Julia is Mary Tyler Moore on the government’s dime. You’re gonna make it after all, Julia! Just remember who’s responsible on Election Day.
The problem is, like so much of our political rhetoric, Julia is not a composite; she’s a myth. Some of the nation’s single moms may be successful Web designers, but many are poor — fully half have incomes of less than $30,000 a year, compared with just 15 percent of married women. It’s not Pell grants and SBA loans these women rely on but Medicaid and food stamps. And it’s not comfortable retirements in community gardens they contemplate but bleak old age.
Whereas government benefits were once the state’s compassionate response to women who had lost their husbands, in Julia’s world they are the unquestionable entitlement of women who never married. The decline of marriage and Democratic political opportunism have combined to transform what used to be a situation to be avoided — single motherhood — into a new and proud American demographic, citizens of Obama’s Hubby State.
Gone is any acknowledgment that remaining single is a less than ideal situation for women — or for men, for that matter — or that raising children outside of marriage is anything less than these women’s inalienable personal choice.
Strategists talk breathlessly of unmarried women becoming for the Democratic Party what evangelical Christians are for the Republicans: a large, awakened, reliable force for liberal social change. And for good reason. Women, as a group, look more approvingly on government social welfare programs and domestic spending than men do. A recent Pew Research Center poll showed that women favor a more activist government than men by double digits — a finding consistent since at least 2000. Higher percentages of women say government doesn’t do enough for the elderly, children and the poor. Women endorse more government regulation of the workplace and the environment. Six in 10 women say that helping the poor and needy should be the highest priority of government, compared with 46 percent of men. And when you consider only single women with kids, and this gap widens even further.
The Democratic project to coax single women to the polls is given urgency by an interesting political fact: Although single women vote overwhelmingly Democratic, their condition is not permanent. According to the work of University of Chicago demographer Tom Smith, once divorced people remarry, they start to vote like married people again. In 2004, George W. Bush had a 12-point advantage over John Kerry among married people. Kerry won divorced voters by three points and separated and never-married voters by 35 percent and 25 percent, respectively. But among remarried voters, Bush was back on top by 15 percent. It seems something about the institution of marriage makes people vote Republican.
Julia — like the trumped-up GOP “war on women” — is part of a Democratic get-out-the-vote effort aimed at single women. Boldly and openly, unmarried American women are being encouraged to substitute a relationship with a spouse for one with the state. The consequences of this choice are great, and they’re not insignificant for the rest of us, either. After all, a husband who’s a plumber can’t raise our taxes. A husband who’s the government can, especially if you want him to help out more raising the kids.
Jessica Gavora, a Washington writer, was speechwriter for Attorney General John Ashcroft and is the author of “Tilting the Playing Field: Schools, Sports, Sex, and Title IX.” This piece is partly adapted from an essay the author wrote in the anthology “New Threats to Freedom.”
Read more from Outlook:
Five myths about female voters
Will the ‘war on women’ get women into office?
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