Ross Douthat offers some keen analysis of the 2012 election:
Liberals look at the Obama majority and see a coalition bound together by enlightened values — reason rather than superstition, tolerance rather than bigotry, equality rather than hierarchy. But it’s just as easy to see a coalition created by social disintegration and unified by economic fear.
Consider the Hispanic vote. Are Democrats winning Hispanics because they put forward a more welcoming face than Republicans do — one more in keeping with America’s tradition of assimilating migrants yearning to breathe free? Yes, up to a point. But they’re also winning recent immigrants because those immigrants often aren’t assimilating successfully — or worse, are assimilating downward, thanks to rising out-of-wedlock birthrates and high dropout rates. The Democratic edge among Hispanics depends heavily on these darker trends: the weaker that families and communities are, the more necessary government support inevitably seems.
Likewise with the growing number of unmarried Americans, especially unmarried women. Yes, social issues like abortion help explain why these voters lean Democratic. But the more important explanation is that single life is generally more insecure and chaotic than married life, and single life with children — which is now commonplace for women under 30 — is almost impossible to navigate without the support the welfare state provides.
Or consider the secular vote, which has been growing swiftly and tilts heavily toward Democrats. The liberal image of a non-churchgoing American is probably the “spiritual but not religious” seeker, or the bright young atheist reading Richard Dawkins. But the typical unchurched American is just as often an underemployed working-class man, whose secularism is less an intellectual choice than a symptom of his disconnection from community in general.
What unites all of these stories is the growing failure of America’s local associations — civic, familial, religious — to foster stability, encourage solidarity and make mobility possible.
This is a crisis that the Republican Party often badly misunderstands, casting Democratic-leaning voters as lazy moochers or spoiled children seeking “gifts” (as a certain former Republican presidential nominee would have it) rather than recognizing the reality of their economic struggles.
Bottom line, as several others have observed: it is about culture. Because culture is a way of thinking and living based on what one worships (cultus!) and believes, even if implicitly or only partially and imperfectly. In short, for many people, the State has become semi-deified; while it should support the common good, it has for many people become the Good, the End, the Goal. The State increasingly destroys institutions and associations that are necessary for a healthy society and whole families; it has become the enemy of subsidiarity. It supports, and increasingly advocates, for abortion, contraception, and immoral, unhealthy sexual practices; it has become the enemy of life, love, and the personalist principle. And it plays favorites with political impunity, with little care for the virtues that should bind and guide a nation; it has become the enemy of solidarity. Yet we are told that secular liberalism and its high priests are the essence and epitome of “social justice”, even while society suffers and justice is savaged. And so it goes. To what end? What is the prize? What does it profit a man….?
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