Mark Steyn, Tucker Carlson, and Colonial Floorboards, Or Woe to Us All

 

When we were recording the weekly podcast just now, somebody–James Lileks?  Rob?–asked our guest, Tucker Carlson, if the Republicans could beat Obama in 2012.  Tucker replied with his usual aplomb and good cheer.

“No.”

Tucker named a couple of reasons with which we’re all distressingly familiar.  Too many Americans, Tucker said, like getting stuff from the federal government.  Give up goodies right now to stave off collapse in 10 or 20 years?  Don’t be silly.  Immigrants?  They vote overwhelmingly Democratic. “Even immigrant groups that might surprise you,” Tucker said.  ”Indians, for example.”

Then Tucker named a reason that was a new one on me–or almost new:  Even the most solid part of the Republican base, rural white voters, who have voted Republican ever since the election of Lincoln, are drifting toward the Democrats.  Why?  Illegitimacy.  The traditional family is breaking down among rural whites with astonishing speed.  Unmarried mothers vote Democratic–they need the welfare state.  And they raise their children in an atmosphere of dependency, teaching them, if only by example, to rely on government handouts.

How bad is the problem?  When we finished recording, I did a little research.  Here’s Nick Eberstadt, writing for the American Enterprise Institute:

Forty years after the Moynihan report, the tragic saga of the modern black family is common knowledge. But the tale of family breakdown in modern America is no longer a story delimited to a single ethnic minority. Today the family is also in crisis for this country’s ethnic majority: the so-called white American population….

Consider trends in out-of-wedlock births. By 2002, 28.5 percent of babies of white mothers were born outside marriage in this country. Over the past generation, the white illegitimacy rate has exploded, quadrupling since 1975, when the level was 7.1 percent. The overall illegitimacy rate for whites is higher than it was for black mothers (23.6 percent) when the Moynihan report sounded its alarm….

Today no state in the Union has an Anglo illegitimacy ratio as low as 10 percent. Even in predominantly Mormon Utah, every eighth non-Hispanic white infant is born out of wedlock.

I’d been vaguely aware of this, but hadn’t considered the political impact–the collapse of a big part of the traditional GOP base.  When Tucker mentioned this, the idea was, as I say, almost new to me. As it happens, I’d heard it exactly a week ago today over dinner with Mark Steyn.

Mark had picked me up at the Hanover Inn, then driven 40 minutes into the woods, crossing a covered bridge and making so many turns and switchbacks that it occurred to me that I’d surely starve before being able to find my way back on my own.  At last Mark turned onto a dirt road, bouncing along the ruts–it’s mud season up there–until at last we reached our destination:  An impeccably restored farmhouse dating back to colonial times, now a wonderful little restaurant.

Dinner with Mark is about what you’d expect:  The conversation proves warm, brilliant, erudite, and hilarious, but the recurring theme is, as Mark himself puts it often enough, “the decline of the Republic.” Mark Steyn, tap-dancing at the edge of the abyss. 

For miles in every direction, Mark noted, lay country that until just a few decades ago represented the heartland, so to speak, of the flinty, resourceful, independent Yankee spirit.  Now?  ”You’ll see lovely girls in the local high schools,” Mark said.  ”When you come across them again five years later, they’ll each have three children by three different fathers.”  Then Mark told a story.

In colonial times, it was against crown law to cut down any pine that exceeded a certain girth–twenty-some inches, as I recall–because all such trees were reserved for the use of the Royal Navy, which required a ready supply of masts.  Every time you see a colonial house with floorboards more than two feet wide, you’re witnessing an artifact of the American spirit–an act of rebellion.  Mark pointed to the floorboards in the restaurant, some of which were certainly more than two feet wide.  ”Two centuries ago,” he said, “the families in these parts were felling trees in defiance of the crown. Today they’re raising their children on welfare checks.”

Woe to us all.

There are 45 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Member
    @SamDominguez

    For how long has the left bleated that Judeo-Christian values have nothing to do with the prosperity of our country?

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Member
    @GusMarvinson

    This is why we need a social conservative in the White House. Understand me. I do not mean a government-establishes-religion but otherwise fiscal conservative, or a for-your-own-good, nanny state RINO who quotes the Bible in front of the cameras. I mean someone who believes in God and embraces the concept of being a spiritual role model.

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Peter, you just made the point I was trying to make to Aaron here. This is why we need someone like Ronald Reagan. And it’s not because we need the leader with greatest resolve to cut the welfare state, but because we need a leader that can recast the American experience and reshape the existing paradigm.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Peter, I have repeatedly made the argument here at Ricochet that illegitimacy is the single most dangerous threat to our society.

