PERSPECTIVErnDefending the Family From Its Defendersrnby Thomas FlemingrnThe phrase “family vakies,” as it is used by pohticians,rnmarks one of the official borders between left and right inrnthe United States. The fact is infuriating to Republican moderatesrnwho want to turn their party in the direction of opportunityrnand choice, which—translated into moral terms—meanrnadultery, divorce, and infanticide, the apparent credo of thernNortheastern Republican senators who handed President Clintonrnhis triumph over impeachment. Out here, however, arnthousand miles from Sodom and Gomorrah, a man cannot entirelyrnrid himself of the idea that the whole point to economicrnopportunity is to be able to make enough money to take care ofrnhis wife and children. Such a man will never be able to cornpromisernwith a party that advocates cheating and infanticide.rnOn both sides of the moral frontier, there are a few emigres:rnleftists like David Blankenhorn, who have made capital (politicalrnas well as economic) out of marriage, and conservative Republicansrnlike Phil Gramm and Steve Forbes, who in the 1996rncampaign hardly mentioned the family. These exceptions,rnhowever, only prove the rule: Blankenhorn is denounced as arnconservative by the Nation, even though he is a leftist who usedrnto hang out with the communists at Highlander Folk School;rnand Steve Forbes has had to change his political tune sufficientlyrnto accommodate a few bars of “Mother” and “SonnyrnBoy.”‘rnFor moral reactionaries (a.k.a. “social conservatives”), thernproblem is the family, whose desperate condition is signaled byrnhigh rates of divorce and illegitimacy (to say nothing of the hostrnof related problems of working mothers, daycare, decliningrnbirth rates, abortion, and same-sex “marriage”). The family isrnin crisis, they cry; poisoned by a permissive moral code and underminedrnby an anti-family tax code that penalizes marriagernand children. As their numbers dwindle—even Paul Weyrichrnconcedes they are now the Moral Minorit}’—their hostilit)’ tornthe regime continues to deepen.rnThe moral struggle over the family, however, has becomerntoo complex for most people to imderstand. It was simplerrnback in the 1970’s, when there were leftists who actiially celebratedrnthe family’s decline, calling for the government to takernover responsibility for children and celebrating incest as a revolutionaryrnattack on the Oedipus Complex. Feminists and culture-rncritics on the left invoked Freud’s attack on the family as arnpererse institution that sexually warps its victims. Some evenrnhearkened back to Engels’ attack on the family as the creationrnof patriarchal males who also invented private propertv’ as a toolrnof exploitation.rnBy the 80’s, however, leftists (outside the academy or thernpages of the give-away Village Voice) had pulled in their horns,rnand people like Hillary Rodham were giving “pro-family” argumentsrnfor nationalizing childcare. The family was a valuable,rnif fragile, resource, like air and water, that required massive governmentrnaction to clean it up, restructure it on egalitarian lines,rnand maintain it as a socially useful institution that mediates betweenrngovernment programs and individual tax-consumers.rnIn recent years, the conservative response to the problem ofrnthe familv has followed the line taken by Peter and BrigitternBerger. In an analysis that goes back to Max Weber, the Bergersrnand their followers lament the passing of the bourgeois famil’rnthat inculcated the virtues on which a democratic-capitalistrnsociety depends: industry, thrift, moral restraint. Many, if notrnmost, take the further step of calling for government actions tornrestore motherhood and fatherhood to a place of respect, torneliminate the marriage penalty, and to foster a social atmospherernconducive to large families. Some have gone so far as torncall upon the United Nations and national governments to savernthe family, which is a little like asking the Escobar family torncurtail the international drug trade.rnlO/CHRONICLESrnrnrn