Of all the commentary unleashed by "The Life of Julia," the Barack Obama campaign’s interactive web ad that follows a faceless cartoon "everywoman" through life, probably the most perceptive is Jessica Gavora’s analysis in the Washington Post Outlook section. Gavora notes that the ads touch on such life milestones as education, work, motherhood, retirement. But one is missing: marriage.
There is a reason for this: Democratic operatives increasingly see unmarried women as a crucial voting bloc. Indeed, she says, these women represent "the most reliably Democratic voting group outside African Americans" –manifest in Obama’s 71-to-29 percent majority among such voters in 2008.
But there is a problem. These women don’t vote in the same numbers as married women. So "Julia" really is a clever get-out-the-vote effort aimed at luring to the polls a much higher proportion of these reliable Democratic voters. And the way to do that is to tout government programs designed to assist and benefit women—educational assistance at early stages of life, equal-pay requirements for later life stages, set-asides for entrepreneurial women seeking Small Business Administration loans, free health screenings, insurance for contraceptives, retirement benefits. In other words, just about cradle to grave.
Polls show women generally favor such governmental largess far more than men do, and single women tilt even further in that direction. But it’s intriguing to note that, while single women tilt toward the Democrats, they tend to revert back to previous voting patterns once they get remarried.
And so the Democratic Party has begun to combat marriage in subtle ways. Says Gavora: "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." The political significance of this, as Gavora notes, is seen in the fact that most of American households are now headed by unmarried people.
And so, says Gavora in this smart analysis, it’s inevitable that Democrats would exploit this cultural decline by offering governmental protection and comfort as a substitute for a husband.