    People don’t want to talk about it. I suspect that might be because, even among our membership, pretty much everybody has a never-married mom in the family – a daughter, a sister, a favorite niece. I also suspect it is because many conservatives fear that the alternative to bastardy is abortion.

    What absolutely must be done – and probably won’t – is for government at every level to say, “From this day on, if you have a child out of wedlock, you’re on your own. Absolutely no subsidy – no free health care, no WIC, no housing assistance, no food stamps. Nothing.”

    Instead, we generously subsidize bastardy, while the culture celebrates the pluck of single moms.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Member
    @Charlotte

    I imagine that having dinner with Mark Steyn would be a deeply schizophrenic experience: you’d be laughing your a** off while simultaneously becoming suicidally depressed.

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Member
    @
    Sam Dominguez: For how long has the left bleated that Judeo-Christian values have nothing to do with the prosperity of our country? · Apr 14 at 1:03pm

    This morning, I saw a car in the parking lot of my local Whole Foods. In addition to the ubiquitous Obama 2008 and Coexist bumper stickers, there were two other stickers:

    Curb Your God: Fundamentalism of any color is ugly.

    And

    Kindness is Everything.

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Member
    @GusMarvinson
    Kenneth: Peter, I have repeatedly made the argument here at Ricochet that illegitimacy is the single most dangerous threat to our society.

    People don’t want to talk about it. I suspect that might be because, even among our membership, pretty much everybody has a never-married mom in the family – a daughter, a sister, a favorite niece. I also suspect it is because many conservatives fear that the alternative to bastardy is abortion.

    What absolutely must be done – and probably won’t – is for government at every level to say, “From this day on, if you have a child out of wedlock, you’re on your own. Absolutely no subsidy – no free health care, no WIC, no housing assistance, no food stamps. Nothing.”

    Instead, we generously subsidize bastardy, while the culture celebrates the pluck of single moms. · Apr 14 at 1:13pm

    Well said.

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Member
    @Schoolmarm

    Good grief – how depressing! I teach a literature class to homeschoolers, and we’re currently reading The Hiding Place. We had to have a serious discussion today on what is expected of us as citizens and as Christians when “evil is in power,” and society tells us that what’s wrong is right. It certainly becomes complicated when the majority do not AGREE on what the standard of “right” is.

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Member
    @LucyPevensie

    It all is pretty hopeless, apart from some major social shift, like another Great Awakening.

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Member
    @KennedySmith

    Tucker Lies!!! But what can you expect from a man who describes DC as a really nice town. Methinks his finger misses the pulse sometimes.

    Looking forward.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Member
    @WesternChauvinist
    Kenneth

    Sam Dominguez: For how long has the left bleated that Judeo-Christian values have nothing to do with the prosperity of our country? · Apr 14 at 1:03pm

    This morning, I saw a car in the parking lot of my local Whole Foods. In addition to the ubiquitous Obama 2008 and Coexist bumper stickers, there were two other stickers:

    Curb Your God: Fundamentalism of any color is ugly.

    And

    Kindness is Everything. · Apr 14 at 1:18pm

    I once drove into my neighborhood behind a Goth-girl, probably now one of these unwed mothers we’re supposed to admire, driving a car with similar bumper stickers and the license plate: EMPATHY. She’s probably going to grow up to be a Supreme Court Justice.

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Coolidge
    @Demaratus

    Lucy, the problem is that as long as we subsidize bastardy and other sorts of moral crimes, there won’t be another Great Awakening. The Come to Jesus moment is usually preceded by a rapid decline in one’s worldly state that prompts a deep consideration of how one should live one’s life.

    Charles Murray is working on a new book on just this topic, the decline of white America. He recently gave a lecture at the American Enterprise Institute summarizing some of his findings. You can see a video of it here:

    http://www.aei.org/event/100281

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Member
    @AmishDude
    Kenneth

    Sam Dominguez: For how long has the left bleated that Judeo-Christian values have nothing to do with the prosperity of our country? · Apr 14 at 1:03pm

    This morning, I saw a car in the parking lot of my local Whole Foods. In addition to the ubiquitous Obama 2008 and Coexist bumper stickers, there were two other stickers:

    Curb Your God: Fundamentalism of any color is ugly.

    And

    Kindness is Everything. · Apr 14 at 1:18pm

    I’m going to take a stab that those with the brave bumper stickers won’t be confronting an Imam anytime soon.

