Why are American families breaking down? Scholars, writers debate Tucker Carlson monologue

Tucker Carlson on 'Fox and Friends Weekend' apologizing for previous comments he made regarding the Pagan and Wiccan religions.
Tucker Carlson on "Fox and Friends Weekend" apologizing for previous comments he made regarding the Pagan and Wiccan religions. | Screenshot: Fox News)

A monologue from Fox News Channel's Tucker Carlson has provoked vigorous debate among Christian thought leaders and writers, particularly about populism and the breakdown of the family in America.

Carlson's 15-minute segment on Jan. 2 highlighted economic trends and social phenomena currently at work in the United States that have led to widespread discontent and a fracturing society. His comments were said in the context of the public and visible divisions among political conservatives vying for influence in the Republican party, particularly Sen. Mitt Romney's, R-Utah, comments criticizing President Donald Trump's leadership and the direction he's taking the nation in a New Year's Day Washington Post editorial.

Carlson posited that while the Republican party is the only party to salvage the nation, liberal and conservative politicians alike are not in tune with what is happening and are thus proposing ineffective solutions. 

"We are ruled by mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule. They’re day traders. Substitute teachers. They’re just passing through. They have no skin in this game, and it shows. They can’t solve our problems. They don’t even bother to understand our problems," Carlson said of the elitist mentality operating in government.

This is not limited to the United States, he said, pointing out that this is occurring across the globe where populist movements of many stripes are rising up. 

Social conservatives in the U.S., he continued, assert that the main problem plaguing America is the disintegration of family and nothing can be repaired before that is fixed. But those same people support market-based economic policies that crush families.

"Both sides (liberals and conservatives) miss the obvious point: Culture and economics are inseparably intertwined. Certain economic systems allow families to thrive. Thriving families make market economies possible. You can’t separate the two. It used to be possible to deny this. Not anymore. The evidence is now overwhelming."

Writing in the National Review Friday, David French argued that Carlson had misdiagnosed the problem.

"American public policies are flawed, yes. The American people are imperfect, yes. But any argument that American elites (a group that includes, by the way, enormous numbers of first-generation college grads and people who worked brutal hours to achieve economic success) represent an uncaring, indifferent, exploitive mass is fundamentally wrong," he opined.

"In fact, the better argument is that well-meaning Americans have spent their money poorly (on ineffective charitable programs and destructive welfare policies), not that they don’t care."

America is not being destroyed but challenged, French said, disagreeing with Carlson.

"Carlson and populists on the left have accurately identified a host of American problems. Our declining life expectancy alone should be a blaring wakeup call that despite our prosperity, something is seriously amiss in American life and American culture."

"The fundamental building block of any family is still your love, your discipline, and your fidelity," he asserted.

Others said that elites and major forces have indeed shaped the factors that have contributed to social breakdown, particularly the collapse of the working class family, and that French had underplayed them.

"The dissolution and de-stabilization of working-class family life is not simply a reflection of people making bad choices or being irresponsible. Its also about major changes in American society that have had a disparate impact on the working class and (earlier) the poor," Brad Wilcox, senior fellow of the Institute for Family Studies, tweeted Saturday in response to French.

Economic shifts have mostly benefited those with higher incomes and have destabilized work in many working-class communities, he said.

"Public policy — in the form of means-tested programs like Medicaid and tax policies like the EITC — now penalizes marriage especially among the working class."

Both secular and religious civic institutions have failed the working class, he stressed, noting that no large-scale religious ministries exist for young adults not on the college track.

"Our elites embrace a marriage-oriented culture for themselves and their kids in their *private* lives, but do nothing in their *public* roles as culture makers, educators, business executives, journalists & legislators to strengthen marriage," he added.

Such dynamics extend to parenting and technology, he said referencing an October New York Times article about Silicon Valley titans who place strict limits on their own children's smartphone usage.

"Its also time for conservatives to realize that appeals to personal responsibility or pull-yourselves-up-by-your-bootstraps rhetoric is necessary but *not* sufficient," he said.

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