Crunchy Culture

Rod Dreher, center, and his children Matthew, 6, left, and Lucas, 2, enjoy a pre-dinner snack
Rod Dreher, with sons Matthew and Lucas in their Dallas home, has written a manifesto for granola-eating conservatives who want to save the planet. (Courtney Perry for The Washington Post)

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By Hank Stuever
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 3, 2006

DALLAS

Two succulent, naturally raised chickens with good farm references are in the oven, snuggled up in a roasting pan like doomed lovers. Fat, perfect carrots are peeled, chopped, seasoned and ready to simmer.

"Notice that I am literally barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen," observes Mrs. Crunchy Con, and perhaps, she quips, she should have done her hair for the occasion like Phyllis Schlafly's. The li'l Crunchy Cons, boys ages 2 and 6, are out back in the warm Wednesday afternoon sun, making sculptures out of a bowl of ice cubes -- something constructive and home-schoolish, something very We're Not Watching TV.

In fact, if it weren't for their right-wing politics, the Crunchy Con family could be roasting organic chickens in Berkeley, or Takoma Park. It's that kind of house.

Wearing a faded green henley shirt, jeans and sandals is Mr. Crunchy Con, named Rod Dreher.

By day he is a right-leaning pundit and opinion editor at the Dallas Morning News -- grappling with his disappointment with how the war in Iraq is turning out. At night he comes home in a used 1993 Mercedes sedan with 109,512 miles on it, to live, like Thoreau at Walden, deliberately . (Oh, to hear him spill apologetically on about the car, how he didn't mean to wind up driving something so un-crunchy, so perceptibly fat cat, but really, when you compare it value-wise to a used Honda, and anyhow, please note that the AC is always broken . . . roll down your window and feel that? It's the cool breeze of intentional livin'.)

The Dreher family lives in a smallish, 1914 Craftsman bungalow near downtown Dallas -- a contradiction to the exurb-centric, sprawly-mall Republican ways of the megalopolis that surrounds them.

"A house like this, in a lefty city?" Dreher asks. "We would never be able to afford it. But here? In 'the hood'? We got this so cheap. We like it aesthetically. That's not always valued here."

In his recent book, the grandiloquently titled "Crunchy Cons: How Birkenstocked Burkeans, Gun-Loving Organic Gardeners, Evangelical Free-Range Farmers, Hip Homeschooling Mamas, Right-Wing Nature Lovers, and Their Diverse Tribe of Countercultural Conservatives Plan to Save America (or At Least the Republican Party)," Dreher, 39, describes his little house as the perfect expression of his politics.

He and his wife, Julie, 31, put up religious art -- Orthodox icons, prints of divine old paintings. Days after they moved in, he writes of standing at the kitchen window at morning, "wondering what the peaches and figs would taste like later that summer," frozen in a prayer of gratitude to the Lord.

Mmmm, Organic Food

Now is the political season of the marginal, the other, the Odd Fit, and it's a fantastic time to try on new stereotypes. In lulls like these come constructs like Soccer Mom and Patio Man and Bobos in Paradise, and people fight on blogs and in book reviews about whether they really exist. Now is when pollsters and opinionistas seem able to construe any demographic reality you can conceive, calibrating the political nomenclature at will: Anti-war peaceniks and eco-activists are springing up in the swamps and rururbs; evangelicals are preaching green; lefties in Whole Foods aren't so sold on a woman's right to choose anymore.

So perhaps you are a Crunchy Con?


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© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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