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?

4 Responses to Big Government and Small Society

  • Paul Zummo says:

    Excellent post, Darwin. Hopefully it won’t deter from what you really want to talk about, but I have one question about the demographic trends. While some of these trends favor Democrats, on the other hand the big growth areas in our country are in states favorable to Republicans: Texas, Utah, Florida, etc. So what I wonder is: will the influx of these Democratic constituencies in these states make them more Democratic-leaning, or will the cultural milieu of these environments change these young voters and cause them to be more sympathetic to conservatism?

  • Jay Anderson says:

    “… will the influx of these Democratic constituencies in these states make them more Democratic-leaning, or will the cultural milieu of these environments change these young voters and cause them to be more sympathetic to conservatism?”

    Paul, my guess is both, but more of the former, resulting in those states shifting to a more purple hue. Examples: Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia.

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    “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”

    Well, here are my thoughts on that issue:

    http://the-american-catholic.com/2010/10/30/a-chicken-and-egg-question/#more-25767

  • Kevin in Texas says:

    Thanks for sharing your analysis here, DC, and it seems to be logical and solidly in line with the empirical evidence (sorry, that’s the philosophy courses I’m currently enrolled in talking through my fingers!)

    As a college instructor for the past 9 years (in three different and diverse states: VA, HI, and TX), my hypothesis is that young adults of college age (even, perhaps especially, those not enrolled in tertiary education) are generally tuned out to politics. They seem to be more susceptible to cynical news sources like Stewart, Colbert and Conan, all of whom skew very “progressive”, and they also lack the life experiences to see through a lot of the idealistic manipulation behind slogans like “hope” and “change”, so they are more likely to pull that lever in the voting booth for candidates who seem “edgy” or “cool”, whilst these young adults have little or no real understanding of any of the issues. Indeed it’s highly likely that they’ve had any meaningful exposure to many conservative ideas proudly and cogently explained.

    All of this adds up to what we saw in 2008–millions of young adults who really don’t “get” politics pulling a lever once for “hope” and “change” rhetoric. Now the ones who are paying any attention at all to the results of their vote in 2008 can see how little good it’s produced, and they are completely dissuaded from voting in the mid-terms, and perhaps even in the 2012 presidential elections. If I were in a cynical mood, I would say that this is ultimately a net positive for political conservatives. However, from a Catholic anthropological angle, I think it’s incumbent upon us as Catholic Christians to educate the youth better in the moral principles upon which the Church grounds its moral teachings. If young people can be taught to understand these principles and apply them as voters, I think there is great potential for a conservative cultural and political renaissance in the US.

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