Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Maternal State

As you may have noticed, there are two major political parties in the United States, and they often disagree about things.

Inquiring minds would like to understand why this is so. Since the influence of money on political decision-making is too speculative to be of any real use, David Paul Kuhn sticks to the cold hard facts:

The health care clash, like American politics, remains rooted in our mommy and daddy parties.
See, the Democrat Party is the Mommy Party because it projects "warmth." And the Republican Party is the Daddy Party because it leaves work early to have anonymous sex at glory holes, drives home blind drunk, knocks over the neighbors' mailboxes, yells at the kids for dressing like sluts and fags, kicks the dog, sexually harasses the undocumented Guatemalan housekeeper, and spends the rest of the night blogging on the Decline of Civility.

I'm exaggerating, of course. In reality, the Daddy Party just wants to keep us safe from immigrants and taxes and Mohammedanism and socialized medicine and gay sex and Hollywood and stuff like that.

Democrats' five most partisan issues: health care, the environment, aiding the poor, education and securing Medicare. In short, maternal.

Republicans' five most partisan issues: strengthening the military, illegal immigration, influence of lobbyists, terrorism and the moral breakdown. In short, paternal.

How do we know that some of these things are "maternal" and some are "paternal"? 'Cause Kuhn says so, duh. And why should we concede that the Daddy Party stands between us and "moral breakdown," when one could just as easily use that phrase to describe the Right's masturbatory arguments for torture? Because Kuhn's argument might not work otherwise. We've gotta dance with the one that brung us...which means accepting that visceral emotional reactions to abortion or gay sex are toughminded and rational -- in short, paternal -- while comparing the cost of last-minute ER treatment to preventative care is the stuff of soppy schoolgirl fantasies.

Another thing:
The political right stressed law and order. The political left stressed societal welfare. And not much has changed since.
Quite true, so long as you remember that "law and order" includes indefinite detention; illegal search and seizure; and "get out of jail free" cards for white-collar criminals, vigilante groups, and anti-abortion terrorists. You also need to remember that strict regulation of industry does not, by any stretch of the imgination, count as "law and order." (Sometimes you have to let boys be boys, after all.)

And another thing:
Today, the daddy party views government as a force for order. Government exists to prevent harm, whether to life or way of life....

The mommy party views government as a means to feel safe.
No wonder we can't get along.

Now, a bit of history: Early on, in its quest to make Americans feel safe, the Mommy Party inspected meat-packing plants and curtailed child labor, as mothers will. The middle class liked these ideas, by and large. But then, in the mid-sixties, something or other happened -- history is oddly silent on the details -- and the social safety net suddenly became the Welfare State.
People began to ask the price of all this "warmth." A majority of whites, significantly more men than women, started to oppose big government. They viewed it as more synonymous with cost and less beneficial to them.
Then came Nixon and Reagan, but for some reason they didn't make any really serious effort to dismantle "the Maternal State" created by LBJ. Bill Clinton did, though. Does this mean there's no such thing, really, as a Mommy or Daddy Party? Of course not. All three presidents acted against type, sort of, which absolutely proves Kuhn's point, don't you see.

Eight years passed that are of no interest to anyone. And then Obama was elected, and here's why:
The center of the electorate was not converted to mommy's view. But minds were open....Daddy's free market felt cold.
Why did it feel cold? Because "personal safety nets were torn, as home values and retirement savings plummeted." Go figure!

The nation demanded swift and effective action, or its nearest feminine equivalent. But instead, "Democrats proceeded as if voters moved in with mom for good." In other words, they tried to lop Daddy's dick off with a pair of pinking shears and turn America into a queer-coddling gynocracy. And we all know what happened next:
Soon Obama was seen as for big government and big business. He was seen as nurturing Wall Street and turning a cold shoulder to Main Street. The president now personified the worst stereotypes of the mommy and daddy parties.
I have an even more daring theory, which states that when an idiotic essentialist metaphor fails this spectacularly, it might be time to abandon it.

Which just goes to show that I'm a sissy. 'Cause the real lesson here is that The American People are now, once again, opposed to "the state." Which state, given that we're currently saddled with the worst aspects of both? The Maternal one, natch, because...well, just because.
Antagonism toward the state has returned to the fore of the American Mind. In the popular perception, the cost of "warmth" again outweighs its potential benefit. Mommy governance is unpopular again. And suddenly, daddy does not look so bad.

Preferences shift, not the nature of the debate.
How could it, as long as women are women and men are men?


Rmj said...

People began to ask the price of all this "warmth." A majority of whites, significantly more men than women, started to oppose big government. They viewed it as more synonymous with cost and less beneficial to them.

Wasn't that about the time blacks got civil rights?

Huh. Shoulda knowed. How maternal is that?

Jazzbumpa said...


You probably don't believe in those masculine Austrian economic theories, either.


Leslie Guinan said...

Kuhn has failed to understand, and then perverted, Lakoff's use of the family as metaphor for the differences between conservatives and liberals. When I read Lakoff's piece I thought it would be a great tool to use to get liberals and conservatives talking to each other about why they believe what they believe. Oh well, so much for civil fracking discourse.

Tacitus Voltaire said...

but when the "patriot" act effectively suspends the 4th amendment, promising us that that is necessary to make us more safe from the muslin tourists - is that a mommy state action or a daddy state action?

and where's my blankie!!!!

Southern Beale said...

Therefore we can conclude that, healthcare reform is teh gaiiiii.

Class dismissed.

Oh, and why do you hate America?

Southern Beale said...

Oh and I guess you really schooled Kuhn because the link to his column now comes up "File Not Found." Which sounds like a good thing ....

grouchomarxist said...

I prefer to think of these things in terms of the Godzilla Party versus the Mothra Party.

Jazzbumpa said...

Tacitus -

Blankie, hell - I'm going for a bottle.

Bottoms up -- oh, wait . . .