Liberals Do Not Want to Destroy the Family

By Thomas Edsall

…The most telling critique of the claims of social conservatives is that their single-minded focus on the destructive forces of liberalism offers a facile (and erroneous) answer to developments that do not fit simple categories of good and evil.

Isabel Sawhill, a senior fellow at Brookings and author of “Generation Unbound: Drifting into Sex and Parenthood without Marriage,” emailed the following to me:

Some people believe that humans are born good and are only later corrupted by society. They emphasize the importance of a society that collectively helps each individual achieve their inherent potential. Others believe that individuals are inherently flawed, often ill-disciplined, weak-willed, and capable of evil as well as good. They emphasize the importance of social structures that help people, in the words of Edmund Burke, “to put chains upon their appetites.”

Under current conditions of stark political polarization, these two sides are at loggerheads. Sawhill argues that:

What a functioning and tolerant politics would permit is a negotiated settlement of this dispute. We would devise institutions and norms but also laws and practices that bring out, in Lincoln’s famous words, the “better angels of our nature.”

What are some of the roadblocks to “a functioning and tolerant politics” that could produce a “negotiated settlement”?

Interestingly, the willingness to accommodate the opposition — an essential step toward compromise and reconciliation — appears modestly stronger on the left than the right.\

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