatives, teachers and communities can all help cultivate that, but it all starts with the individual — and if the individual isn’t willing to try to cultivate that, no one else can cultivate it for him.
But not all of our conservative elites chose to double down on blaming the masses for the results their own policies had created. Brad Wilcox went to The Atlantic and concluded in What Tucker Carlson Gets Right:
Just as Carlson suggested in his monologue, conservatives need to think more seriously about the role that contemporary capitalism, public policy, and culture have played in eroding the strength and stability of working-class family life. Americans share a collective responsibility for solving some of our most pressing social problems—and elites need to come to acknowledge their personal responsibility for bridging the class divide that has emerged on so many fronts.
This is significant because Wilcox is one of the elites shaping national policy on marriage. In the past he has been (mostly) reliable in blaming men and arguing that what we need is not to discard the new legal and social model of marriage that works only for the elites, but for the working class to become elite so the new model will work for them too. For Wilcox to end up even halfheartedly on the wrong side of the wedge Carlson is driving between conservative elites is very dangerous for the status quo.
This may seem like a tempest in a teapot, and it is certainly possible that it will blow over before it becomes too powerful to disperse. So far the discussion is only whether elite economic policy and cultural mores are driving the destruction of the american family. So far, no one is openly questioning the wisdom of the legal mechanisms we’ve put in place to actually destroy families, or the legal incentives we’ve put in place to encourage women to destroy (or never form) their own families. We replaced marriage with a new central family model, the child support model, without discussing the wisdom of this change, or even acknowledging that we did so. So far no one, not even Carlson and Wilcox, has had the poor taste to bring this up. But this is the real danger of the discussion. If we are allowed to discuss the responsibility our elites have in destroying the family, and are allowed to proceed with the assumption that public policy should encourage stable marriages, sooner or later we will get around to the eight hundred pound gorilla in the room. Our elites need to shut this conversation down, and they need to shut it down fast. So far they haven’t been able to do so.
On a related note, large corporations are trying to silence Carlson by boycotting his program. As Vox Day notes, we should respond to this by boycotting the corporations who are trying to punish Carlson.
*Correction: the original version of this post incorrectly named David French as the author of the David Bahnsen article Tucker Carlson Is on the Wrong Side of the Crisis of Responsibility.
- Why aren’t men responding to economic signals?
- Jim Geraghty on the beauty of the threatpoint.
- Will Wilcox and the men of National Review respect you in the morning?
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- Let them become elite.
- Our family policy is designed to terrify married fathers.
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- NY Times Happy Talk About Divorce & Doubling Down
- How we came to embrace illegitimacy.
- Does Shaunti Feldhahn’s rosy divorce data prove that no fault divorce is working out pretty well after all?
- How to close the gender pay gap once and for all.