Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Patio Man

David Brooks argues that "Patio Man," the quintessential American suburban voter, wants stability, which the Democrats are promising (except when Joe Biden speaks about the crisis that’s going to test Barack Obama’s mettle). But if what they deliver answers the pent-up demands of the party’s left wing, watch out.

[T]he shift in public opinion is not from right to left, or from anti-government to pro-government, it’s from risk to caution, from disorder to consolidation.

There is a deep current of bourgeois culture running through American suburbia. It is not right wing, but it is conservative: a distrust of those far away; a belief in convention and respectability; and a strong reaction against anything that threatens to undermine the stability of the established order.

Democrats have done well in suburbia recently because they have run the kind of candidates who seem like the safer choice — socially moderate, pragmatic and fiscally hawkish. They, or any party, will run astray if they threaten the mood of chastened sobriety that has swept over the subdivisions.

Patio Man doesn’t appear to care much about social issues, according to Brooks. Judging from my neighbors, he’s probably right. But that’s because he and they wrongly think that you can have economic and social stability without a strong moral foundation. I don’t blame proponents of abortion rights and same-sex marriage for the fix we’re in. Their attitudes are symptomatic, not foundational. The foundational attitude is the self-indulgence in which we all share, a self-indulgence that is articulated every day on the radio by Rush Limbaugh and that is practiced by Patio Men, Women, and Children, but not so much by their parents and grandparents.

But it may be too late for Cato the Censor or his "Abrahamic" counterpart.

Discussions - 6 Comments

Patio Man (H. frontisporchis) doesn't exist anymore. He went extinct decades ago. His children evolved into Teevee Man and Teevee Woman (H. couchpotatosis). That's the real problem, the destruction of real culture and real human interaction, not to mention the propagation of completely unrealistic material expectations, that teevee has caused. In case you haven't noticed, most people don't have patios anymore, and if they do they're mostly facing the back yard, where there's no danger of random neighbors walking by and striking up a conversation. The average person in this country is now more likely to know who's on The Bachelor or Dancing With the Stars or whatever "reality" shows are on these days than he is to know, say, the name of his city alderman or state representative.

Sorry, but I would add to my above comment that a conservative should take any advice from David Frum with a dram of chloroform. The man is now busily trying to offload the Republican Party's problems onto the religious right. While I myself am not particularly religious, and while the religious right certainly is responsible for a little bi of the GOP's image problem, I think I can say without a doubt that the GOP's current mess mostly has nothing to do with them. It was David Brooks who was pushing mass immigration and amnesty, not James Dobson. It was David Brooks pushing for the war in Iraq, not James Dobson. It was the so-called fiscal conservatives who were arguing that we needed to Hispander to certain ethnic groups, doing things like lowering lending standards), not James Dobson. Now that they're policies have failed this country miserably, the neconservatives and big business wing are busily trying to push out of the party the one element that actually brings a large number of votes to the table.

Hi Joe--greetings from Notre Dame! I don't share this blog's political leanings but I'm following the discussion with interest. It seems to me that the real enemy of the virtues you advocate is the populist-cum-plutocratic belief that gaudy consumerism plus provincial mediocrity are the sum total of the "American Way." The corollaries are that tax cuts are always good while calling paying your taxes "patriotic" is un-American, that driving Hummers is patriotic while wearing a sweater in the White House is not, and that ignorant chest-pounding is "American" while sounding "professorial" is a bore. By those standards, America's decline started when Ronald Reagan (whom I helped to re-elect, I might add) became President. Both traditional Christianity and classical civic virtue assume that human nature is flawed and we need to learn discipline, humility, and self-restraint; I suspect you find far more of that today on the environmentalist / pacifist left than on the anti-tax, "patriotic" right. Just my two cents' worth.

Alex, some good points to ponder, but any standards that indicate that American decline STARTED when Reagan became President (compare the Reagan era with say 1970-1980)are of limited worth. I also disagree that the pursuit of upward mobility through work equals gaudy consumerism or that demands for enviormental policies that slow growth are a good in themselves because they slow down wealth creation (as opposed to the pragmatic trade-offs between economic losses and enviormental gains). Does Al Gore strike you as humble? Or Code Pink self-restrained?

but not so much by their parents and grandparents.

I was with up until this. The so called "Greatest Generation" and their children (baby boomers) were, and are the most indulgent of any generation, including those that come after.

Interested in how far they are willing to go? Just look at the political actions of the AARP. They don't care in the least that SS, Medicare, and Medicaid are unsustainable. They are perfectly willing to tax myself (39 years of age) 70,80% or more to get what they promised to themselves.

History will look back on "the Greatest Generation" as those who initiated our decline...

Now that they're policies have failed this country miserably, the neconservatives and big business wing are busily trying to push out of the party the one element that actually brings a large number of votes to the table.

I hope you are right Bill. social and traditional conservatives (to say nothing of libertarians) have for too long been the sheep of the Rockefeller GOP. Let's us hope (or if your religious, pray!) a real split is in order and a conservative party can finally be born...

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