The Achievement Gap

Andrew Sullivan’s diagnosis of the real problem with the Democrats (TNR Online sub only, I’m afraid) is pretty astute. I think he’s really go it. The Republicans do a better job of tappin into America’s go-get-em-tiger!-ness. Sullivan finds it both in Team America and in Pixars new flick, The Incredibles. This is what Sullivan says it’s about:

The fundamental moral of the movie is that this restraint is wrong and needs to be overcome: Letting the talented earn the proud rewards of their labor, and the fruits of their destiny, harms no one and actually helps those in the greatest need.

Is this a moral for the religious right? Hardly. The Incredibles in some ways portrays normal American life as stultifying. Its brutal parody of family squabbles is by no means an encomium to traditionalism. It’s not anti-family, of course. But it is pro-talent and pro-opportunity. It is in favor of the urge to get out there and achieve things without apology. Within the right-left rubric of American cultural discourse, the movie is therefore rightward-tilting. And that’s why many critics on the left have decried it.

A few paragraphs later, he offers the diagnosis:

This is what the left has lost sight of. Americans tend to believe that talent needs no apology; that action is often better than complaint; that their own country, despite its many faults, is still a force for great good in the world. The left tends to view things a little differently.

This strikes me as basically correct. The Republicans somehow seem more hospitable to simply human efficacy, the desire to stretch out, to accelerate to a good speed without all those damn speed bumps, to just do it, and all that. Twice the achievement, half the whining. Something like that. (And maybe this explains why I seem to keep dating Republicans.)

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center