If you have a few moments, you might want to read in its entirety Joel Kotkin's take on the coalition forming behind Barack Obama and on what separates it from the Democratic Party of FDR, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, and the elder Richard Daley.
In my opinion, Kotkin has it right, and this explains why the Democratic Party has now wholeheartedly embraced abortion, asserting in the 2012 platform "a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay," and abandoning in that document the evasive, but politically mollifying slogan of Bill Clinton, who famously urged that abortion be "safe, legal, and rare."
Here is a teaser from Kotkin's piece, describing the new social reality, underpinning Barack Obama's calculation, that distinguishes his Chicago from the Chicago of the elder Daley and his Democratic Party from the Democratic Party of Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy:
This new city, built around the needs of largely childless and often single professionals, focuses primarily on recreation, arts, culture, and restaurants; the resources valued by the newly liberated urban individual. The economy of such places focuses primarily on those jobs done by these professionals, either in the over-hyped social-media sector, traditional entertainment, or as service providers— waiters, toenail painters, dog-walkers—that cater to the gentry of the urban core.
In this urban schema, family, long the basic unit of society, becomes peripheral. The new urban political base—not only in the Windy City but in Boston, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston and other parts of the core Obama archipelago—is primarily childless, notes demographer Ali Modarres. A majority of residences in Manhattan, for example, are for singles; thus Mayor Bloomberg’s push for 300 square-foot “affordable” micro units that could cost as much as $2,000 a month. Gentrifying Washington, D.C., now boasts the highest concentration of childless adult females in the nation, a mind-boggling 70 percent of all adult women.
With more than half of all American women now single and more than half of all births to women under 30 now occurring outside of marriage—both historic developments—Obama has targeted “single women” as a core constituency second only to African Americans. Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg has dubbed them “the largest progressive voting bloc in the country.” Singles, though not the most reliable voting bloc, almost elected John Kerry, and helped put Obama over the top.
The new urban political culture [Terry] Nichols [Clark] described in Chicago has gone national, essentially gentrifying the Democratic Party and pushing away the predominately white working- and middle-class families whose goals centered around achieving home ownership, basic essentials, and the occasional luxury. These groups have been leaving both the core cities and the Democratic Party for generations.
So, for Obama, the game is simple. Hold the African-American vote; get the Hispanic vote; and rally those who loved Seinfeld and Sex and the City. This may work in the short run -- though I strongly suspect that it is a recipe for disaster. In the long run, as Kotkin implies, it cannot work. The gentrification of the Democratic Party -- for it is perfectly clear that the new gentry are in the saddle and will remain there -- means the abandonment of economic growth and a reduction in unemployment as priorities, which in turn means that the material interests of African-Americans and Hispanics will get short shrift (as they have in the last four years).
What Kotkin does not say but certainly recognizes is that this portends a political realignment in the United States. Obama's top-bottom coalition cannot last -- for the interests of the top and those of the bottom are diametrically opposed. I doubt very much that this coalition can carry the day in 2012. In the long run, however, it is bound to cripple the Democratic Party. The gentry are not going to ease up on their grip on that party. They are not going to reverse its wholehearted embrace of the sexual revolution, of abortion, and of the city as a focus of entertainment, and they have nothing to offer those who are less well off.
There are those in the Republican Party -- Mitch Daniels among them -- who think that it should declare "a truce" on the so-called "social issues." There is one problem with this strategy. As this week's Democratic Convention will make only too clear, these issues lie at the heart of the struggle now taking place in this country. The welfare-entitlements culture and the sexual revolution are, in fact, inextricably linked. Forty percent of the children born in this country last year were born out of wedlock. If, as a nation, we do not find a way to reverse the trends that have produced this result, we really are doomed.