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Outbreed 'em, baby!

This will be the new slogan in the culture wars. Steve Sailer adds credibility to the claim that "demography is destiny." In the new edition of The American Conservative, he describes why white birth rates are shaping the nation's political future.

David Brooks adds his take on Sailer's findings in an article entitled "The New Red-Diaper Babies". His conclusions would be crisper if he could get his head around that one group that fits no neat categories: Catholics.

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Comments (6)

Niemann:

I think Brooks misses the point entirely. I was actually working on a post of my own when you beat me to it. I'm upset, naturally, but I receive solace from the fact that I have four times the number of children you do.

Brooks is occasionally (though not recently) witty, but he is unwilling to follow his own good observation to its conclusion. Brooks’ basic claim, in keeping with his usual pop sociology (“I’m okay, you’re okay, passionately held moral positions are definitely not okay”), is that this is an interesting trend but ultimately nothing to get worked up about because red state conservatives are “not launching a jihad.” He mistakenly attributes conservative values to those who, for whatever reason, happen to chose to have more children. The reality is that children are far more welcome in authentic Christian marriages. Brooks would also have us believe that “this is a spiritual movement, not a political one” as if one can be separated from the other.

As a community service, I emailed him the following remarks.

"Accepting children without reservation is the most elemental existential assault one can make upon the culture of death. This is so because no vocation is more humanly authentic. Having children is not an endeavor, as you suggest, chosen from the many morally neutral adventures one is free to take up. That moral relativism is precisely why liberal culture is qualitatively and quantifiably in decline.

This culture makes everyone a cultural warrior. In non-inclusive, non-tolerant language, you are either with us or against us. The enemy culture oozes right up to my Midwestern front door. Only sheer ignorance or interested disingenuousness would lead one to claim that somehow the difference between my family and typical blue state denizens is only one of degree, that our basic concerns are equivalent. That would assume that the culture is somehow an independent force of nature that we all have to deal with. That is absurd. The culture is what it is precisely because these blue state regions have made it so. Their demographic sterility correlates perfectly to their cultural sterility. No doubt many sincere liberals look around them at the declining culture and wonder what is to be done, but they are sadly oblivious to the scourges born of the contraception, abortion, divorce, lax personal morals, declining pedagogy, and enduring materialism they themselves celebrate to varying degrees.

That is where the dividing line sits. Even a simple red state father of four (so far) can have little doubt what is to be done looking at the big picture. Respect for the wonder of life, cultivation of spiritual awareness, humility and rigor in intellectual pursuits, a reclamation of the virtues of self-denial, self-reliance, compassion for the less fortunate, a rehabilitation of the traditional honor bestowed to motherhood, to faithful fathers, and to obedient children. In short, a faithful Christian renaissance. Willfully or unwittingly, blue state liberals more and more embody and empower the moral corruption of our culture.

Call me a jihadist, call me a dimwitted conservative, but don’t call me late to the front lines of the culture war. My family and I will be there because it is a moral duty. As your article inadvertently points out, we are already winning.
"

Jason A.:

Wow, you wrote some hard-core stuff to Brooks. I like it. He has trouble differentiating between the 2-3 children families that flock to the exurbs and are not necessarily strongly religious, and the families that are making real countercultural decisions regarding family life and rearing their children with particular sets of values. This latter group is fully engaged in the culture war, as you note. I think the former group likes stability and has different aesthetic tastes than the blue staters. They aren't as ideological as the blue staters and want to protect their interests. On that point, Brooks might be right. The point is, he's leaving out the real countercultural breeders, like us! I think it is because he doesn't understand them. We just don't fit into the universe he has created in his books. Call it the Brooks hermeneutic. We love urban cultural life (to an extent) and have intellectual, urbane sensibilities, but are deeply religious, have conservative values and lots of kids, sacrificing some of the financial comforts that both red and blue staters cherish in different ways.