    And is there anybody more “fundamentalist” than a secular liberal? You’ll see more dissension regarding the nature of the Trinity in a Baptist church than you will among NPR listeners regarding global warming.

    About kindness, libs really don’t see at all how truly mean they are. They’re just bitter angry people. Just consider the aggressiveness (really, passive-aggressiveness) in the first sticker.

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Member
    @AmishDude
    Gus Marvinson: This is why we need a social conservative in the White House. Understand me. I do not mean a government-establishes-religion but otherwise fiscal conservative, or a for-your-own-good, nanny state RINO who quotes the Bible in front of the cameras. I mean someone who believes in God and embraces the concept of being a spiritual role model. · Apr 14 at 1:06pm

    Jim DeMint raised some ire with his statement that you can’t be a fiscal conservative without being a social conservative. In the abstract, I certainly disagree, but in practice, I don’t.

    You could count on one hand the major politicians who are fiscally conservative but not socially conservative. Especially now that the whole Democratic party is acting like home alone teenagers with the parents’ credit card. Can you name one other than Chris Christie? I guess there’s Rudy, but there are those who argue he wasn’t all that frugal and, besides, he hasn’t been in office in a long long time.

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Member
    @Britanicus

    One point that a lot of people overlook, is the role that private action plays in solving these issues.

    Before the days of the social safety net, people weren’t dying in droves in the streets. In the scary days, issues such as poverty, sickness, and a variety of life’s other maladies were dealt with at the local levels.

    Neighborhoods, churches, families, friends, all came together to deal with these issues in their own way. They directly engaged the problems and bore the costs and responsibilities themselves.

    When the state decides fills roles traditionally held by families, communities, churches, etc. it tends to decay and diminish the strength of those very institutions.

    One of the most important ties that bind us together as citizens, is a sense of responsibility to ourselves and to the people around us. When we no longer carry that sense of duty and responsibility, we lose our connection to both ourselves, and to the people and institutions we should be vested in.

    • #15
  16. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PaulARahe

    Tucker is right about the bastardy rate among whites as well as among non-whites. But he is wrong to be defeatist. We won in 2010, and we will win in 2012 — if we can find a candidate who can articulate our argument. I have a bias — a rational bias, I think — in favor of governors — folks with executive experience. But, to an ever increasing degree, I am unhappy that Paul Ryan is not running.

    In the debates, he would clean up. And when it came to the fiscal crisis, you could not do better. He seems to me to be a man of executive temperament, if not executive experience. He could make the argument, and he could govern.

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Member
    @DavidWilliamson

    Oh, dear, it sounds like this week’s podcast is going to be as depressing as the last, with Pat Cadell.

    Sadly, both are probably right, as is Mark Steyn. I am also a British ex-pat, familiar with the decline of a once-great country – it is all looking depressingly familiar. I’m getting too old to move to another more-free country, and they are in short supply (maybe Australia or New Zealand?).

    2012 will be the year when all will be lost, or recovered. We need an inspiring pair of candidates – at the risk of repeating myself from other feeds, Ryan/Rubio!

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Member
    @JimmyCarter

    Shame once curbed some actions, now government subsidizes them.

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Podcaster
    @EJHill

    Peter, if all is lost, if the country is about to descend into a one-party welfare state, can complete Balkanization be far behind with an inevitable break-up? The old and the poor will stay in the blue states while the young seek opportunity in the red?

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Member
    @TeeJaw

    Too bad someone can’t convince these unwed mothers that dependence on the government cancels out the most basic freedom Americans have, i.e., the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They are voluntarily choosing a life of poverty and misery, and if they understood what they are doing they might not do it. There has to be a special place in Hell for those who encourage naive young women to make this choice.

    • #20
  21. Profile Photo Member
    @
    Demaratus: The Come to Jesus moment is usually preceded by a rapid decline in one’s worldly state that prompts a deep consideration of how one should live one’s life.

    All of our great awakenings – 1738-40, 1815-1845, and the 1950s (although it is heavily debated whether the 1950s represented an awakening) – have all been in the midst of great commercial growth. They were more a response to how market growth could damage salvation, especially the first two.

    • #21
  22. Profile Photo Member
    @LarryKoler
    Lucy Pevensie: It all is pretty hopeless, apart from some major social shift, like another Great Awakening. · Apr 14 at 1:28pm

    God is in His Heaven and all is right with the world. Whether we can see it or not, this world is just as it should be. This world was created and is continuously sustained by God.

    Who can predict what He will do next? Wars, Catastrophes, Cataclysms bring about Awakenings. Demaratus is so very correct above.

