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The anti-family party

Based on their answers to a line of questioning about contraception in their most recent debate, all of the remaining GOP presidential candidates want us to think they care about families. One would think that caring about families meant wanting to create policies that would strengthen actual families. But from their answers, it's clear that the real interest of these candidates is to be able to look down on families that are the wrong kind.

Rick Santorum was the most explicit, declaring his intention to "talk about the things" destroying families today, but then condemning liberals for assuming that "Just because I'm talking about it doesn't mean I want a government program to fix it." In other words, Santorum wants to be the Judgment-Passer-in-Chief, lecturing us on how our families are doing it wrong. Mitt Romney agreed that it's important to have a president who's "willing to say" that heterosexual nuclear families are the best. Romney did mention one actual policy measure he would support, which is teaching abstinence-based sex ed. But since abstinence-based programs have been shown not to work, what he's really supporting is a policy in which in addition to the president using his bully pulpit to lecture us on the evils of family arrangements other than the heterosexual nuclear family, we'll also have other people paid to deliver said lecturing directly to children. And even Ron Paul, allegedly so different in his libertarianism from the conservative mainstream, was quick to condemn use of the birth control pill as "immoral."

We have, then, a set of aspiring leaders who profess to be extremely concerned about the damage to our society from changing family structures, and yet their plan is simply to publicly look down on people who are not forming the right kind of families.

What would an actual pro-family agenda look like? The basic principles would be to 1) enable people to choose the family structures they want, and 2) make it easier for these families to succeed. Some changes need to happen on the cultural level, such as eliminating the social pressure on women to have children then subsume their identity into their children. But there are a number of things that the government can do to help:
* Give legal recognition to family arrangements other than heterosexual monogamy -- beginning at minimum with treating same-sex couples equally with respect to marriage and adoption, but ideally working toward a broader recognition of all of the types of caring support people may enter into.
* Enable people to choose when and how new family members will be added. The most obvious measure here is ensuring access to contraception and abortion. But it also means supporting access to health care that will enable people who do want children to have healthy children.
* Enable people to dissolve families that aren't working. I would like to have seen the debate moderator ask the candidates why their party voted against the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act.
* Provide a secure economic base so that people can provide for their families. Money problems tear families apart. Even if you think the GOP candidates' economic plans are good ones (I don't, but that's outside the scope of this post), they see the economy-family link backwards -- instead of looking at economic success as a route to strong families, they look at economic problems as a sign that people made bad family structure choices.

The field is wide open for a candidate with a platform of actually supporting families.


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