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The Agenda

NRO’s domestic-policy blog, by Reihan Salam.

Kevin Williamson and David Bernstein on Why Romney Lost



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This passage by Kevin Williamson leapt out at me:

Repealing Obamacare was not a deal cincher in Ohio. A number of people I spoke to in the state suggested that the Romney-Ryan ticket paid too much attention to repealing Obamacare without spelling out an alternative that was sufficiently simple and attractive to voters who are not committed conservatives. One veteran of the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations argued that while Ohio voters may not be crazy about the Affordable Care Act, neither are they burning partisans of the campaign to repeal it. As with the GM bailout, many voters regard Obamacare as an example of the administration’s trying to do something for them, even if they are not entirely sold on the particulars.

This is why libertarians and conservatives who want to divorce the defense of dynamic market economies from cultural populism face an uphill battle: economic dynamism causes churn and displacement, and this inevitably leads to a backlash. In a similar vein, social liberals who celebrate changing family structure recognize that it creates an opportunity for social democracy, as David Bernstein explains at The Volokh Conspiracy:

The Republicans’ other demographic problem: Sure, the GOP needs to reach out to the growing Hispanic population. But the bigger problem is that single women vote overwhelmingly Democratic, and for the first time in American history there are more single women than married women. Single women are much more economically vulnerable than are married women, and want the government to be there to insure them against hard times. This is especially true of single women with kids–and the American divorce rate is still the highest in the world, and over 40% of American children born last year were born to single mothers. This isn’t good for the women, their children, or American society, and it’s not good for the Republicans. So how about spending (A LOT) less time worrying about gays getting married, and more time worried about women (and men) who aren’t? Reducing the number of what used to be called “broken homes” is a culture war worth fighting; gay marriage is not.

At a certain point, however, household diversity, to use a neutral term, becomes such an entrenched phenomenon that it becomes politically problematic to openly question it. When Mitt Romney noted the virtues of raising children in a stable marriage, he was careful to respect the sacrifices and hard work of single parents, which is entirely appropriate — but this would have been somewhat less likely in an era in which single parents were not as common.



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