Wednesday, April 27, 2005

It’s a cliche of punditry that Republicans are the Daddy Party and the Democrats are the Mommy Party. The metaphors are out of date. We must look at the Republicans as the Adult Party and the Democrats as naughty children sent to sup at the children’s table.

Republicans lead, Democrats rebel. George W. nominates serious judges and the Democrats throw tantrums. Conservatives, dominant in the Adult Party, who try to conserve traditional ideals are, ironically, in the vanguard. Conservatives have come to the majority by expressing new ideas with passion and the liberals at the children’s table have little fits: “Look at me, look at me.” The betting here is that the new liberal radio and television talk shows and celebrity blogs won’t catch Rush Limbaugh, Fox News or Matt Drudge any time soon.

Mr. Drudge, who celebrates ten years of blogging, is about to be challenged by Arianna Huffington, who was a liberal who became a conservative who lately has been a liberal. She was last seen in public knocking over the microphones in her panic to get a little attention at Arnold Schwarznegger’s announcement for governor. She’s gathered a coterie of celebrities for her blog, mostly cut from Hollywood and Manhattan, the likes of Norman Mailer, Warren Beatty and Walter Cronkite.

“In the Fox era,” Nora Ephron, the novelist and screenwriter, told the New York Times: “Everything we can do on our side to even things out, now that the media is either controlled by Rupert Murdoch or is so afraid of Mr. Murdoch that they behave as if they were controlled by him, is great. But sometimes, I may merely have a cake recipe.” (She’s unlikely to give Mr. Drudge heartburn.) Nothing reflects the adult-and-children’s table phenomenon like the campus. Liberal students, egged on by aging counterculture professors, throw pies in the faces of Pat Buchanan, Bill Kristol and David Horowitz to stop any talk of tolerance and academic freedom. Pies in the face suggest the throwers have nothing to say. Ms. Ephron should blog one of her pie recipes.

Conservatives were in the embattled minority for a long time; it was only yesterday that National Review was the only conservative magazine on the racks, and anyone looking for a conservative radio or television commentator would have to drive deep into the boonies to find one on a lonely 250-watt station. Conservatives are still a small minority in the faculty lounges of the universities, and as lonely as this was for conservatives the experience taught them to sharpen their arguments. Defending themselves was a full-time job, and on many campuses it still is.

It’s the liberals, not the conservatives, who reveal sloppy and cliched thinking now. They hang out with like-minded politically correct dogmatists, rarely bumping against anyone who doesn’t look and sound just like themselves. Politically incorrect professors and students can’t indulge the luxury of glibness. Throwing lemon-custard pies may be more fun but throwing out ideas is more persuasive. Food nourishes bodies and food for thought nourishes minds.

George W. beat John Kerry by almost 20 percentage points among married adults with children. These are the adults who want ethical standards for their children, who yearn for a culture that appeals to values derived from faith and morality. They’re fed up with Hollywood and the entertainment industry that pushes a prurient pop culture.

Some adult Democrats, fed up with the fare at the children’s table, understand this. A new study by the Progressive Policy Institute, the policy arm of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, describes a “parents gap.” Many Democrats who might have voted for a Democrat didn’t vote for Mr. Kerry because they liked what Mr. Bush was saying about the way the entertainment culture makes it difficult for parents “to protect their kids from morally corrosive images and messages.” Many of these parents were liberal when they were younger, but have discovered “lifestage conservatism.” They’re impatient with Democrats who refuse to put away childish things.

As parents they connect with the adult community, develop religious affiliations and are more likely to vote for candidates who show respect for right and wrong. “Parenthood is a life-transforming experience,” writes Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, author of the report. “Democrats cannot be a party of the future if they lose their connection to the very people who are creating the future by rearing the next generation.”

What these Democrats want is a grown-up meal that sticks to the ribs. They’re tired of Cap’n Crunch and the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the children’s table.

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