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William K. Black

William K. Black

Posted: July 30, 2010 03:44 PM

Why the Ferocity of Attacks on the Bridge Builders?

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Today I am thinking about the things that bind us together. On July 27, June Carbone (my spouse) and Naomi Cahn, co-authors of Red Families v. Blue Families, were interviewed on MSNBC's afternoon news broadcast. Their book tries to bridge the political gaps and help a consensus emerge that will strengthen American families. After reading the web responses to their interview, it dawned on me that it is June and Naomi's effort to build that bridge that the "dividers" most fear.

Alex Fitzsimmons led the charge. The title of his comment demonstrates the tenor of the attack: MSNBC Promotes Findings of Roosevelt Institute Liberals Pushing 'New Family Strategy.' Explaining that June and Naomi are connected to the (conservative) "Family Scholars" group as well as the (liberal) Roosevelt Institute would have only confused Mr. Fitzsimmons' readers' dichotomous worldview. Mr. Fitzsimmons' group's mission is attacking liberals that appear in the media. His "analysis" of the MSNBC interview combined fiction and ad hominem labels.

Carbone and Cahn are not disinterested academics, as Jansing led viewers to believe. Rather, they are liberal activists nostalgic for the sexual revolution of the 1960's and the radical ideology it promulgated.

Jansing also managed to overlook the resume of Jonathan Rauch, an openly gay liberal columnist at the National Journal. After reciting a glowing passage from Rauch's review of the book, Jansing asked: "Is that pretty much a good summary of it, June?"

Mr. Fitzsimmons wants interviewers to pin a warning label for every liberal guest because liberals cannot be "disinterested academics." Mr. Fitzsimmons also wants them to warn their viewers when a scholar is "gay." I'm sure that Mr. Fitzsimmons wants this to apply to everyone that appears on television so I look forward to being introduced as "openly heterosexual" the next time I'm interviewed. Mr. Fitzsimmons and his colleagues have unresolved difficulties with gays. Here is how his editor introduced him to the readership of The GW Patriot:

Alex Fitzsimmons ... will add a strong conservative voice to the Patriot. He's the Scheduling Coordinator of Jeremy Jones for Congress 2010 and the Membership director for the GW College Republicans. Politically, Alex cares more about balancing the federal budget than preventing abominable sodomizers from pursuing their insidious vices, and is an avid fan of the Real Housewives of New Jersey.

June and Naomi are friendly bridge builders who work with scholars of all viewpoints. Mr. Fitzsimmons is a divider. He created a blog as a young man entitled Right Wing America, certainly not a unifying theme.

In an essay is which Mr. Fitzsimmons cited BP as his exemplar of "moral fiber" and environmental responsibility, he proclaimed that his strategy was to divide.

America hasn't been so fiercely divided since the Civil War, so this is no time for bipartisanship. If the GOP is to maintain its federal dominance, higher court dominance, and Congressional dominance, we must stand together for one last partisan hurrah, because (almost) any conservative has a more apt view of the world than a liberal.

Here's an excerpt of his May 24, 2006 plan for dealing with Hispanic "illegal aliens" that reveals how divisive he is willing to be. Readers will recognize, though Mr. Fitzsimmons did not, the parallel to Swift's (satirical) "Modest Proposal" for resolving the Irish poverty problem.

[M]y plan is to abolish all minimum wage and labor laws regarding undocumented/illegal workers.


The plan ... would work threefold: first, ... forcing [illegal aliens] to endure inhumane working conditions and even more repugnantly inferior wages-enticing at least some to leave, but hopefully in sporadic amounts so the economy will maintain its buoyancy and won't recede. Secondly, ... discouraging future criminals from crossing the border, acting as a figurative wall of apprehension and malevolence.... Lastly, the plan would bolster the bottom line of the floundering small business and farming industries that depend on illegal labor to break even, especially in light of the recent billion dollar conglomerate boom.

Return to Mr. Fitzsimmons' specific attack on June and Naomi and focus on his effort to divide. Liberals and gays (or, at least, "openly gay") are not real Americans. Viewers need to be warned about them. (Wouldn't it be simpler to mandate that we wear yellow stars and pink triangles?)

