News & Politics

Rumblings of a Culture War Within the Right

Tucker Carlson, host of "Tucker Carlson Tonight," poses for photos in a Fox News Channel studio, in New York, Thursday, March 2, 2107. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Tucker Carlson recently delivered a monologue lambasting Mitt Romney’s Washington Post opinion piece. David French, a fellow at the National Review, responded, disagreeing with large portions of Carlson’s argument.

The debate largely centers around how economics, family, and gender roles are changing society, and what responsibility “elites” have for some of its negative consequences. The disagreement between a former presidential nominee, a popular Fox News host, and a fellow writing for perhaps America’s most influential conservative magazine should be welcomed by the Right.

Carlson believes a significant portion of the negative change stems from declining male wages. He states: “Manufacturing, a male-dominated industry, all but disappeared over the course of a generation.” French disagrees, stating: “He says that manufacturing ‘all but disappeared over the course of a generation.’ It hasn’t.”

Unfortunately, the link French provides to validate his claim clearly states that manufacturing payrolls “comprise only 8.5 percent of the U.S. total, down from above 30 percent in decades past.” That’s a decrease of approximately 72% from prior decades. In his attempt at rebuttal, French validates Carlson’s claim.

Carlson then ties declining male wages to another declining institution — marriage. He states: “In many places, women suddenly made more than men. Before you applaud this as a victory for feminism, consider the effects. Study after study has shown that when men make less than women, women generally don’t want to marry them. Maybe they should want to, but they don’t.”

Staying silent on whether women should marry men with lesser incomes, French responded: “I agree with Carlson that more radical forms of feminism have turned too many of our institutions against boys … But while these policies and cultural trends may create impediments to personal success, these impediments are speedbumps — not impenetrable barriers.”

David also states: “We should reverse cultural messages that for too long have denigrated the fundamental place of marriage in public life.” Since 1960, the percentage of adults who are married fell from 72% to 50%. A record number have never married, and young men place less importance on marriage. Republicans spent $600 million “promoting marriage” attempting to mitigate this trend; this spending undeniably failed. So, how would “reversing cultural messages” be achieved?

French also believes that “Carlson accurately identifies certain maladies, but they are maladies that public policy can’t cure.” From marriage equality to transgender rights to intersectional feminism, the Left is continually able to successfully move cultural issues into the political arena with tangible results. How can the Left be so adept at leveraging culture to create political change and the Right be so inept?

The core of the marriage problem is fatherlessness. Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute agreed, telling Tucker: “There’s no bigger catastrophe of our age than the fact that more and more children are being raised without their fathers.” So, what’s the Right doing about it? Are they developing positions which would impact fatherlessness, or have they passed the buck? If made a priority, there are meaningful solutions which could generate results.

The theme of personal responsibility is also espoused. French states: “[I]t is still true that your choices are far more important to your success than any government program or the actions of any nefarious banker or any malicious feminist.” While there’s nothing wrong with calling for responsible citizens, it’s unlikely that message will resonate with mothers whose sons were denied due process in college sexual abuse tribunals, fathers who’ve become “visitors” to their children due to family court bias, workers who’ve watched their job move overseas, or others. If “elites” can ask citizens to be responsible, citizens can ask the same of “elites” and the organizations they manage. In too many instances, it’s not individuals who’ve failed, but the organizations who’ve failed them.

What Americans want is actually quite simple — hope. Hope to receive an education. Hope to have a job allowing them to support themselves and buy a home. Hope to find a partner with whom to build a life, and raise children. Hope that their children will lead a better life than they did. Hope that life’s inevitable catastrophes won’t leave them financially ruined. Hope that they may retire.

That’s not too much to ask. Yet for too many, it’s becoming unattainable and many “elites” haven’t acknowledged their role in creating that failure.

Perhaps, Tucker Carlson can initiate a conversation leading to sorely needed updates of policy positions on the Right. If he can, he’ll have done them, and the American public, a great service.