Monday, November 7, 2016

Who created Trump? A new theory from the Monsignor

Salvador Dalí, The Tempation of St. Anthony (1946), via Wikiart.
Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, has been puzzling for months over what dark and dreadful forces have conjoined to bring us the Trump phenomenon—the liberals? the media? Caesarist President Obama in person? and, since both sides always do it, the other thing too of course, and on Sunday ("The Post-Familial Election")  he was asking again:

HOW did we get here? How did it come to this? Not just to the Donald Trump phenomenon, but to the whole choice facing us on Tuesday, in which a managerial liberalism and an authoritarian nationalism — two visions of the president as essentially a Great Protector: a feisty grandmother or fierce sky father — are contending for the votes of an ostensibly free people?
Never mind that "managerial liberalism" (that's what he's been calling "Caesarism" all year, if I'm not mistaken) and authoritarian nationalism have been pretty prominent parts of our civic discourse in one form or another for an awfully long time, and first fought for the presidency probably in 1824 when John Quincy Adams took the prize in an actually rigged maneuver from Andrew Jackson, after nobody managed to win in the normal way (to be fair to Adams, the mechanism literally had to be rigged—like repairing a plane in mid-flight—because it was broken). You must tell me some time how George W. Bush wasn't posing as "fierce sky father" when he descended from his machina onto the deck of the aircraft carrier, codpiece and all.

So as usual, no, what he's upset about is still just Trump, and the abnormality of the situation in which he feels he just can't vote for this particular sky father, unlike all the other authoritarian nationalists he's voted for or otherwise venerated in the course of his life, and the awful problem of finding yet another somebody or something to blame for Trump other than Republicans, or conservatives, or himself.

Which is, for this final Douthat emission before Election Day—wait for it—

safe and effective birth control!

See, back in the 1970s, when selfish pleasure-loving Baby Boomers were getting into their reproductive years, a plague of late marriage, divorce, abortion and the like among people like Ross Douthat's parents caused the white working class to diminish and die away, and now those Boomers realize that because they failed to have any children or those they did have are all dying of heroin overdoses, and that there's nobody to inherit the legacy of their ancient and respectable culture, which will all go to Hispanics, so no wonder they're angry, but it's all their fault, but what can we conservatives possibly do about a problem like that?
Seriously. We've entered the era of what suburban futurologist Joel Kotkin refers to as Post-Familialism, in which white people apparently no longer have families, just like black people in the 1960s, and are thus dependent on the state to take care of them, like the unspeakable Julia in the campaign ad who was unable to catch a husband and had to get married to the Democratic Party instead, if I've got that right.

This idea is borne out in voting patterns, where marriage and kids tend to predict Republican affiliation, and the single and divorced are often reliable Democratic partisans. The Obama White House’s “Life of Julia” ad campaign in 2012 — featuring a woman whose every choice was subsidized by the government from cradle to grave, with a lone child but no larger family or community in sight — seemed to many conservatives like a perfect confirmation of our fears: Here was liberalism explicitly pitching the state as a substitute for kith and kin.
And that's just for the liberals, but for conservatives, far worse than the existence of the imaginary Julia is the prospect of extinction for the white working class, or what old Theodore Roosevelt used to call "race suicide", the "diminishing birth rate among the old native American stock, especially in the north east", when he called for women of Anglo-Saxon ancestry to do their best to bear six children apiece. That didn't actually happen, I mean either the catastrophe or the proposed remedy, but the Monsignor sees the same thing starting up in the later 20th century and coming to its awful fruition 110 years later:

fewer children and, as birthrates drop and marrying age rises, still-fewer grandchildren or none at all. Which means that when they look ahead into their country’s future, white baby boomers especially see less to recognize immediately as their own.
But it's really their own fault, although the politicians naturally aren't comfortable telling them so:

No politician can address a Trump voter (or a LePen or UKIP supporter) alienated from their country’s future and say — as strangely true as it may be — that “you should have had more children when you had the chance.” So conservatives have to figure out how to go partway with their anxious older voters, to push against the post-familial trend in public policy while also adapting to the anxieties that it creates — and all without being swallowed up by bigotry.
Hence Trump, because not getting swallowed up by bigotry just turned out to be too hard.

