FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
The war on wives
“The Democrats have a marriage problem,” Investors Business Daily asserted, when unveiling the results of a new poll this week. The survey found that “on issue after issue, single women are more liberal than their married counterparts – often by wide margins.” Such issues included the overall direction of the country, the economy, President Obama’s approval rating, taxation, the minimum wage, and Big Government.
On the other hand, Mitt Romney won among married women in 2012. The Washington Post notes that the political divide between single and married women is growing steadily more pronounced:
In midterms, even fewer unmarried women vote. In 2008, 20.3 million unmarried women voted in the presidential election, according to the Voter Participation Center. In the 2010 midterm, 10.1 million fewer women turned out, a 33 percent drop. Married women, on the other hand, are voting more Republican lately. By focusing on unmarried women, Democrats are targeting only the voters already inclined to support their platform, if not enough to go vote.
In midterm elections, where the frame has already been set to depict Democrats fighting an uphill battle, they can’t win without these voters. Which makes the Obama administration’s recent push on equal pay make all the more sense. Women make up two-thirds of all minimum wage workers, and many of the unmarried and minority women that haven’t figured heavily in electoral calculus in previous cycles are the ones who could be most affected by equal pay legislation and Obama’s two executive orders on pay transparency.
The Left doesn’t just craft political strategies to attract single female voters. Liberal policies create them. One of the most significant effects of left-wing social policy has been the decline of marriage. It takes a lot of statistical yoga to argue that the War on Poverty has done anything to “fix” poverty, but viewed as a trillion-dollar effort to dissolve traditional family structure, it’s a roaring success. Virtually everything the Left has done for decades is part of the war on wives.
It’s easy to see how this comports with feminist ideology – “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” and all that. Liberal feminists have long viewed marriage as an inherently unfair or demeaning arrangement for women. Independence is found by rejecting the “submissive” role of wife and mother. That’s also one of the reasons abortion has become a sacrament of the Left; it’s an expression of willpower over biology.
Abortion also helps deal with the fallout from leftist policies that gradually replaced marriage to men with marriage to the State. That’s the cruel truth at the heart of the war on wives: the rejection of traditional family structure leads to dependency, not independence, both for women and their children… and, ultimately, for men as well. Even the Obama 2012 campaign’s fabled “Life of Julia” slideshow, supposedly a celebration of female empowerment under President Obama’s enlightened socialism, can be read as a chilling portrait of lifetime indebtedness to the State. The eponymous heroine is literally incapable of doing anything without a helpful government program, a point driven home by assertions that cruel Mitt Romney would have canceled all those programs and left “Julia” adrift. It’s no coincidence that “Julia” also somehow manages to produce a designer baby without a husband, or any mention of a man at all.
Marriage was first devalued to become one “lifestyle alternative” among many, and then devalued further into an inferior choice, especially in the case of women who stay at home to raise their children. You don’t have to prod a liberal very hard to elicit pure contempt, even visceral hatred, for women who make that choice. And their policies have created a world in which stay-at-home motherhood is difficult for middle-class families to arrange.
The Democrats’ endlessly repeated “gender wage gap” myth – which rolls around every year, accompanied by a fresh round of studies to debunk it – is actually part of the assault on marriage. There is very little evidence that “sexist discrimination” plays any role in the disparity between male and female wages. It’s almost all a result of choices men and women make of their own free will. One of the most significant such choices is a woman’s decision to have children – it’s the most elementary common sense to see how that’s going to take someone out of the workforce for a while, especially if the woman wants to take care of her children all day during their formative years. Other choices that contribute the “wage gap” also relate to marriage and motherhood, including the greater willingness of men to work long hours, take risky jobs, and spend extended periods of time away from home.
Single women who work in metropolitan areas actually tend to make more than single men holding equivalent jobs. That’s not a surprise to the married women who made informed life choices which compromised their earning potential. “Wage gap” scare tactics don’t work as well on married women, because they understand why the gap exists; it’s a political tactic designed to frighten single women, whose salaries actually aren’t less than their male counterparts, on average. In that way, the “wage gap” becomes another assault on married life and motherhood: don’t end up like your mom, earning 77 cents for every dollar your dad made.
Social engineering is about changing the lives of millions, not just pushing a few individuals around. Government policies unquestionably do engineer society. We’re not just a body politic casting votes to shape the course of government; the government shapes us in return. Naturally the acolytes of Big Government are interested in shaping the electorate to their liking. The devaluation of marriage, of wives, has been a big part of that process.
Beyond all the fiery arguments we have about culture and religious tradition lies a simple fact that is unlikely to change, unless science takes us into some currently unimaginable post-human era: marriage is the key to prosperity and independence. Children have to come from somewhere, and be raised by someone. No other arrangement satisfies both of those imperatives as well as marriage between men and women, not across a population of millions, living in a variety of different economic conditions – especially not when we consider the number of families that must raise more than two children, to maintain population growth. That’s really difficult to do, but it’s vitally important to society… so why shouldn’t we actively encourage, support, and celebrate those who do it?
Our society keeps tying itself into knots trying to get around that simple and obvious fact, in part because we’re trying not to injure the feelings of men and women who choose not to get married and have children. But it shouldn’t be necessary to make anyone feel bad, in order to emphasize and encourage the core relationship that builds economic stability, provides a sound environment for children to grow up, and produces wealth that can accumulate across generations. A healthy society can elevate something without denigrating everything else, encouraging a desirable arrangement without penalizing or insulting those who choose not to participate. We lose that sense of elevation at our great cost… and it’s not surprising that we lose it, in a hyper-politicized environment where everything is either mandatory or forbidden, absolutely good or completely bad.
What social incentives are currently presented to young men and women – especially those growing up in perilous economic conditions – to pursue lifelong marriage? On the contrary, virtually every signal sent by popular and political culture actively argues against it, including both the sexualization of increasingly young children, and the protraction of adolescent attitudes well into the third decade of life. Marriage is something you stumble into, or maybe give a shot after careers have been nailed down. In fact, recent polls have shown young people looking at marriage as something to consider after they have children. They certainly don’t tend to view it as something to be “pursued.” It’s a quaint antique, a romantic ideal that has been made to seem laughable. People who save themselves for marriage are weird.
Everyone suffers from the deterioration of the family, but it’s a bitter irony that women suffer the most… and they are sternly instructed by our culture to avoid counting the cost, by the same leftists who are counting on their votes.