George Will’s Campaign Guarantee about Family Fragmentation

Columnist George Will, at the Minnesota Business Partnership’s Annual Dinner last Thursday (September 19), guaranteed that no presidential candidate between now and Election Day next year would say anything whatsoever about family fragmentation and the enormous problems it causes.

He’s almost surely right, of course, as never has the United States faced a problem as large as the “disintegration of families” (as Will put it) in which otherwise insightful and brave leaders have said so little insightful or brave.  Recall for instance – with past serving as ongoing prologue – how neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton said Word One about it last time either.

As sounds of silence go, they were leaden, not been golden, leading to an American Experiment symposium after the last presidential cycle; a publication in which 30 eclectic writers from across the country argued, not over the fundamental seriousness of the problem, on which they all agreed, but rather how best to address it during a presidential campaign.

Many participants contended how evasiveness to-the-point of denial was an understandable strategic approach under the circumstances, while many others contended it wasn’t a wise or helpful approach at all.

One writer, for example, noted how neither candidate “was situated ideologically or personally to speak meaningfully to the issue.”

One person upped the ante by pointing out how one candidate was extra-handicapped for “glaring biographical reasons.”

Another symposiast argued how both “Clinton and Trump decided to capitalize on America’s growing culture of victimhood where individuals are rewarded for belonging to some wronged identity group.  Why bother,” he asked with an edge, “to speak to root causes like family destruction when [candidates] could attract voters either by finding scapegoats or by reaffirming personal powerlessness by citing forces beyond the oppressed locus of control?”

With another contributor offering, with no edge at all, “I don’t have the prescription for the needed cultural change, but I know we have to begin with honest conversation that involves public officials and other leaders.”  In keeping with one of American Experiment’s main emphases for nearly 30 years, put me down as resonating to this last comment especially.

Was Trump and Clinton’s Campaign Silence Regarding Family Fragmentation Golden?” was released by the Center in March 2017.  As a preview and primer of how we probably will continue to ignore the overwhelming social disaster of our time at America’s highest levels at the most consequential times, it’s worth a recycled look.

Mitch Pearlstein’s most recent book is Education Roads Less Traveled: Solving America’s Fixation on Four-Year Degrees.