The marriage gap

When will the Democrats wake up?

Looking back over the results of the presidential election, pundits now agree that the war over terror, not the war over “moral values,” led to John Kerry’s defeat. Still, that doesn’t mean that values are off the political agenda. As the Democrats look ahead to the congressional elections of 2006, they will again confront one of the more troubling aspects of the “values” divide: the growing marriage gap. In 2000, married voters favored George W. Bush by a margin of 9 points over Al Gore (53-44). In 2004, they boosted his winning margin to 15 points over Kerry (57-42). Married parents with children under the age of eighteen gave Bush a whopping 19-point advantage over his Democratic opponent.

It is not hard to understand why the marriage gap widened in 2004. John Kerry seemed utterly unaware of the concerns of married parents with small children. In today’s culture, parents face two increasingly countercultural tasks: holding together a marriage and protecting their kids from the siren songs of both media and marketplace. Yet Kerry did not have a single message that resonated with married parents. He opposed the right to parental notification for minors’ abortions, condoned partial-birth abortion, and said not a single word about television’s graphic depictions of sex, violence, murder, and mutilated corpses. Unlike Bill Clinton, who made a point of identifying with parental protests against Sister Souljah’s...

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About the Author

Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, author of The Divorce Culture (Knopf), directs the Center for Thrift and Generosity at the Institute for American Values.