Commentary Magazine


The Most Revealing Anti-Palin Piece Yet

Well, well, well. Michelle Cottle, a senior editor at the New Republic, has figured it all out — the appeal of Sarah Palin and all. In what may be the most revealing piece of writing to come out of liberal circles since the Palin pick, she published a blog item today in which she discerns from a conversation with a friend at least as hostile to Palin and conservatism as she is that the Republican party just doesn’t trust people who don’t have dozens of children out of wedlock:

These days, a stable nuclear family consisting of two parents with only one or two kids–once considered the traditional ideal–is now often regarded as elitist or blue-stateish. In order to be truly authentic and win the respect of conservatives…, people need to have experienced some of the more colorful “complexities” of family life, by either getting themselves knocked up at an early age or winding up with what many people might consider “too many” kids.

First, when exactly was having “only one or two kids once considered the traditional ideal”? Whose tradition would that be — a tradition that, were it upheld, would cause a society to depopulate itself entirely in four generations? Perhaps Cottle is thinking of post-World-War II Italy? Or Post-Communist Russia?

Second, I am grateful to Cottle for pointing out that it takes getting “knocked up at an early age” to “win the respect of conservatives” Now I know how to win the respect of conservatives, something that has eluded me for decades. But just so I can be sure this is the case, I would be very interested to have Michelle Cottle name a single “conservative” for whom this is true. And someone running an excommunicated pseudo-Mormon cult doesn’t count.

Cottle isn’t done yet:

 To be sure, this theory needs some tinkering. Most notably, if you’re a poor black teen and find yourself a young mother, conservative commentators and politicos are unlikely to defend you as simply having made “a mistake”; you are, in those cases, more typically decried as the product of a morally bankrupt culture. But there is something to this idea as it is applied to working- or middle-class white folks, and my guess is that there are a couple of factors at play.

No more irony now from me. The teenage mother living in an underclass ghetto isn’t “decried as the product of a morally bankrupt culture” by those concerned about her fate and the fate of her child. It is the “morally bankrupt culture” that is decried, not the mother — the culture that offers her so little hope and so little sense that there are immense benefits to thinking about life in the longer term. Nor is this sense limited to the “poor black teen” of Cottle’s fantasy. The Palin family itself, upon announcing the pregnancy of Bristol, said in their statement that the news of her pregnancy “would make her grow up faster than we had ever planned….As Bristol faces the responsibilities of adulthood, she knows she has our unconditional love and support. Bristol and the young man she will marry are going to realize very quickly the difficulties of raising a child, which is why they will have the love and support of our entire family.”

This was no rah-rah, our-daughter-is-pregnant statement. It is the opposite: a sober acknowledgement of the challenges posed by it, the responsibilities that will have to be shouldered, and the difficulties Bristol and Levi will face.

Cottle keeps digging the hole deeper:

Somewhere along the way, limiting the number of children one produces produces came to be seen as selfish–a calculated decision yuppy parents make to ensure they and their offspring maintain a certain standard of lifestyle. And be honest, doesn’t having just one or two kids seem suspiciously European? I mean, America is all about size: big cars, big homes, big hamburgers, big families…

Selfish? Obviously, whether a couple is being selfish when it “limits the number of children one produces” is entirely a product of the reasons why they choose to “limit” — but in years of discussions of these matters on the Right, I have never heard it said that someone was “selfish” for determining that having one or two children was all he or she could handle. Perhaps Michelle Cottle has heard others speak differently on these matters.

Somehow, I doubt it.

And thus does the Sarah Palin pick continue to lead liberals into a moral and intellectual thicket from which they emerge covered in nothing but painful brambles, more confused for having attempted to spell out what it is that is bothering them so much.

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