Even a stopped clock is right twice a day. And so it happens that Tucker Carlson — diversity opponent, South Africa fantasist, noted Erik Wemple Blog antagonist — has delivered a remarkably correct opinion to kick off 2019.
The bell tolled last week on the Jan. 2 edition of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” his Fox News show. Carlson spent several minutes in the first half of the show bemoaning the plight of American men, who, as one segment title put it, are “in decline as the ruling class looks away.”
Much of his monologue (and the follow-up segment the next day bordered on the absurd: Rising rates of alcoholism and drug use among men are a direct effect of feminist victories; the 1950s were only “allegedly” sexist (according to his guest, Manhattan Institute fellow Heather Mac Donald)), and sexism is almost impossible to find today.
Still, there were some uncomfortable truths to be found in between the finger-pointing. Men are struggling: Even the American Psychological Association, the country’s largest professional organization of psychologists, agrees, and is crafting new standards to address it. Marriage rates are eroding, especially among the poor, and trade shocks — especially to the manufacturing sector — have lowered men’s earnings and their marriage market potential. Yes, well-educated elites do tend to value stable marriages for themselves, even while championing atypical family structures and laissez-faire lifestyles in public.
Carlson’s Wednesday night monologue was part of a larger critique of American financial systems and the failures of free market capitalism, and his commentary was on target there, too.
“Anyone who thinks the health of a nation can be summed up in GDP is an idiot,” he scoffed at one point, and later elaborated: “Market capitalism is not a religion. Market capitalism is a tool, like a staple gun or a toaster. You’d have to be a fool to worship it.” His speech reached a remarkable crescendo: “Any economic system that weakens and destroys families is not worth having.”
This particular soapbox was occasioned by Mitt Romney, who had published a critical appraisal of President Trump in The Post on Jan. 2. Still, it was of a piece with a strand of commentary — big business-skeptical, vaguely populist — that Carlson has been weaving into his show for months.
In a follow-up interview with the news site Vox, Carlson elaborated on his counterintuitive views. He even seemed ready to walk back — at least a little — some of his inflammatory past statements about the cultural reasons for black poverty. “What I missed, what I think a lot of people missed, was that the economic system you’re living under affects your culture,” he told reporter Jane Coaston. “The reason I didn’t think of it before was because I was so blinded by this libertarian economic propaganda that I couldn’t get past my own assumptions about economics.”
Intriguingly, now that Carlson is speaking the truth, it’s progressive outlets and personalities who seem most willing to engage with his rather out-of-character commentary. (There were positive write-ups in the Atlantic and the above piece in Vox, as well as approving chatter on social media and thoughtful discussion elsewhere.) And while conservatives were quick to defend his less-than-fact-based scapegoating of feminism, they seem less eager to countenance his newly woke ideas.
That’s a shame. Carlson’s fiery new take should appeal to his traditional constituency, which purports to have an interest in issues of the family and social stability. But conservatives could also use this to finally connect with those market-critiquing progressives across the aisle — or at least to understand them. If even Tucker Carlson finally knows what time it is, it’s a sign that everyone should be checking their clocks.