Saturday, January 5, 2019

Tucker Carlson, Rod Dreher, & the soul of the GOP

So, over at the American Conservative, editor Rod Dreher created a bit of a social media stir the other day with his column, "Tucker Carlson For President." Dreher was responding to Carlson's opinion piece at Fox News which used Mitt Romney's op-ed challenging the President as a spring board for his explanation of what's really wrong with America. You can watch Tucker's entire bit below. The problem for Dreher on the social media front is that Carlson's bit came just days after he had explained how he felt no moral obligation to let more poor people into the country (ie. migrant caravan and asylum requests) because, well basically, "it makes our own country poorer and dirtier and more divided." As could have been expected, the backlash came with advertisers pulling support in opposition to comments that sound pretty racist. Tucker's comments are pretty indefensible, though he'll stand by them; the problem is that by focusing on Tucker's immigration comments, the message of his column gets lost. And Dreher explains, "First, TC is no racist-misogynist. Second, 'Tucker Carlson For President' was my headline over a blog post praising his criticism of GOP market fundamentalism & elitism. My way of saying "I want a Republican presidential candidate who says these things."

In all honesty, Tucker's opinion piece and Dreher's support of it is pretty interesting to me - I genuinely like and agree with many points that these men make, specifically problems with the dissolution of the American family, the stubborn stagnation of wages, and the frightening rise in opioid and cannabis use. Truly, Carlson has outlined some very specific challenges in contemporary American society, and he has synthesized a pretty significant problem for the Republican Party in its unwavering support of the economic libertarianism. Granted, he does have a Gladwell-esque tendency to oversimplify hugely complicated problems that result from personal choices and the nuances of our political system. The other problem is Carlson's general glib, frat-boy reputation and history that makes it hard to take his criticisms of the Republican Party seriously. That's especially true because he peppers his comments with subtle side-bars blaming the Democratic Party for all the nation's social ills and asserting "Socialism is a disaster" because of, ya know, Mao and Venezuela.

That said, Carlson and Dreher are not wrong in their criticisms of contemporary society and our two major political parties. The problem is expecting that the Republican Party will somehow be able to maintain its identity (and long standing platform and political affiliations) as it takes on the political positions and the tough work of addressing the problems and challenges faced by what Carlson calls "normal Americans."

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