My beat, so to speak, in this blog is the connection between worsening, seemingly intractable domestic social problems and long-simmering issues of gender politics. I see a lot of truth in the idea that the GOP is the Daddy Party and the Democrats are the Mommy Party. I see the current two-party system as a dysfunctional marriage in which the spouses disrespect, distrust and even hate each other.
And the kids are going crazy.
The problem for the husbands and fathers in this marriage, especially lately, is that we almost always come across as rigid and angry while the Dems cleverly claim caring and altruism as exclusively theirs. This messaging and rhetoric is one of the reasons that being a man, pursuing the values of male culture, is so out of fashion these days.
At a deep level, though, the nation wants what we have to offer. It wants to know that “Daddy's home!”
Think of the best things about the best fathers. That’s what the GOP was good at until it succumbed to insecurity, fear and hostility. Ideas of calm, order, efficiency, consequences for behavior were among our basic principles. We liberals in the party are mindful, though, that life is not a set of Legos and things don’t always fit and work together as we would like. We tend to see life more like a garden, full of unstoppable forces and wild unpredictability that is best accommodated and managed rather than squelched and resisted. We understand that the root of the word discipline is teaching, as in disciple. Rather than reacting to weedy and invasive behavior with punishment and poisons first, we make sure we have been cultivating and training our garden well.
“Firmth,” the title of this series, is a word I learned while working for National Fatherhood Initiative. It’s a combination of “firmness” and “warmth.” Like liberal and Republican, the two terms are not mutually exclusive. Firmth, I believe, is what the electorate wants, it’s what our part of the political discourse needs, and we Republicans do well to try at every turn to deliver it.