Values & Voters

New York Times columnist David Brooks recently paid tribute to philosopher Sidney Hook by giving “Hookie” awards to the best essays written in 2005. I’d like to propose the “Moynihans,” in honor of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. This award-which comes with no money, no ceremony, and no statuette or plaque-recognizes the best essay dealing with the interplay between economic change and family change.

My first Moynihan of 2006 goes to Garance Franke-Ruta for “Remapping the Culture Debate,” published in the February American Prospect. Much has been written about the Democrats’ values problem. But the discussion among some Democrats usually ends, not by attributing the problem to the party itself, but by blaming the false consciousness of the voters or the machinations of Karl Rove and his allies on the religious right. What has been missing altogether is a thoughtful analysis of why the party has lost the loyalty of voters who should, on the basis of their apparent economic interests, be solidly aligned with the Democrats. This is Franke-Ruta’s contribution. Drawing on the work of labor economists, opinion researchers, and marketing gurus, she painstakingly and persuasively explains why noncollege voters are more worried about the state of families than about the size of their own wallets.

First, she notes, the profile of today’s workers is dramatically different from those of the lunch-pail...

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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.