September 10 2013
We’ve written a number of times about single women as a key voting bloc in the Democratic Party.
Single women are so crucial to Democrats that Joel Kotkin prophetically noted last October that, if President Obama won re-election, it would be largely because of the “Single Nation.”
One of the most telling Obama campaign ads was the infamous “Life of Julia” infomercial. It was a pitch to single women who relied on Uncle Sam to survive. I can’t resist quoting my colleague Hadley Heath on Julia’s family (or the lack thereof):
Funny, the story of Julia's life doesn't mention her parents or grandparents, her husband (or partner?) or the father of her child (Zachary). It also fails to mention her church community, or the many local charitable organizations that could perform similarly helpful roles in her life. That's because Obama's vision of America cuts out the important institutions in civil society that allow people to be interdependent without relying on government force.
Now Kotkin is out with another article on the politicization of the family. In a nutshell: Republicans believe in the family with two married parents, while large swaths of the progressive community are skeptical of the value of the family. They’re okay with Julia-type families but not the old-fashioned Mom and Pop family. Kotkin writes:
Familialism is deeply unpopular with many in two key Democratic constituencies – greens and feminists. Many feminists have long derided the traditional family and see child-raising as something that tends to reinforce sexual stereotypes by reducing the career prospects of women. …
These worldviews represent a break from the progressive politics of the entire era stretching from Teddy Roosevelt to Bill Clinton. In the past, the basic emphasis has been to make families stronger by backing such institutions as public schools and parks, as well as creating the basis for broad-based economic growth. Support for single-family homes that most families require was part of this.
But today, many “progressives” disdain the suburbs, which were built largely with the help of New Deal and successor programs. Now, most planners, according to the American Planning Association survey, believe accommodating families is simply not worth the cost of the services, notably schools, that they engender.
Rather than looking at housing that fits families, many progressives now want to promote an urbanism that has little place for families. Some real estate sites, such as Estately, rank cities not by being child-friendly, but those most accommodating to the “childfree” – reminds me of gluten-free – a term which for some reason is deemed preferable to childless. Virtually all cities so ranked, such as ultralow-fertility San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, New York and Madison, Wis., are all places that increasingly are Republican-free as well.
While there is much in Kotkin’s article with which to disagree, he does provide a fascinating look at the the state of the family.
It should be noted that some on the right see having big families as the key to a Republican revival. Unfortunately, some Republicans pitch fertility in racial terms: have more babies and combat immigration. This is ugly and fortunately marginal. But concerns over the decline of the family are valid. More is at stake than the electoral future of the GOP.
Let's face it: as sympathetic as we may be to struggling single mothers, the never-married mother is more likely to raise her kids in poverty. The crime rate is also higher among kids who grew up in single-parent households. Children do better with Mom and Dad rather than just Uncle Sam.