Political Hay

Mau-Mauing Paul Ryan

The perils of truth-speaking.

By 3.24.14

UPI
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Watching the Left and various race-baiting Progressives going after Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) reminds me of Tom Wolfe’s use, back in the 1970s, of the phrase “mau-mauing,” or intimidation, by the politically correct, directed at anyone who does not conform to their notions of reality. The process does not engage on the level of argument, but simply involves the impugning of the victim’s motives or character. It routinely results in a kind of liberal fatwah being issued against the offending party, denouncing his or her deviation from conventional pieties.

The offense in question involves statements Paul Ryan, the current House Budget Chairman, made on Bill Bennett’s radio show in which he spoke of a “tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular, of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value and culture of work.”

“There’s a real culture problem here,” said Ryan.

To get a sense of the firestorm and abuse these comments generated, simply google up “Paul Ryan” and “racism.” My search yielded over 21 million hits evidencing the outrage in the liberal blogosphere which includes, of course, much of the mainstream media. The mau-mauing of Paul Ryan is at full cry.

If I have any criticism of Ryan’s comments, it is that they should not have been limited to just the inner city. The trends he describes are becoming prevalent in all areas of American society as has been documented in Charles Murray’s compelling book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010,which I have quoted on this site before. The disconnection of males from the family project, from work, and from society generally is a pervasive and growing problem in white, black, and Hispanic America.

Ryan is correct. This is as much a cultural issue as it is an economic one with its nexus in the declining state of families, a situation which, as George Gilder pointed out more than forty years ago, impacts males even more than females. Here is what Murray says:

Trends in marriage are important not just with regard to the organization of communities, but because they are associated with the large effects on the socialization of the next generation. No matter what the outcome being examined — the quality of the mother-infant relationship, externalizing behavior in childhood (aggression, delinquency, and hyperactivity), delinquency in adolescence, criminality as adults, illness and injury in childhood, early mortality, sexual decision making in adolescence, school problems and dropping out, emotional health, or any other measure of how well or poorly children do in life — the family structure that produces the best outcomes for children, on average, are two biological parents who remain married. Divorced parents produce the next-best outcomes. Whether the parents remarry or remain single while the children are growing up makes little difference. Never-married women produce the worst outcomes. [Footnotes omitted.]

“I know of no other set of important findings that are as broadly accepted by social scientists who follow the technical literature, liberal as well as conservative, and yet are so resolutely ignored by network news programs, editorial writers for the major newspapers, and politicians of both major political parties,” says Murray.

This latter point, in a nutshell, is the challenge for anyone, like Paul Ryan, trying to diagnose and address the problems of chronic under- and unemployment among males.

Invincible ignorance combines bad faith to preempt any such discussions of important issues such as the breakdown of the social fabric.

Back to Paul Ryan’s basic point. It is unassailable. George Will, in his column on the controversy, reminds his readers that today “41 percent of all American children are born out of wedlock; almost half of all first births are to unmarried women, as are 54 percent and 72 percent of all Hispanic and black births, respectively.” And these figures are much, much worse than in 1965 when Daniel Patrick Moynihan created a controversy with his report on the state of the black family. Back then, 23.6 percent of black children were born to single women, compared to just 3.07 percent of white children. Today, the numbers are horrible for all demographic groups but especially African-Americans.

One reason so many liberal progressives hate to see this issue raised in the public square is that it points to a problem that may not be within the power of politics and activist government to solve. This is not to say we should ignore sound economic and social policy. But the disorder in our communities reflects a disorder in our souls. Another Great Awakening, anyone?

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About the Author

G. Tracy Mehan III served at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the administrations of both Presidents Bush. He is a consultant in Arlington, Virginia, and an adjunct professor at George Mason University School of Law.