    Leave it all to Him: “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” [Mat 6:34]

    Seek Him first. God will surprise us in how He resolves this dilemma.

    • #22
  23. Profile Photo Member
    @StevenZoraster

    Is there some way to stigmatize these unwed mothers and fathers without breaking the Constitution? And hurting the kids to?

    I am thinking scarlet letter, but nicer. Like you cannot vote if you have illegitimate kids… If you have illegitimate kids then you on a driving curfew like a 16 year old. Not able to drink in a bar?

    Here in Texas I know of two cases where the mothers knew the fathers, were living with them, but by declaring father “unknown”, could game the welfare system for free medical, aid to dependent children, etc.

    In the two cases I know, the parents do not vote, and I want them to have jobs, which makes restricting driving privileges counterproductive.

    The biggest shock to me was the lack of shame on the part of the unmarried parents.

    • #23
  24. Profile Photo Member
    @JohnnyLaRue

    We need Ronald Reagan’s optimism around here. One can be realistic about the challenges, yet be optimistic about the future. How are we going to have people join our cause when we are convinced of doom and gloom?

    I think Donald Sutherland has something to say about this from Kelly’s Heroes.

    “Always with the negative waves Moriarty.” Enough!

    Humans and countries have survived a lot more challenges than we are facing right now. I, for one, am optimistic. There are always a thousand reasons to worry and be pessimistic. And it doesn’t help a bit.

    Optimism doesn’t wait on facts. It deals with prospects. Pessimism is a waste of time.

    Norman Cousins

    Cheers! Here’s to the future!

    • #24
  25. Profile Photo Member
    @dogsbody

    After reading Peter’s illuminating post, one can infer that for Democrats, the poverty of unwed mothers isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Explains a lot.

    • #25
  26. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PeterRobinson
    Charlotte Reineck: I imagine that having dinner with Mark Steyn would be a deeply schizophrenic experience: you’d be laughing your a** off while simultaneously becoming suicidally depressed. · Apr 14 at 1:14pm

    Roughly speaking, yes.

    • #26
  27. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PeterRobinson
    Paul A. Rahe: Tucker is right about the bastardy rate among whites as well as among non-whites. But he is wrong to be defeatist. We won in 2010, and we will win in 2012 — if we can find a candidate who can articulate our argument. I have a bias — a rational bias, I think — in favor of governors — folks with executive experience. But, to an ever increasing degree, I am unhappy that Paul Ryan is not running.

    · Apr 14 at 1:57pm

    There are another couple of candidates with whom I’d be happy as well–as is no secret around here, I just love both Mitch Daniels and Haley Barbour. But at this moment Paul Ryan represents the man of the hour–the man who utterly commands the national debate–the man to whom no less a figure than the President of the United States no feels obliged to respond.

    In other words–and not for the first time–I’m with Paul Rahe.

    • #27
  28. Profile Photo Member
    @user_83937

    We should not forget the insidious impact of the Eaned Income Tax Credit. It is a significant basis for allowing people that earn very little to get a check every Spring. The more dependent children, the larger the check.

    I live in the world Tucker describes and am engaged to a single mom; let me tell you, she couldn’t get by without that big “refund” every Spring and she is a staunch Democrat. I think she is less staunch, now, than when we first met, but would not know as we are not allowed to discuss anything political, lest I see a frown over talk, when there is enough going on in life to waste a frown over talk.

    • #28
  29. Profile Photo Member
    @CharlesMark

    I agree wholeheartedly with most of the views in this conversation but I (most) respectfully object to the use of the word “bastardy” to describe a status over which the subject has no control, a word which stigmatises those who are in need of moral support and encouragement,for instance not to repeat the mistakes of their parents.For surely one of the great problems of our time is the 14-year old father or the 30-year old grandmother.

    • #29
  30. Profile Photo Member
    @dittoheadadt

    Tucker is wrong. People didn’t vote for Chairman Maobama in 2008 because they figured he’d give them more stuff than McCain would.

    They voted for him because he’s black. John Edwards was a carbon copy (no pun intended) of Obama in 2008 – glib, youthful pretty-boy, ultra-Lib, and he even had better hair – and he was out of the primaries by the end of January while Obama went on to become POTUS. Why? The answer is self-evident.

    In 2012 it’ll be “been there, done that” for most of them – does Tucker really think the likes of Peggy Noonan, Davids Brooks and Frum, Chris Buckley, et al are going to vote for Franklin DelanObama again? Ha! Fat chance.

    His gimmick worked in 2008. It won’t in 2012. He was a blank slate then. He has a record now, and enough voters know that it stinks on hot ice.

    • #30

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