This deconstruction of Charles Murray by David Frum is masterful. If Republicans talked like David Frum, we’d be getting somewhere.
I tramped through a lot of the same research that Charles Murray presents here when I wrote my history of the 1970s, How We Got Here.
As I looked backward and forward in time, however, I had to face this awkward fact: America became more culturally stable between 1910 and 1960 as it became less economically and socially libertarian. As it became more economically and socially libertarian after 1970, America became culturally less stable:
“The greatest generation was also the statist generation. Like them or loathe them, the middle decades of the twentieth century were an entirely anomalous period in American history. Never had the state been so strong, never had people submitted as uncomplainingly, never had the country been more economically equal, never had it been more ethnically homogeneous, seldom was its political consensus more overpowering.”
Murray nostalgically regrets the lost America of his 1950s Midwestern boyhood. But to describe in any true way how that America was lost would require a reckoning of how that America was made. Unwilling, as he acknowledges, to submit his politics to the check of uncongenial evidence, Murray prefers to avoid encountering the evidence that might shake his politics.
The cognitive dissonance required to be a Republican nowadays qualifies as neurological self-mutilation. Going back to the taxes of the nineties is regarded as Stalinism by Republicans nowadays. Looking back to the story of the “Greatest Generation” and how they built a middle class America reveals that we were apparently a sub-colony of the USSR. Republican presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan (yes, I mean that) and George HW Bush were all bleeding pink. As Republicans wrenched us away from the kind of unity we had post-Depression and WWII, the middle class has seen increasingly disproportionate returns, and blue collar workers have ever fewer roads to common prosperity in this service economy. If Republicans intend to explain how they’re going to return us to middle class prosperity with the economic support systems of the 1800s, then they should get started on explaining sooner rather than later.