After finishing second by a whisker in the South Carolina primary on Saturday night, Senator Marco Rubio announced: “If tonight, you are that single mother, who has made it the purpose of your life to leave your children better off than yourself in the 21st century, we conservatives will fight for you.” One might think that it is the role of a father to fight for the mother of his children. But Rubio is continuing his own and the Republican party’s trend of treating single mothers as a new and presumably permanent part of the political landscape, as if being a single mother were an inevitable and natural demographic category, like being a farmer, retiree, or college student. Of course this emerging demographic category must be named, politically courted, and won over.
Now perhaps this is brilliant politics, conforming to the Republican establishment’s mandate to be “inclusive,” and to reach out to as many potential voters as possible. But like Rubio’s embrace of identity politics, this normalization of single-mother status inches Republican positions closer to the Democratic worldview. There is nothing that “we” politicians, “conservative” or otherwise, can do for single mothers and their children that can ever match what fathers provide, pace Hillary Clinton, Marion Wright Edelman, and the Children’s Defense Fund. Conservatives should single-mindedly privilege marriage as the solution to poverty and the best path for raising successful children, and not rationalize the real of destructive cultural change.