Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The dangers of mockery

Atrios and others are openly mocking today's David Brooks' column about the sign of the apocalypse that is the rise in separate checking accounts for married couples.

Now, I can understand the temptation to mock this kind of silliness (notice my "sign of the apocalypse" comment). But I think many are missing the deeper point behind Brooks' column. One of the essential elements of the Republican message, the message that has given them the leg up in the political world, is that they are the defenders of the American family. Brooks' column is all about defending the family even if the thing he is defending it against is laughable. As long as he appears to be defending the family, it doesn't matter if the monster he is fighting off is a chimera.

This is not a column meant to persuade those who aren't already convinced that the American family is in serious peril. It is a column meant to persuade those who are convinced. It is meant to persuade them that their fears are justified and that this is just another sign that things are getting worse so they better elect more Republicans if theywant to save the family as a fundamental American institution.

Brooks' surface point is vacuous at best, but his underlying message plays right to fear that reside in the heart of the Republican base. And by openly mocking it we are playing into the stereotype that liberals don't understand the danger that is right in front of them.

Liberals need to understand that this kind of mockery is really just self-congratulatory back-slapping ("Ha! Look at the foolish Bobos and their foolish concerns! Good thing we aren't so foolish!"). It does nothing to reverse the political trend of this country. It may, in fact, make it worse.

So should we take the concern about separate checking accounts seriously? No. But should we take the deeper, underlying concerns seriously? Most definitely!

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