Thursday, June 09, 2005

A Cultural Conversation on the Left

Something very interesting has been happening this week on several progressive blog sites: a genuine and heated discussion about the legitimacy of Democratic expressions of solidarity with parents worried about the impact of popular culture on their kids.

This is a subject I've written about a lot, but let me tell you, it's been pretty lonely work. A lot of Democrats just become unhinged at the suggestion that our habitual concern for corporate responsibility towards working families might extend into the entertainment and advertising industries. My friend Amy Sullivan did a post on the Political Animal site back in April that in passing endorsed the idea of a "consistent responsibility message" for Democrats, and practically got cyber-lynched in the comments thread.

So I was surprised and delighted when The American Prospect's Garance Franke-Ruta (who, unlike myself and Amy, does not have a background that arouses suspicions of latent Bible-thumper sympathies) did a long post commenting on Barbara Whitehead's new Blueprint article on parents, culture and Democrats, and made the most compelling case I have yet seen for Democratic solidarity with culturally-stressed parents. Indeed, she even offered a clear reason for the antipathy of so many bloggers and political operatives on the Left to this subject. Citing Whitehead's argument that marrieds with young children experience a "life-stage conservatism" based on their responsibility to teach kids right from wrong, Franke-Ruta suggested there's a sort of "life-stage liberalism" on cultural issues among the young single people who dominate the Left blogosphere and Capitol Hill staffs. Actually, she rather more pointedly called it "adolescent libertarianism," but sarcasm aside, she rightly understood that 23-year-olds are more likely to identify with trash-culture-consuming kids than with their anxious parents.

Franke-Ruta's piece touched off a vigorous debate with her colleague Matt Yglesias, that ultimately drew in Kevin Drum and Kenny Baer, and ended amicably and constructively. Indeed, Matt closed the loop by penning a draft speech on culture and parenting that showed there's a lot of potential common ground available on this subject.

So I'm feeling a lot less lonely.
-- Posted at 3:11 PM | Link to this post | Email this post

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