Behind the rhetoric of “the war on women” and the “Julia” website is a strategy of Democrats to turn single women–sorry, unmarried women, I mean, “women on their own”–into the militant voting bloc that evangelicals are for Republicans. While it is true that single mothers and divorced women are the most consistent Democratic demographic, a funny thing happens when these very women get married: They turn into Republicans. So says Jessica Gavora in the Washington Post:
“The Life of Julia,” the Obama campaign’s new interactive Web ad, follows a cartoon everywoman, Julia, through the milestones of a middle-class American life: education, work, motherhood, retirement. One milestone is pointedly missing: marriage.
But, then again, why should Julia get married? She doesn’t need to. Like a growing number of single women with children, Julia is married to the state.
As a character drawn and focus-grouped by political consultants, Julia is designed to remind voters of the government programs President Obama champions and likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney is ostensibly intent on taking away. Julia goes to school (with help from Headstart and federal student loans), she works (thank you, Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and Small Business Administration), she has a son (free health screenings brought to her by Obamacare) and she retires (Social Security and Medicare pay the bills while she volunteers in a community garden).
But Julia is a more artful and nuanced creation than a simple tour guide to the utopia that awaits under a second Obama term. She is designed to appeal to a narrow but deep demographic: single women, especially single women with kids.
In 2007, the United States passed a significant demographic milestone, when the census reported that the majority of American households were headed by unmarried people. It was the crest of a wave that had been building for some time. Since 1960, the percentage of the population that is over age 15 and unmarried increased from 32 percent to 45 percent. If this trend continues, singles (including unmarried people who are cohabiting) will make up the majority of Americans in less than 15 years.
And in this nation of swinging singles, women are dominant. . . .
Until the 2000 presidential election, Democrats generally wrote off the single female vote as not worth the effort. But in that razor-thin contest, strategists noticed for the first time that 22 million members of their most reliable cohort of voters did not go to the polls. If single women had cast ballots in the same proportions as married women, Al Gore probably would have received the punched chads of an additional 6 million voters, more than enough to have won him the White House.
The Democratic Party’s answer to this missed opportunity has been to attempt to make singlehood cool and fresh and new in an attempt to court this demographic. When focus groups told them that unmarried women regard the word “single” as a depressing term, strategists renamed them simply “unmarried” or, even better, “women on their own.”. . .
Whereas government benefits were once the state’s compassionate response to women who had lost their husbands, in Julia’s world they are the unquestionable entitlement of women who never married. The decline of marriage and Democratic political opportunism have combined to transform what used to be a situation to be avoided — single motherhood — into a new and proud American demographic, citizens of Obama’s Hubby State.. . .
Strategists talk breathlessly of unmarried women becoming for the Democratic Party what evangelical Christians are for the Republicans: a large, awakened, reliable force for liberal social change.. . .
The Democratic project to coax single women to the polls is given urgency by an interesting political fact: Although single women vote overwhelmingly Democratic, their condition is not permanent. According to the work of University of Chicago demographer Tom Smith, once divorced people remarry, they start to vote like married people again. In 2004, George W. Bush had a 12-point advantage over John Kerry among married people. Kerry won divorced voters by three points and separated and never-married voters by 35 percent and 25 percent, respectively. But among remarried voters, Bush was back on top by 15 percent. It seems something about the institution of marriage makes people vote Republican.