The Corner

Democrats Seeking to Woo Tea Partiers Face Uphill Battle

Democratic strategists Douglas Schoen and Pat Caddell recently urged their party to move to the political center by embracing tea-party priorities, specifically “fiscal discipline, limited government and balancing the budget,” to avoid electoral disaster. That strategy is a bit of a stretch: After watching this Congress ram through the biggest expansion of government in decades, only the most gullible voters would believe the Democrats had really embraced fiscal discipline.

Moreover, much of the Democrat party fundamentally disagrees with the idea of limited government and sees federal power as the catch-all solution to just about every problem. Take a recent report entitled “Advancing the Economic Security of Unmarried Women” by the Center for American Progress, the “progressive” nonprofit run by Bill Clinton’s former chief of staff John Podesta. The report reviews the problems of a growing segment of our society: unmarried women. They are poorer, more likely than other women to be unemployed, have less access to health care, and often struggle to care for children without support from fathers.

What’s CAP’s solution? More government at every turn. Among the recommended proposals are more generous unemployment benefits, more job-training and job-placement programs, greater subsidies for child care, more generous child-nutrition programs, direct welfare payments for those with children, government intervention to prevent foreclosures, expanded low-income-housing programs, an increased minimum wage, government intervention to increase the pay of occupations dominated by women, mandatory paid family and sick leave, and, of course, government-provided health care. In other words, complete cradle-to-grave, taxpayer-provided government support.

It’s tempting to call this paper sexist: Women — especially unmarried women — are portrayed as barely able to subsist without extra protection. One could also ruminate on CAP’s view of family formation, which seems willing to substitute a dependent relationship on the government for marriage. A woman without a man is encouraged to depend on Uncle Sam. It may be unfair to those in marriages (who will disproportionately pay for all these new government programs), but it’s also insulting to those who choose to stay single and wish to be truly equal and independent.

But this policy prescription isn’t really about women or marital status. CAP might have prepared such a report for just about any segment of society that could be cast as “vulnerable” — new immigrants, the poor, the elderly, etc.

It’s not sexist; it’s statist. They believe government can do great good: It can provide food, shelter, health care, housing, education, retirement income, paid leave, day care, long-term care, and so on. Costs are ignored. And those overlooked costs aren’t just the actual trillions of dollars of debt that the government assumes with these responsibilities, but the loss of liberty, community, and the basic concept of self-determination that was central to the country’s founding and to its history of prosperity and freedom.

Pew Research Center just reported that more than half of Americans believe the government is too big and powerful. In October 2008, four Americans in ten wanted a smaller government with fewer services; today, five out of ten do. Democrats will have a tough time appealing to the growing segment of society with libertarian sympathies when so much of their base remains plain old liberals.

Carrie Lukas is vice president and director of policy for the Independent Women’s Forum.

Carrie Lukas is the president of the Independent Women’s Forum.

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