Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Big Government and Small Society

The Democratic Party suffered a historic drubbing a couple weeks ago. However, one of the things with which several left leaning commentators publically consoled themselves was that demographics are in their favor. The parts of the electorate which tend to vote for Democrats are growing, while those who tends to vote for Republicans are shrinking. Progressives like to focus on the examples of this they feel proud of: the non-white percentage of the US population is growing, and non-whites tend to vote Democratic. Young people also lean more heavily progressive on a variety of issues than previous generations did at the same age.

From a progressive point of view this sounds pretty good: progressivism will succeed in the end because it is supported by young and diverse people, while conservatism will die out because it is supported by old white people -- and no one like them anyway, did they?

I'd like to propose an alternate reading of the data: Progressive policies are more widely supported by those who are isolated within society and thus forced to rely on their relationship with the State for support rather than their relationships with family, friends, church, etc. However, the number of people who are living such a socially isolated experience is growing, and with it is growing support for progressive policies.

Democracy Corps and the Women's Voices, Women Vote Action Fund (two progressive advocacy groups) put out a report just prior to the election this year in which they talked about the need of the Democratic Party to reach out to and excite voters in the "Rising American Electorate" or RAE. The RAE consists of unamarried women, non-whites(who have lower marriage rates than whites) and young people (who marry less and marry later than earlier generations.)

And while organizations sucxh as Women's Voices, Women Vote Action fund are naturally most interested in the voting preferences of single women, polls which distinguish voting preferences of married vs. unmarried men show that while there is a 37% gap in party preference between unmarried women and married women, there is a 29% marriage gap for men as well, with unmarried men slighly favoring Democrats and married men strongly favoring Republicans. (This example is from April this year.)

For those who consider the family to be a thing of the past, this may be just fine. But for anyone who considers the family to be a basic building block of society, the fact that support for progressivism is expanding only as a result of the breakdown of other relationships than that between individual and state should be concerning. It also opens an obvious question: Do people come to support an all-consuming relationship between individual and state because other social institutions have already broken down for them, for some unrelated reason, and they have nowhere else to turn for support, or is it the growth of a state which leads to the breakdown of other social relationships, as the guarantee that one can be supported at some minimal level as an individual makes other personal relationships unnecessary?


Anonymous said...

Latino immigrants, whether legal or illegal, tend to have very strong families, but also vote strongly Democratic. They also happen to be the fastest-growing demographic in the US.


P.S. If I wanted to snark I might point out that gays want very badly to have strong families but are prevented from doing so by one of the major political parties. But I remember you saying that you don't enjoy reading snark, so I won't do that.

Darwin said...


Certainly, Hispanics have a reputation for strong families -- and it's one I'm proud of as I come from one on my mother's side -- however once they get here the US is not necessarily being helpful to Hispanic families. Just looking at the data, Hispanics do have a slightly lower divorce rate than non-Hispanic whites, but they have a lower marriage rate and a higher out of wedlock pregnancy rate.

Also, it's primarily unmarried Hispanics who vote so overwhelmingly Democratic, married Hispanics are slightly Democratic leaning, but more evenly split.

I don't really see how gay marriage plays into the question. It's an inherently non-perpetuating social structure and affects only a very small percentage of the population.

Mac said...

I think you're on target. I recall being struck by a similar thought 15 or 20 years ago, during one of Bill Clinton's election campaigns, going to hear some political talk at a local college. Someone had made a conservative-ish observation about dependency on the state, and a Clinton supporter, a woman whom I happened to know was divorced with two children, stood up and talked passionately about the need for "society," meaning obviously the government, to give people like her a hand.