This alienation is heightened when the descendants they do have seem to be faring worse than they did — as in those white working-class communities where opioid addiction, worklessness and family breakdown have advanced apace. The combination of small families and social disarray feeds a grim vision of the future, in which after you’ve passed, your few kids and fewer grandkids will be beset, isolated and alone.
This sense of dread, in turn, bleeds easily into ethno-racial anxiety when the benefits of that imagined future seem to belong increasingly to people who seem culturally alien, to inheritors who aren’t your natural heirs.
You know, my grandmother on the WASP side of the family was a little girl around the time President Teddy Roosevelt was inveighing against the danger of "race suicide",  the "diminishing birth rate among the old native American stock, especially in the north east", when he called for women of Anglo Saxon ancestry to do their best to bear six children apiece. She herself was the youngest of seven kids raised on a homestead in North Dakota until her father, a Civil War veteran and perhaps a PTSD sufferer, died relatively young, and the now female-headed family was forced to urbanize itself. Only three of the seven had children of their own, my grandmother was divorced after having a first child, and my mother was brought up in Minneapolis in a household of somewhat demented single people, her aunts and uncles, and at the same time with no siblings and hardly any first cousins, providing evidence, it must have seemed, that TR knew what he was talking about.

My grandparents on the Jewish side—TR's presidency was when they showed up, as it happens—had three children, all of whom married and had some number of kids between two and five, Boomers, and we have had a fair number of children among us, and when my contingent goes to my sister's place in Jersey for Thanksgiving with her extended family meaning that of her husband, the son of Holocaust survivors from Poland, with three older sisters, there can be 30 or 40 of us altogether, which is just a fraction of all the possibilities, naturally, and it's a pretty nice thing to see all the young cousins and cousins of cousins, now pretty much all grown and some starting families of their own, hanging out. And a multi-ethnic character that has spread out from the original miscegenation between my parents, in which my kids have first cousins in three different countries (the US, Israel, and Singapore). I realize this is a fortune not everybody has, just saying.

Biologically I'm old enough to be Ross Douthat's father as a matter of fact, that would be pretty awkward, though I guess it's unlikely that I'd have made a real connection with his mom back in the day, but his Boomer parents and aunts and uncles had a very different reproductive fate from ours, after

the social revolutions of the 1970s arrived. There were divorces, later marriages, single parenthood, abortions. In the end all those aunts and uncles, their various spouses and my parents — 12 baby boomers, all told — only had seven children: myself, my sister and five cousins.
So instead of widening, my family tree tapered, its branches thinned. And it may thin again, since so far the seven cousins in my generation have only three children. All of them are mine.
Our Monsignor Ross Douthat, Apostolic Nuncio to 42nd Street, grimly determined to do his part in preserving the race, no matter what the cost!

We've had all those cataclysms in my extended family (four divorces among three of us five siblings), actually I don't know of any abortions, in spite of the prevailing liberalism of the group, but I'll bet you any amount of money that every single adult there who has ever been heterosexually active has used some form of artificial birth control, with enthusiasm and gratitude. So I don't believe the social revolutions of the 1970s are the reason for the relative infertility of the Douthats and their affines. And since he describes them as a much more ethnically exclusive group than ours

white Protestants for the most part on both sides with a few Irish newcomers mixed
I can't help wondering if that exclusivity isn't itself a part of the problem. As if there's a relationship between my family's fecundity and that original moment of my parents' first date—according to family myth, my maiden Great-Aunt Emma said, "Now Dorothy, you know you must never kiss a Jew," and they evidently disregarded this advice.

I can pretty well imagine the awfulness of being my age in one of those opiates zones, where it becomes normal to think about the funerals of one's kids' friends and fear a funeral for one's own kids, and impossible to visualize their futures at all. It's terrible, and almost as terrible as it might be to live in a situation where your kids are poised between fear of armed criminal gangs and fear of still more fiercely armed cops! But:
  • if there's a tendency among the sufferers to think of it as a "race" problem, the threatened end of white people, they're just wrong, in a really dangerous way, and politicians and opinionists must not cater to that view—meaning overwhelmingly Republican politicians and opinionists, with their dogwhistles and sneers and show of compassion, and especially Ross Douthat, with his insistence that the old nightmare of "race suicide" is a reality; and
  • if you have a real compassion for those people, the political aspect of what you can do is to support government programs to make their lives better, with everything from education and drug treatment to jobs, and not allow them to continue blaming their problems on "the Mexicans" or "the Chinese" or for that matter on women's reproductive freedom.

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