Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Married Without Children: Some Scary Numbers For The Future GOP

Today's New York Times has a revealing piece about the influence of ultra-individualist Ayn Rand, and in particular her book "Atlas Shrugged," on CEOs and business leaders, including former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan.

Some Republicans may want to read the book to get pointers on what likely will have to be a future more faithful to its libertarian roots -- the "Me and I" over Hillary's "village" if you will.

In its recent cheap chase for votes, the social conservative, in-your-face Sunday gasbag tactics of Karl Rove's GOP, have worked, as Iowa Independent has reported in great detail with, for example, the exploitation of the gay marriage issue in 2004.

It is no great revelation that some of the more accurate predictors of whether an American will vote Republican are church attendance and family status (married and with children), which in turn lead one to see what people think about gays.

A stunning new study from the Pew Research Center shows that adult Americans (those people who can vote, Mr. Rove) are starting to think more like individuals than parents. According to this study, just 41% of Americans now say that children are "very important" to a successful marriage, down sharply from the 65% who said this in a 1990 survey.

Here is one excerpt from the study:



Indeed, children have fallen to eighth out of nine on a list of items that people associate with successful marriages – well behind "sharing household chores," "good housing," "adequate income," "happy sexual relationship," and "faithfulness." Back in 1990, when the American public was given this same list on a World Values Survey, children ranked third in importance.

What's at work here is something called "Generational Replacement," with older, more conservative Americans, those born before 1960, eventually being replaced, day by day, death by death, by younger more tolerant folk who are less family friendly in the way the Republicans think of "family friendly."

A great irony for the Republicans, which has largely sought to demonize the growing Hispanic community for short-term PR diversion from the failed policy in Iraq and divide-and-conquer politics in some regions of the nation (western Iowa included, is that Hispanic households would more naturally fit into the GOP's social conservative thinking. Consider this: 69 percent of Hispanics view having children as vital to a happy marriage, compared with 35 percent of white in the Pew survey.

What can the future GOP to attact the single, the childless and the Hispanic community -- all groups that it is alienating, for generations perhaps, with this family values business? We know George W. Bush isn't much for reading and book learning stuff but is someone in his party catching these numbers, spotting this trend?

As a native Iowan who has covered politics for nearly two decades (from school boards to presidential candidates) I would have to say that a key factor I've seen in the shaping of people's politics is parenthood, the value placed on it. Author and Esquire magazine columnist Chuck Klosterman, a Generation Xer, got off the best line I've heard about covering school boards: "There's nothing more annoying than a mother who actually cares about her kids."

But you can't be a "security mom" or a "soccer mom" if you don't have those drooling, bed-wetting little creatures in your house.
-- This story is cross-posted at Iowa Independent.

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