Carbone and Cahn are not disinterested academics, as Jansing led viewers to believe. Rather, they are liberal activists nostalgic for the sexual revolution of the 1960's and the radical ideology it promulgated.

Carbone and Cahn's thesis is the opposite of what Mr. Fitzsimmons asserts. (It would help if he read the book instead of imagining it.) Cover your kids' eyes and read this ode to sexual hedonism -- the portion of a Carbone/Cahn essay that Mr. Fitzsimmons found so "radical."

Today, as we discuss in our book, Red Families v. Blue Families, the part of the country identified with what we call "the Blue Family Paradigm" has embraced a new family strategy geared to the needs of the post-industrial economy. This paradigm emphasizes the importance of women's as well as men's workforce participation, egalitarian gender roles, and the delay of family formation until both parents are emotionally and financially ready.

Sorry, but the Oxford University Press edited the graphic sex scenes out of the book. In their book, rather than in Mr. Fitzsimmons' sex fantasies about a book he has not read, June and Naomi show that the sexual revolution began in the 50s. They explain how the resultant shotgun marriages increased the divorce rate (the opposite of being "nostalgic"). The Blue Paradigm explains an adjustment in family formation in response to the revolutions in education, employment, and egalitarian gender roles. The Paradigm is not limited to Blue states and it is not universal in Blue states; it is simply most common there.

The goal of the Paradigm is successful, loving, mutually faithful, and companionate marriages and families. Rewards to education have risen. Women increasingly find value and fulfillment in careers outside the home. The Paradigm emphasizes personal responsibility - couples in love marry when they attain the maturity and financial ability to support a household. It takes time for couples to obtain their degrees, mature, and earn and save enough to be financially independent, so marriages occur later.

The family then uses contraceptives to determine how many children to have and to time the pregnancies. Parents spend less time doing housework, but they spend more time with their children than they did decades ago.

The Paradigm is proving successful. Women with college degrees are attractive marriage partners. Divorce rates for couples who are college graduates have fallen back to levels last seen in the 1960s. The fertility rate for women with college degrees is increasing. The investment in women's educations and the contributions that women make to the economy is one of this nation's greatest competitive advantages.

The words that best describe the Paradigm are "traditional", "responsible", "loving," "egalitarian," and "companionate." The word that doesn't make any sense is "radical." The central paradox of what Carbone and Cahn found is that the dominant Blue Paradigm embraces - and helps produce - lasting marriages, love, fidelity, and having and nurturing children. Moreover, it asks the partners to exhibit personal autonomy and responsibility. The Blue Family Paradigm is the Red State dream. June and Naomi are effective bridge builders because they bring data, analysis, humanity, and a welcoming hand to urge the nation to help all our families and to show what works. They point out that the demonization of the Blue state "elites" as despicable sexual libertines in absurd, and they show that the evangelicals and LDS members with the strongest identifications with their churches also display materially lower divorce rates.

The picture that June and Naomi discovered as they reviewed the data is how much we have in common in America. Even gays are increasingly buying in to the traditional concept that one should find and marry a lifetime partner. It is ironic that as the Blue Paradigm has demonstrated its success and its adherence to values that the Red states claim to enshrine, and gays have moved to support increasingly the desirability of marriage as an institution, the attack on the Blue states and gays has become more virulent.

June and Naomi show where the Blue Paradigm is inapplicable and urge support for (rather than heap scorn on) the families that reject or cannot follow the Paradigm. Many women who do not wish to work outside the home and expect their husband to earn enough to support the family find it necessary to work because their husbands do not earn enough or lack family health insurance. These women are unhappier and more likely to divorce. June and Naomi do not tell these women to adopt the Blue Paradigm. Instead, they explain the economic changes that make it harder for the husbands to find better jobs and urge the adoption of economic policies that will provide these jobs, reduce divorces, and allow women who wish to stay home to do so. The dividers rage because their greatest fear is the bridge builders.

Cross-posted from New Deal 2.0.