Jason A.:

Oh yeah. My broader point was that the average family that sends their kids to Maple Grove, Woodbury, or Eden Prairie high schools generally shares the same broader cultural assumptions and horizons (ooh, such a Voegelinian term) with the blue staters. However, they have chosen to participate in the order of nature (basically family life) rather than completely subvert it through classic blue state cultural rot. So, Brooks is right to an extent, he is just leaving out that inconvenient 15% or so that is the fly in the ointment of both his theory and broader cultural harmony (decay). Is this making sense?????

niemann:

Yeah, you’re making sense. It’s just that the radical 15% (I’ll object and claim that it is a much higher number) you mention is not the fringe, but the core. The Brooks conservatives buying up town homes and palatial new construction in Woodbury are not the animus of red states (or, more to the point, red districts). He’s right that these people occasionally have (gasp!) two children and have a dim sense that Woodbury is a better environment than parts of South Minneapolis. For that matter, Northeast is not Woodbury, but is a better environment than Frogtown. But this sense of protecting their children is often shallow and immature. It clearly does not typically extend to keeping mothers at home and the children out of daycare. It typically does not extend to removing their children from the defunct public school system entirely. And it does not clearly lead them to accept children openly without contraceptive limits and abortive corrections. These are people who are tugged at by an elemental force, a certain discontent or worry that they do their utmost to silence or, if they must, quell. Their decisions look selfless and spiritually motivated to someone like Brooks because these people have to buy minivans instead of BMWs and tend to go to a church with non-challenging milquetoast platitudes.

The gravity of these red districts derives from authentic orthodox Christians partaking in the truth. I would argue that the recent election reveals that the numbers favor these people, reflecting the slow but irrepressible advance of truth under the new evangelism. The somewhat baffled folks Brooks describes are not sufficiently motivated to embrace unpopular platform planks like ending abortion and embryonic stem cell research. But they can become more amenable to such positions as the culture at large shows signs of accepting such positions and as their faith grows. People of faith drive this process, and to them (to us) this is a culture war.

Brooks makes money off of dropping witticisms based on vital issues, like everyone else at the Weekly Standard, National Review, etc. I have no problem with that. If I was more clever, I would want his job. But he sells the issues short in the interest of readership. He wants to say that this is no big deal. It’s an interesting phenomenon, he seems to say, but really, can’t we all just get along? But it does matter. It has grave consequences.

I have met too many hollow intellects like his in my wanderings, and I have lost patience for it. There is a strain of this in the Protestantism at Trinity. Also, I find Dale Carpenter (who slums at Billy Mitch) to be a talking head for the same reason. Have you read any of his recent articles? Apparently there are interesting questions in constitutional law, but there is no crisis. Constitutionalism still exists, right? Brooks sees red, but he doesn’t understand it. His red state conservatives are actually deep purple agnostics (and there is smoke on the water, baby). But they drift toward the red, because that is where the truth lies.

Jason A.:

What is Dale doing at that other law school? Which articles of his are you referring to?

Niemann:

Carpenter is slummin' over here, late at night, probably for a little extra spending money. Or perhaps UM isn't pro-gay enough for him. He certainly fits in better with the Mitchell Federalist Society than UM's.

I have no real justification to be down on Carpenter. I am only barely acquainted with him. He teaches a Con Law course that meets from 8:30pm - 10:30pm on Monday nights. Basically, it’s a group head injury. No wonder, no responsiveness and apparently not much preparation from the students (myself excluded). Also, I have had some email conversations with him. I don’t question his qualifications and do not spoeak to his character. He is no doubt learned and thoughtful, but he appears to lack a certain vital dimension. His thought lacks range and his positions, as far as I can tell, lack intensity. Philosophically (not intellectually), he is a low watt bulb. Low amplitude is how I describe it. To me, this malady is not uncommon among intellectuals in general and certainly prevalent in the academy. If I may drop a name, it is a weak derivative of Hume’s skepticism; or rather Hume’s alleged skepticism. One day over beers I’ll subject you to my theory.

My beef with Carpenter is that at the end of the day (literally in Con Law) he is unwilling to grant levity to constitutional issues. Pedagogy requires that someone be the devil’s advocate, and certainly there is a need for a limited scope in discussions and articles. But Carpenter’s most tightly grasped conviction, amid all of his articles and all the issues we’ve addressed in class, seems to be that everything is basically okay and no one needs to get too worked up. It makes his pursuits purely academic when in fact they are vital, living issues. And worse, these issues evolve, or perhaps metastasize is a better word. Check out 20 Const. Commentary 405 for his appraisal of the most pressing governmental crisis of our time (insert yawns, shrugs and rhetorical questions with faint Teas drawl). At least he takes a position in Romer (76 Ind. L. J. 403), though it is the wrong one and based upon another shrugging glance at moral principles.

Just because an issue is enduring and difficult does not mean it is not vital. And if a man takes up an issue, even only in his own heat and mind, intellectual honesty requires that he address it honestly and in full. Certainly some issues admit of a survey, a general investigation where conclusions or positions are premature. But all men at some point must take a reasoned position.

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