The Democrats Need to Become the Party of the Family | Opinion

In a world where one of the two major factions in American political life fights against paid family leave, criticizes child tax credit expansion for encouraging parents to stay at home, and calls gay parents "abnormal," you wouldn't expect that same faction to brand itself as the "pro-family" party. Yet that is the state of American culture politics vis-à-vis the GOP.

On the one hand, it is surprising that the Republican party has been able to sustain this image despite burgeoning in proposals harmful to the family. But the truth is, the Democratic Party has completely failed to provide an alternative to those family-oriented voters seeking a home.

It's never too late to change course. The Democrats can yet fill the void for moderate and Left-wing voters who care a great deal about policies that affect family life. And that's exactly what they should do: The Democrats can and should become the party of the family.

Their voters are already there. In 2021, a Pew Research poll found that 52 percent of Democratic voters considered their family and children as the most important item in providing a meaningful, fulfilled, and satisfying life—compared to 49 percent of Republican voters, meaning the percent of Democrats prioritizing family and children is greater than that of their right-wing counterparts.

In other words, voters in both parties derive meaning in from their families—and for Democrats to ignore this could prove politically fatal moving forward.

It's worth noting that a pro-family platform would likely include policies the majority of Democratic voters already support—and that the GOP doesn't due to the anti-safety net straight jacket that governs their base. This much has been admitted recently by two GOP strategists writing for the National Review, who wrote, perhaps begrudgingly, that right-wing leaders "feel restrained from supporting a 'safety net' for women, out of ideological concerns."

Dems should be the party of family
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But such a safety net is precisely the policy gap women and families are navigating in a post-Roe America. When 59 percent of abortions are motivated by a high risk of poverty (and subsequent child poverty), Democrats could provide a boon of support and other options for pregnant women who might be deciding between checking into a crisis pregnancy center and fighting for access and travel for out-of-state abortions.

As Elizabeth Bruenig wrote recently for The Atlantic, supporting federally subsidized medical care for pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum care represents a step in the right direction, particularly when you consider the average amount of medical debt in red states is significantly higher than other parts of the country, largely tracking Medicaid expansion.

In fact, the average Southerner takes on more than three times the amount of medical debt than those living in the Northeast, where the highest amount of medical debt exists in minority, low-income communities.

Moreover, family-oriented policy proposals are already aligned with the ideas of the Democratic base. For example, supporting the expansion of government benefits to recognize childcare and domestic labor performed by stay-at-home parents would signal support for parenthood and help reduce earning disparities between men and women; it's also policy that has already been called for by left-wing policy groups and Democratic presidential candidates.

And even simpler proposals like ensuring both men and women are considered caregivers for new benefits and family spending plans is one that simultaneously differentiates the Democratic platform from concomitant GOP proposals,particularly where LGBTQ parents like Pete Buttigieg get harangued for taking paternity leave. It's also popular among voters.

These are policy issues ripe for plucking. It may require a messaging shift to transform these ripe issues into clear reasons to vote for a Democrat, but such a shift is important for those voters who feel aligned with the Democratic Party, but unheard in this area of life.

The Democratic Party must become home to voters concerned with family, and finally provide a true and outward alternative to a Republican Party myopically focused on regulating abortion access, and too afraid to recognize family welfare as a legitimate enterprise.

Anthony DiMauro is a J.D. Candidate and New York-based writer. His work has appeared in Bloomberg, Business Insider, L.A. Review of Books and elsewhere. You can follow him on Twitter @AnthonyMDiMauro.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.