Wednesday, May 03, 2006

With Friends Like Caitlin Flanagan, Democrats Need No Enemies

So here is Caitlin Flanagan in Time magazine, holding forth as the spokesman for all the millions of Americans she claims have been rightly alienated from the Democratic party. The explanation lies in Flanagan's version of the last two generations of political history:

The Democrats made a huge tactical error a few decades ago. In the middle of doing the great work of the '60s--civil rights, women's liberation, gay inclusion--we decided to stigmatize the white male. The union dues-paying, churchgoing, beer-drinking family man got nothing but ridicule and venom from us. So he dumped us. And he took the wife and kids with him.

And now here we are, living in a country with a political and economic agenda we deplore, losing election after election and wondering why.

It's the contempt, stupid.

It must be wonderful to be a photogenic journalist with a counter-intuitive backstory--Liberal housewife! Conservative feminist! Feisty and opinionated stay-at-home mom! It licenses you to bloviate freely based on stereotypes and vague impressions without having to offer any actual facts in support of your assertions.

Tell me, Ms. Flanagan, who exactly are these Democratic party leaders of the past forty years who have treated white males, union-members, church-goers, and family men with "venom," "ridicule," and "contempt"? Did Robert F. Kennedy do this? Did Eugene McCarthy or George McGovern do this? How about Walter Mondale or Jimmy Carter or Mike Dukakis or Bill Clinton or Al Gore?

Every single presidential candidate we have nominated has been a white, church-going family man. Every significant Democratic leader has spoken with respect if not reverence about the family, about hard work, about the value of religion and playing by the rules and honoring our nation.

Democrats have embraced one candidate after another who embodied the traditional values that blue-collar males supposedly stand for. We voted for the Sunday-school-teaching Jimmy Carter, the war heroes McGovern and Kerry, the stolid midwestern Mondale, the southerners Clinton and Gore, and the aspiring ethnic Dukakis. We practically canonized Mario Cuomo, whose credentials as a church-goer, union-supporter, and family man outshine those of any six Republicans combined.

Search your memory, Ms. Flanagan. Your vague impression of Democratic "contempt" for middle-class whites is based on something. Maybe it comes from some flippant remarks made by a Hollywood movie producer or some obscure academic or an angry student leader or Black Panther from the 1960s or 1970s. Any of these is a far more likely source for your impression than any actual Democratic leader. But it's beyond me why you would characterize an entire party based on fringe figures like these.

Hey, it's true that there are white males who believe that the Democrats hold them in contempt. They believe it because of decades of Republican propaganda. The Republicans encourage people to think that anyone who expresses values that differ from their own is showing "contempt" for them. Thus, according to Republican propaganda, advocating choice on abortion is equivalent to "mocking Christian values." Opposing the war in Iraq is equivalent to "spitting on the troops." Defending gay rights is equivalent to "assaulting marriage." And (most relevant to Ms. Flanagan's writings), supporting women in the workplace is equivalent to "demeaning traditional lifestyles." It's pathetic to see a supposedly liberal Democrat unthinkingly swallow these ridiculous equations.

Democrats don't kowtow to white males or beer-drinkers or church-goers. But they also don't treat them with contempt. I'm all three, and I'm also a proud Democrat. Get real, Caitlin.

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