Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Conservatism

The Right Doesn’t Know What the Word “Bourgeois” Means

A friend of mine sent me a link to a bizarre opinion piece by Robert Woodson published in The Wall Street Journal. In the piece, Woodson claims that “black Americans need bourgeois norms”. He echoes and cites an earlier piece published in the Philadelphia Inquirer by Amy Wax and Larry Alexander, which argues:

Too few Americans are qualified for the jobs available. Male working-age labor-force participation is at Depression-era lows. Opioid abuse is widespread. Homicidal violence plagues inner cities. Almost half of all children are born out of wedlock, and even more are raised by single mothers. Many college students lack basic skills, and high school students rank below those from two dozen other countries.

The causes of these phenomena are multiple and complex, but implicated in these and other maladies is the breakdown of the country’s bourgeois culture.

This argument is instructively bad for many reasons. (Are bourgeois values even something we want?) But today I want to focus on the fact that the right seems to have forgotten what the word “bourgeois” means and where “bourgeois values” come from.

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A Judge Judy Think Piece

The internet is often full of aesthetic think pieces. It’s easy to write them–you identify some show or artist that’s captured the attention and the artistic sensibility of your readers, and you make some vague connection between the themes of that art and some current issue. On prestige websites, you can often find writers pumping out think pieces about prestige programs. Often it’s some big critical hit on HBO like Game of Thrones, or an edgy Netflix original series like House of Cards. These are thought to be the important shows, because they’re the shows our social, cultural, and political elite enjoy. Think pieces get lots of clicks, because they make us feel that the stuff we’re watching, reading, or listening to really matters. But do they matter? The most popular Game of Thrones episode was watched by about 8.9 million people. A new season of House of Cards gets seen by about 5 million. Meanwhile, every week, like clockwork, 10 million people watch Judge Judy.

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Don’t Hate Trump Voters–Hate the System that Creates Them

I’ve been disappointed in my side over the last 48 hours. On social media aggressive posts are circulating personally blaming and shaming Trump supporters for Trump’s victory and for criminal acts motivated by hate. Columnists are lashing out, reductively attributing Trump’s victory to racism and sexism alone on the basis of exit polls which show the same kinds of gaps in support among the races and the sexes that we’ve long seen in previous races dating all the way back to the 70s and beyond. The last time women were more likely to vote for a Republican was 1960 (when they skewed slightly toward Nixon) and black voters haven’t gone for a Republican since before the New Deal. Too many people are doubling down on the same failed strategy that brought us to this pass. But just as importantly, by blaming the voters as individual agents, these people are contradicting fundamental left wing principles.

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Cruz vs Rubio: The Unfinished Business from the Republican Primary

After Mitt Romney lost in 2012, the Republican Party establishment decided it needed to expand its base and wrote a report to this effect. The plan was for the party to triangulate to some degree on immigration and social issues to win more votes from Hispanics and women, moderating its positions and principles to make itself more attractive to these demographic groups. As Jeb Bush flamed out, Marco Rubio became the poster boy of this new style of conservative politics. But the Republican anti-establishment never bought into this strategy. Led by Ted Cruz, they firmly believed that Romney lost because he failed to excite the Republican base and that the answer was for the party to nominate a “true conservative”. The 2016 Republican primary was all set to be a showdown between “reform conservatism” and the Cruz counterrevolution, but then Donald Trump showed up and made the whole thing about him and about the public’s growing economic frustration. It now looks increasingly likely (but far from certain) that Trump will lose by a significant margin. What effect will that have on this debate and the party’s prospects in 2020?

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Is Theresa May Britain’s Mitt Romney?

With the abrupt departure of Andrea Leadsom from the Conservative Party leadership contest, Theresa May has cruised into number 10 as Britain’s new PM. To many, it appears that the Tory establishment has reasserted control over the Conservative Party. But I’m not convinced this is true–when Mitt Romney won the 2012 Republican primary, many people assumed that this meant the Republican establishment was in firm control, but within just four years Donald Trump had run Romney and the rest of the establishment Republicans off the Tarpeian Rock. Indeed, a close look at the data reveals that just as the 2012 result concealed deep weaknesses within the Republican establishment, the Tory establishment remains extremely vulnerable. May owes her victory to the incompetence and disorganization of her rivals, and she will need to be extraordinarily careful to preserve it.

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