Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Allan Carlson Challenges the Republican Mainstream

Lutheran family historian Allan Carlson has an important piece up at the Weekly Standard web site here.


In the internal politics of the Republican coalition, some members are consistently more equal than others. In particular, where the interests of the proverbial "Sam's Club Republicans" collide with the interests of the great banks, the Sam's Club set might as well pile into the family car and go home.

The modern "family issues" are actually about a century old. The first openly "pro-family" president was a Republican, Theodore Roosevelt. Between 1900 and about 1912, he wrote and spoke often, and eloquently, about the dangers of a rising divorce rate and a falling birth rate. He celebrated motherhood and fatherhood as the most important human tasks, and described the true marriage as "a partnership of the soul, the spirit and the mind, no less than of the body." He blasted as "foes of our household" the birth control movement, equity feminism, eugenics, and liberal Christianity.

However, the Rough Rider was the only prominent Republican of his time to think and talk this way. The dominant wing of the GOP tilted in favor of the banks, the great industries, and--perhaps more surprisingly--the feminist movement. Indeed, as early as 1904, the National Association of Manufacturers had formed an alliance with the feminists, for they shared an interest in moving women out of their homes and into the paid labor market.

Certainly at the level of net incomes, the one-earner family today is worse off than it was thirty years ago, when the GOP began to claim the pro-family banner. Specifically, the median income of married-couple families, with the wife not in the paid labor force, was $40,100 in 2002, less than it had been in 1970 ($40,785) when inflation is taken into account. In contrast, the real earnings of two-income married couple families rose by 35 percent over the same years (to nearly $73,000). Put another way, families have been able to get ahead only by becoming "nontraditional" and sending mother to work or forgoing children altogether. [More on this here.]

Concerning one-income families, the great corporations continue to view them as a waste of human resources, artificially raising labor costs by holding adults at home. Judging by its inaction and results, the GOP agrees. For the same reason, large businesses generally favor federally subsidized day care, for it creates incentives for mothers to work rather than care for their children.

Another troubling new issue is Title IV-D of the Social Security Act, the federal government's child support collection and enforcement program. . . . There is mounting evidence that the system now encourages marital breakup and exacerbates fatherlessness by creating a winner-take-all game, where the losing parent--commonly a father wanting to save the marriage--is unfairly penalized by the loss of his children and by a federally enforced child support obligation. Here we find objectively false feminist views--the assumption that men are always the abusers and women are always the victims--driving public policy.

Well, as they say, read the whole thing.

It is symptomatic that two dissenting movements from the Republican party mainstream have opposite views about Walmart and Sam's Club. For the Crunchy Cons, they're the problem. For the "Sam's Club Republicans" they're the emblem. The Crunchy Cons are Jeffersonians, for whom agrarianism, and small scale are the keys, and pro-family is only a part. The "Sam's Club Republicans" are the heirs of the Roosevelts, who have no problem with bigness, as long as bigness is pro-family.